Italy could become vital hydrogen hub between North Africa and Europe


Italy should focus on large-scale hydrogen projects and increase cooperation with countries in North Africa to use its well-developed gas network and ship hydrogen from the Mediterranean to southern Germany, says Italian hydrogen and fuel cells association H2IT.

“We are asking for a concrete plan for hydrogen and its rapid implementation,” Alberto Dossi, H2IT’s president, told pv magazine. “These plans should not suffer setbacks or reversals due to changes in governments. We want the industry and the operators of the sector to have the confidence to invest in medium-long payback periods, and we want the hydrogen sector to contribute to achieving the environmental objectives.”

The association, which was founded in 2005, sees in the revision of the EU Renewable Energy Directive and more generally in the Fit-for-55 package (to be presented by the European Commission in early July) a major development for hydrogen in Europe.

“All these measures involve the hydrogen energy sector and will be key to its development, such as the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive, with the presentation of a new RED 3 directive,” Dossi said. “Equally important the revision of the DAFI directive on alternative fuel infrastructure, with more stringent obligations on the construction of refueling stations. Italy must be able to transpose these regulations and implement them concretely. Otherwise, we risk losing the game of sustainability and competitiveness.”

The Italian government aims to install 5 GW of electrolyzers by 2030. The EU strategy foresees 46 GW by 2030.

Italy has also been working on the development of Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) projects. Companies started their engagement in 2019 when the government opened the expressions of interest to participate in the Hydrogen IPCEI. “To date, we are in the selection phase of the group of companies that will participate in the first round of the Hydrogen IPCEI.” Projects will be selected on the basis of their development stage and location.

Hydrogen is mentioned in the recent National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), with €3.64 billion of dedicated investments.

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“We believe it is essential to unblock the installation of renewable energy in Italy, simplifying the authorization procedures,” Luigi Crema, H2IT’s vice president, told pv magazine. “Renewable electricity prices continue to decrease; in a few years, green hydrogen could be cheaper than oil or natural gas. One thing in Italy's favor is that it is now possible to build large-scale PV plants without subsidies. We now need to speed up the processes of authorization.”

According to Crema, the goal is to build large-scale electrolyzers of more than 100 MW capacity to decrease green hydrogen’s price below €2.0/kg.

“Italy must aim to support large-scale national projects that exploit the skills of Italian companies to compete internationally,” said Crema, adding that this goal will require political and regulatory adjustments and revisions, in line with the European directives.

Crema stressed that competition in the green hydrogen sector will be fierce, and the green hydrogen market “will be enormous.”

“Italy has many complementary national assets: it has an extensively developed gas network that can be used immediately and then upgraded at minimal cost to accommodate increasing quantities of hydrogen blended with natural gas. The goal is then to develop pure hydrogen transport. It is clear that this represents a strategic point for Italy, both for the extension of the gas network and for the geographical position in which it is located,” added Crema, explaining that Italy should improve its industrial relations with countries like Tunisia.

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