Renault plans to utilize geothermal energy and help with the heating system

A Renault logo photographed in Bavaria, Germany. The French car giant says it aims for CO2 neutrality in Europe by 2040 and globally by 2050.

Igor Golovniov/Sopa Pictures | Lightrocket | Getty Images

That Renault Group working with French utility Engie on the development of a geothermal energy project at the carmaker’s Douai plant, with the collaboration to last 15 years.

In a statement, Renault said on Thursday that a subsidiary of Engie would begin drilling at Douai – which was established in 1970 and focuses on bodywork assembly – in late 2023.

The plan centers around taking hot 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 Douai site’s “industrial and heat process needs from 2025.” The water temperature will be between 130 and 140 degrees Celsius.

“Once implemented, this geothermal technology will provide an output of nearly 40 MW continuously,” the company said.

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

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

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

Elsewhere, the US Department of Energy says that geothermal energy “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 projects centered around decarbonisation operations at a number of the car giant’s industrial sites.

Looking at the bigger picture, Renault says it aims for CO2 neutrality in Europe by 2040 and globally by 2050.

Despite those goals, a company executive recently told CNBC that the company sees the internal combustion engine as continuing to play a critical role in its business for years to come.

Earlier this month, it was announced the Renault group and the Chinese company Geely 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 CFO Thierry Pieton tried to explain some of the reasons 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 vehicles that use fossil fuels.

The UK, for example, wants to stop the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2030. From 2035, it will require all new cars and vans to have zero exhaust emissions.

The European Union, which Britain left on 31 January 2020, pursues similar goals. Over in the US, California bans the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles starting in 2035.

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