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It Isn’t Easy Being Green

A conversation with Matthieu Guesné, Founder and CEO of Lhyfe  
May 30, 2024

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Matthieu Guesné, CEO of Lhyfe

During the Freedom of Mobility Forum’s annual debate in April 2024, student engineers from ENSA, Morocco, spoke about the need for clean energy throughout the value chain with already available solutions such as green hydrogen.  

Following up on this theme, we recently spoke with Matthieu Guesné, Founder and CEO of Lhyfe, a European producer and supplier of green and renewable hydrogen for the mobility and other sectors, which he founded in 2017. Guesné gave us an optimistic look at society’s capacity to move towards a better future with the production of clean energy.  

Freedom of Mobility Forum (FOMF): How would you define clean energy?

Matthieu (Guesné): Clean energy must be produced cleanly from renewable energies without emitting too much CO2, but it must also be used for sustainable purposes. This is not a common definition. Most of the time, clean energy is defined by how it is produced, but not by how it is used. I am one of those who defend this idea. So, it’s very important to think about what we’re doing from start to finish. 

FOMF: Is “decarbonized” energy on a global scale a utopia for you?

Guesné: When you look around the world, many companies want to switch to decarbonized energy production, but it is impossible to invest much or to say clearly that their business will change in a very short period because investors want short-term returns. In the history of energy, it’s always newcomers who turn to a new way of doing things. Look at what (John D.) Rockefeller did (for oil) in 1870. In his time, there were many large coal-based energy players. And it wasn’t these energy players who invested heavily in oil because it was a new energy. So, Rockefeller started, and he was faster than the others by investing massively in this energy with the success that we know (today).

And it’s the same today with wind energy, solar panels, etc. For example, in France 20 years ago, the wind and solar industries were started by 75 small businesses. Then Total, EDF and Engie acquired these companies. But no historical actor starts and triggers a change. It will be the same in the next three to ten years. And we are here to be actors in this or to be witnesses to it. And it’s going to be really great.

Image of astronaut during spacewalk on the earth orbit Image of astronaut during spacewalk on the earth orbit

I firmly believe that women and men will choose the path where we have a future for our children. We’re smart. And so, we’re going to choose this path where we’re going to help each other, we’re going to help poor countries, we’re going to help emerging countries. It is about teaching, explaining, acting. And we can do it. But we must change. And it’s difficult because we instinctively don't like going down a path where things are unknown. But we’ve done it before. We walked on the Moon. So, I think we can put the same amount of money that was used then to change things. I therefore firmly believe that we will achieve this. Let us be smart to create a better humanity. 

FOMF: How do you see growth in the share of clean energy production and the evolution of pricing compared to fossil fuels?

Guesné: We have good news. For the past five or six years, investment in renewable energy, including wind, solar, biogas, etc. has been more significant than investment in oil. Essentially, the world has been investing more in this clean energy than in fossil fuels. You’ll have something that’s going to be cheaper and cheaper as you will have economies of scale because you’re mass-producing electrolyzers, solar panels, wind turbines, etc. Today, clean energy is more expensive but at some point it will be cheaper. We have proven that solar energy is now cheaper than nuclear energy. We have proven that with the right mechanism and political will to regulate, we can reduce costs. The money is there, the technology is there, the will is there, and the returns are there.

Secondly, I think we must produce our own energy. And that’s good because we’re going back to the common sense of what we used to do. I mean, for instance, France started with locally-produced gas and then replaced it with natural gas, when we discovered it. At that time, we started to develop pipelines: we were able to both produce and distribute that energy. Unfortunately, at some point in time, we went completely crazy and imported all the energy. We didn’t understand the importance or the need for energy independence. That’s something that today everyone has on their mind. 

FOMF: Do you have any secrets to share with us about future clean energy production? 

Guesné: I think we have invented all the technologies we need. We have everything on the table: fuel cells, solar panels, biogas, smart grids and batteries. We cannot rely on the bets of some, like nuclear fusion or any other technology we might invent! We have a high level of technological maturity. We need to produce this on a large scale to reduce costs. If we bet on future technologies, we will lose time.

My company is only six years old, and we need to reduce our CO2 emissions by 55%. It took 70 years to bring the fuel cell to the maturity we have today, 100 years to produce oil from offshore wind farms, and 70 years to have this economy of scale for large-scale solar power. We have the technology that we have today, and we must use it. So don’t count on big breakthroughs. If they come, that’s fine. But we have everything we need today to act.

FOMF: Do you think mobility should be limited or shared more to be sustainable?  

Guesné: Mobility is an interesting topic because it’s a topic that everyone understands. I think we need to approach mobility as we use it today because we can probably have fewer cars and take more public transport. We can do it in Europe, but not in all countries. You will have a growth in the need for cars globally because we are talking about a population that could go from 7 billion to 11 billion. You can’t tell people that they can’t buy cars because they pollute, and we need to stop pollution. They will buy cars, that’s for sure. We need to decarbonize these cars. Maybe we should produce smaller cars. The idea is to produce them locally to create jobs, but they must be clean and affordable. It is therefore very important for us to achieve this green mobility economically, quickly and massively.