Italy cannot miss the green hydrogen bus but at the moment we are not ready. We must catch up and provide forms of incentives to set the wheels in motion. This was said by Angelo Basile, Hydrogenia R&D manager, who explained to Adnkronos what the role of green hydrogen will be in the ecological transition, taking stock of opportunities and the state of the art. Hydrogenia, based in Genoa and controlled by Greeninvest, is a new Italian company specialised in the development and construction of plants for the production of Ultrapure Green Hydrogen.
In a context that is evolving towards a zero-emission economy “the role of green hydrogen is fundamental and cannot be eliminated” says Basile who explains: “Even if the overall ‘solar -> hydrogen’ efficiency is quite low (>13%), considering that alternative energies are practically free (unlike the electricity source available on the grid, so to speak), this is not a problem”. In addition to this, however, Basile points out, “there are other undeniable advantages, such as the use of clean energy, the production of ultra-pure hydrogen and oxygen, and the absence of CO2 production”.
Green hydrogen: opportunities and fields of application. “The opportunities”, explains the Hydrogenia R&D manager, “are innumerable because the technology is based on two sources that we can say inexhaustible, from the human point of view: renewable energy (solar, wind), and water. Among the numerous fields of application, think for example of the use of hydrogen as fuel for trains, buses, trucks, ships, cars, etc. Hydrogen is also used in steel mills, refineries and in the production of ammonia (useful, for example, in fertilizers), as well as in other industrial sectors”.
Green hydrogen, therefore, is the new ally of decarbonisation and that is why it beats the competition of all other colours: grey, blue (both produced from fossil energy sources) and purple (extracted from water by electricity produced by a nuclear power plant). According to Basile: “we must not waste any more time” also because “all the most industrialised countries, and not only, are already in an advanced state, compared to us”.
Infrastructures and means to use hydrogen: “you have to start somewhere, as China, Germany, Japan, India, USA, Mexico and South Korea have done. For example, in China, India and Mexico the ten largest plants in the world for the production of hydrogen from photovoltaics are in operation, to be precise 6 in India (installed capacity 1,545 MW), 3 in China (installed capacity 1,547 MW) and one in Mexico (installed capacity 828 MW). Not only that. In India, for example, at the Bhadla Solar Park, the largest photovoltaic plant on the planet is under construction: 2,255 MW”.
The obstacles to overcome, however, “are numerous” warns Basile according to whom “we need to start building the infrastructures for the transport and distribution of hydrogen. In Germany, Sweden, the USA, Switzerland, South Korea, etc., they are all taking action in this direction. So, it is enough to look at what the industrialised countries are doing now: to say that if we are not the first, we should not even feel obliged to be the last”.
In Germany, for example, “through the ‘H2 Mobility Deutschland’ (a company that receives funds from their Ministry of Transport and also from the European Union) since 2020 they have taken steps to build 100 hydrogen refuelling stations. Sweden is building hydrogen refuelling stations with dedicated plants attached of 250 kW size”.
To speed up the process Basile suggests, as happened years ago with photovoltaics, “forms of incentives for companies that are going to invest large amounts money to set up systems capable of producing hydrogen from photovoltaics. After all, we have universities and research centres (ENEA, CNR) of high excellence in Italy and there is no lack of expertise. The risk is that the others will develop the processes and we Italians will be forced to buy from them what we know how to do very well at home too”.
Meanwhile, the government in the national recovery and resilience plan has allocated 3.19 billion to support the transition to hydrogen. How to take advantage of this opportunity? “Very simple: help the companies that document that they have the necessary expertise to produce green hydrogen with incentives starting from alternative energies such as photovoltaic/wind/hydro and start worrying about the construction of infrastructures for the transport and distribution of hydrogen”, concludes Basile.