Provence at the forefront of the energy mix

Provence at the forefront of the energy mix
03 September 2020 / Eco-industries, Energy

An economy committed to recomposing the French energy landscape

From LNG and experimental hydrogen to solar panels arrayed across rooftops and wind turbines on land and see, Provence is a microcosm of the energy mix that will define the usage map for the French landscape in the coming years. Let's take a quick tour of the kinds of infrastructure whose full potential has yet to be revealed…

In this era of energy transition, the presence of LNG terminals at Fos Tonkin and Cavaou is a huge boon to the Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolitan area. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is an available, reliable energy source to significantly reduce the environmental footprint. Through its subsidiary Fosmax LNG, the refueling capacities provided by Elengy for vessel bunkering and for refilling tanker trucks with LNG make the region a Euro-Mediterranean supply hub. A glimpse at a technology that has been fully mastered: the two successful operations in June 2020 to supply LNG to the Costa Smeralda cruise ship while it was anchored in the port of Marseille.

Starting in late 2021, CMA CGM will handle bunkering at the Port of Marseille-Fos for the world's largest fleet of LNG-powered container ships. In order to play a role in building those ships, the infrastructure had to be adapted.

Provence's SMBs aim to reorient the energy mix

The region's SMBs are also deeply involved in overhauling the French energy mix. Proviridis, based in Rousset, has seen a spectacular acceleration since the 2017 inauguration of its first "V-Gas" station at Fos. In three years, its planned public alternative fuel stations have proliferated. Thanks to a third funding round that netted €19 million, it intends to commission around 50 stations across the country for use by carriers and local governments.

Another Rousset company, Irisolaris, is a stand-out in the development of renewable energies and electric mobility. In February 2020, working with the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolitan Area and Banque des Territoires, the sustainable development specialist took over the Twizy electric rentals business to create Totem Provence, a cooperatives company in the public interest to promote car sharing. In time, 600 self-serve vehicles will be deployed to the network.

In the realm of offshore wind power, the pilot wind farm project in the town of Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône some 10 miles off Napoléon Beach is preparing to install three large-capacity offshore wind turbines to produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 40,000 residents.

Basking under the Provence sun

Increasing the share of solar energy is another pathway to which the region is firmly committed.

With 180 employees working in France, the U.S. and Chile, the Marseille company Cap Vert Energie, an independent, multi-country producer of various renewable energies, was chosen ‒ alongside Enercoop and Energie Partagée ‒ by the Aix-Marseille metropolitan area to build a 2.7 MWc solar power plant for the people living in Mallemort. This innovative project is the only one of its kind in France and will generate decentralized renewable electricity for local use within a short-circuit model. Christophe Caille, a committed business leader and co-founder of Cap Vert Energie, launched the "Entrepreneurs for the Planet" movement in 2019 to get the region's businesses involved in environmental initiatives.

Réservoir Sun, a subsidiary of GreenYellow and Engie, installed 53,000 ft2 of solar panels at the Les Terrasses du Port shopping center in the summer of 2020. They are expected to produce 1,446 MWh per year, or 20% of the energy used by the mall's common areas.

Marseille, a leader in methane capture

A diverse energy mix includes methane. In April 2019, Suez opened its largest biomethane production unit in France right in Marseille. The 10,000 tons of dry sludge produced each year by the Geolide purification plant in Sormiou are reclaimed and converted to biomethane, a green gas injected into the city's power grid. Eventually, the compressed gas will be transformed into biofuel to be used for public transportation. This €9.2 million investment in the circular economy is being spearheaded jointly by Seramm (the Suez subsidiary in charge of water treatment and sanitation for greater Marseille), four regional municipalities, the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolitan Area and the Rhône-Mediterranean-Corsica water agency with the participation of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region and ADEME.

These are major advances in green and renewable energies that will encourage energy transition while improving the quality of our environment. Marseille, which will host the World Conservation Congress in January 2021, will have plenty to brag about.