The journey toward a sustainable energy future is often likened to a river, but for Enel, the Italian energy giant, it seems to be a tumultuous ride with unexpected twists. Despite the substantial financial support from public authorities, Enel is facing challenges in realizing its green hydrogen ambitions, leading to the abandonment of a second hydrogen production project in Italy.
Founded in 1962 and once a national public company until its privatization in 1999, Enel has a rich history deeply intertwined with Italy’s energy landscape. Beyond electricity, Enel provides water and natural gas services globally. Renowned for its geothermal and photovoltaic energy ventures, Enel has embraced the hydrogen sector, driven by the imperative of the energy transition.
In April 2023, Enel secured nearly €4 billion in public funding as part of Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRPP). A significant portion, €38 million, was allocated to three hydrogen production projects aimed at modernizing and greening the Italian economy. These projects focused on repurposing coal-dependent power stations, aligning with Italy’s commitment to phase out coal by 2025.
The La Spezia power plant, earmarked for closure under the PNIEC 2030 plan, became a focal point for hydrogen transformation. A national call for tenders, backed by a €14 million budget, resulted in Enel’s “Hydrogen Valley” project securing €13.72 million. This endorsement reflected a clear public mandate to convert outdated coal-fired plants into green hydrogen hubs.
However, Enel’s green hydrogen aspirations encountered setbacks. In August 2023, the Corigliano Rossano project was abandoned, triggering the reimbursement of €14 million in public subsidies. Local authorities, grappling with the impact on employment due to the power plant’s closure, expressed dissatisfaction.
In November 2023, another blow struck as Enel communicated its decision to abandon the La Spezia hydrogen project to the Liguria region authorities. The cited reasons included a lack of profitability despite public subsidies and uncertainties about potential hydrogen customers. Enel committed to continuing its other green hydrogen initiatives, but the financial landscape, marked by rising interest rates, poses challenges in securing funding for projects with uncertain profitability.