Renault plans to harness geothermal energy and help heat plants

A Renault logo photographed in Bavaria, Germany. The French car giant says it is targeting carbon neutrality in Europe by 2040 and globally by 2050.

Igor Golovniov/Sopa Pictures | Rocket | Getty Images

The Renault Group cooperates with the French utility company Engie on the development of a geothermal energy project at the car manufacturer’s site in Douai, the collaboration of which will last 15 years.

In a statement on Thursday, Renault said a subsidiary of Engie would begin drilling at Douai – which was founded in 1970 and focuses on coachbuilding – at the end of 2023.

The plan revolves around taking warm water from a depth of 4,000 meters or more than 13,100 feet.

According to Renault, this water will be used to help meet the “industrial and heating process needs of the Douai site from 2025”. The temperature of the water will be between 130 and 140 degrees Celsius.

“Once implemented, this geothermal technology would provide continuous power of nearly 40 MW,” the company said.

“In the summer, when the need for heat is lower, geothermal energy can be used to produce carbon-free electricity,” he added.

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Renault Group CEO Luca de Meo described the planned program for Douai as “one of the most ambitious decarbonisation projects on a European industrial site”.

According to the International Energy Agency, geothermal energy refers to “energy available as heat in or discharged from the Earth’s crust” that can be used to produce electricity and provide direct heat.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Energy says geothermal power “provides renewable energy around the clock and emits little or no greenhouse gases.”

News of Renault’s geothermal project with Engie was accompanied by details of other decarbonisation projects at some of the auto giant’s industrial facilities.

Looking at the bigger picture, Renault says it is aiming for carbon neutrality in Europe by 2040 and globally by 2050.

Despite these goals, a company executive recently told CNBC that the company believed the internal combustion engine would continue to play a critical role in its business for years to come.

Earlier this month, the Renault Group and the Chinese company announced Yellow had signed a non-binding framework agreement to establish a company focused on the development, production and supply of “hybrid powertrains and highly efficient ICE [internal combustion engine] powertrains.”

Speaking to CNBC’s Charlotte Reed, Renault Chief Financial Officer Thierry Pieton sought to explain some of the reasoning behind the planned partnership with Geely.

“In our opinion, and according to all the studies we have, there is no scenario where ICE and hybrid engines represent less than 40% of the market with a horizon of 2040,” he said. “So it’s actually… a market that will continue to grow.”

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Renault’s continued focus on the internal combustion engine comes at a time when some major economies are looking to move away from fossil fuel vehicles.

For example, the UK wants to stop selling new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2030. From 2035, all new cars and vans must be emission-free.

The European Union, which left the UK on January 31, 2020, is pursuing similar goals. In the United States, California will ban the sale of new gasoline vehicles from 2035.

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