“From 2030 we could do without Russian gas with green gas” (GRDF)

“In Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes we are about the same size as the rest of France in terms of Russian gas and renewable gas consumption, but on the other hand the green gas dynamic is much stronger. » announces Guilhem Armanet, Regional Delegate of the GRDF.

Because after the arrival of the first biogas plant in 2010 in the GRDF network, three years later there were already 13 plants of this type that could feed in biogas, compared to 400 today.

And in this increase in power, the Auvergne Rhône Alpes region has started to carve out a place for itself, since it has already installed 130 of these methanizers, but above all it faces a growth that is considered exponential in projects.

“We have two to three methanisers across the country that are connected to the gas network every week, while in Auvergne Rhône-Alpes this will represent around twenty additional installations by the end of the year,” says Guilhem Armanet.

A dynamic that was inevitably accelerated by the health crisis, then to a second extent by the war in Ukraine. ” But the trend was already there”emphasizes the regional delegate of the GRDF.

“What is new is that in a France that has focused heavily on decarbonization through electricity, there has been a growing awareness that there are other ways to decarbonize. The gas grid makes it possible to secure the energy transition by not putting all our eggs in one basket.”

An opportunity to remember that gas currently still secures the energy consumption of every third apartment (and even every third family house and every second apartment). In winter the Gas contributes more to heating the French than nuclear. If we don’t convert the gas, we will endanger our entire energy system. ‘ argues GRDF.

An adaptation of the existing network is to be carried out

On the sales side, Guilhem Armanet wants to reassure: “ Today the gas network exists and has already been financed: it belongs to the local authorities and does not require investments, which are considered very high, to be expanded.”

However, the network must be “adapted”, for example by installing so-called backhauls, which enable a farmer who produces gas with his LNG tanker to then feed it back into the network.

“The adaptation of the gas networks aimed at transporting green gases to the end customer is estimated at 10 billion euros. But you have to compare this number with the 250 to 350 billion euros that are needed for the power grids alone. ‘ says Guilhem Armanet.

In New Aquitaine, it was also estimated that 5,900 km of distribution infrastructure would need to be built, which would represent a 20% increase in network size.

In reality, investments are necessary if a biogas plant is to be connected to the grid, since by definition the grids are now more likely to be found in the cities, while the biogas plants are more likely to be located in more remote areas. But investments must be increased: we are talking about 10 billion euros compared to 350 billion for the electricity grids “, continues the regional director of GRDF.

Because green gas actually comes from the same molecule as fossil gas, the grid does not need to be modified to accommodate it.

However, in order to reach the target of 100% biogas at national level, new means of production and in particular methanizers must be installed. Again, a valued investment at national level, “At 150 billion euros for a production of 200 TWh of green gas, GRDF accrues compared to 750 to 1,000 billion euros needed for the electricity system”.

“This means that in the transition we have a wall in front of us that we have to overcome together. And this kind of transition must also be sustainable for the households that have to foot the bill,” says Guilhem Armanet.

Towards a diversification of inputs

This development of methanation units will primarily rely on farmers, but also on the diversification of inputs, such as B. the recovery of gas from waste or various inputs. ” Our vision is that today there are three main sources for the production of biomethane: agricultural waste, vegetable waste (city clippings, lawn, pig manure, plant manure) and the methanation of sewage treatment plant sludge, assures GRDF.

Regarding agricultural waste, the most developed segment, France has already advanced its pawns, betting in particular on small methanation units “with a human face”, for an agriculture designed to serve the population first and not them to feed fermenters .

“In this way, we can process plant waste (lawn clippings, pig manure, liquid manure, corn stalks, etc.), but also sewage sludge. In Lyon, Saint-Fons and Pierre Bénite, two huge train stations that are being converted to methanation, which is already the case in La Feyssine, and this production already allows buses to be powered by BioNGV today » assures Guilhem Armanet.

Food industry waste is another possible source of recycling in the Monts du Lyonnais, where Cochonou residues are already being used to produce renewable gas. ” There is now also a fourth and new input source, namely organic waste: from January 1st next year, the recycling of waste from school canteens, hospitals, municipalities and nursing homes is planned, which can be used both in compost and in anaerobic digestion “.

The question of the feed-in tariff

What is the investment model of tomorrow in this new sector?

Currently, it is still largely the farmers who invest in biogas projects directly on their farms. “ But they need a stable economic model to convince their bankers. However, it is a renewable energy that has developed faster than expected and even has priority over the goals of the multiannual energy program. We stand on the threshold of the horizon that has been set for us in 2028 » confirms Guilhem Armanet.

Result ? The current aids are currently being reviewed in order to be readjusted. This is the case, for example, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, which, in addition to the measures taken by Admet for example, also granted aid to methanisers and “ which is currently being discussed again because the first goals have been achieved”slips GRDF.

Frédéric Bonnichon, Deputy Vice-President for the Environment of the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region, confirms that with 134 methanizers in Auvergne Rhône-Alpes, the financial framework granted since the start of Laurent Wauquiez’s first mandate has already reached 37 million euros in public support , earmarked for a total 112 projects.

The SRADET (Regional plans for development, sustainable development and territorial equality) itself predicts that 10% of the region’s gas will be of green origin by 2030: today we’ve reached just over half of the target and we’re studying things again to update the targets, taking into account other issues, such as food sovereignty, as well as the aid needed for the development of other energies”. In particular, the region awaits the update of the new generations of European funds in order to calibrate its future assistance on this issue.

A first step has been taken at national level with biogas production certificates for gas suppliers.

“The law stipulates that every gas supplier is obliged to make a methanation offer and have a percentage of green gas in its offer, which will suddenly attract the sector without draining state funds. ‘ adds Guilhem Armanet.

But today there is still a lack of feed-in tariffs that are appropriate for these new energies: because if the question does not arise in the context of TAL consumption, the costs for biomethane fall with increasing industry affiliation, and there are economies of scale.

“So much so that today we are at almost 90 euros per kilowatt hour of biomethane and imagine that it could go down to 70 euros per megawatt hour. In comparison, natural gas was more like 120 euros per megawatt hour today ‘ notes the GRDF regional delegate, who adds: ‘ Depending on the feed-in tariff, it is now slower to make their investment profitable, which usually takes between 10 and 15 years.”

From replacing Russian gas in 2030 to “regional autonomy” in 2050

Especially since the resources available in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes for the various inputs can prove to be significant:

In 2030, renewable gases could account for 20% of French gas consumption, ie more than the 17% of Russian gas imported into France today.. And in 2050, the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region will be autonomous even in terms of the production of renewable gases,” estimates GRDF.

The potential for the production of green gas on a French scale is thus 420 TWh by 2050, ie a deposit largely sufficient to replace all fossil gas consumption with green gas on a French scale.

Around a hundred projects submitted by farmers are currently being examined for connection to the GRDF network.

“Drôme, Isère and Allier are three departments that still have a lot of room and are driving the momentum. On the other hand, today, for example in the Allier, which you won’t see much on our Methanizer maps, we know that several projects will emerge simultaneously over the next two years,” assures Guilhem Armanet.

And as for the other types of entrances, Pierre-Bénite has already implemented a large XXL project that will require an investment of almost 40 million euros, while there is also another station also located in the Lyon region, in Saint-Fons and who could still see its size doubled or even tripled.

“As long as there are people, we will have renewable energy. We are currently experiencing the third gas revolution, after that of gas from coal, then the one where gas was searched for in underground pockets in Norway. Today we have gas operators talking about topics that are completely new to them, such as the recycling of canteen waste,” assures the GRDF regional director.

And to add: More and more municipalities are bringing us this desire to come back through waste first and make the gas itself almost a by-product of waste… So that brings new players to the table, even ‘that they’re even looking at the role of the producer’ .