Italy is at a pivotal crossroads in its quest to establish a presence in the burgeoning hydrogen market. While the country has taken initial steps towards embracing green hydrogen as a key driver of decarbonization, several challenges and opportunities lie ahead.
The findings from the Annual Workshop of the Agici-Fichtner H2 Verde Observatory, held in Milan, shed light on Italy’s progress and obstacles on the path to becoming a hydrogen player. The workshop, now in its second edition, explored initiatives and strategies for hydrogen across Europe, assessed the state of hydrogen technologies, and compared Italy’s stance with its European counterparts.
One of the most significant takeaways from the workshop is the influence of public funding. In 2023, Italy allocated 1.14 billion euros for hydrogen projects as part of its National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR). This injection of funds led to a remarkable 93% increase in hydrogen initiatives compared to 2022. While this demonstrates significant growth, it also underlines the necessity for incentives aimed at reducing operating costs and further catalyzing investments.
Hydrogen technologies have already found their place in Italy, albeit in a limited scale. The Observatory’s study emphasized two efficient electrolyzer technologies: alkaline and proton exchange membrane (PEM). Forecasts from the Observatory reveal that scaling up production could potentially halve costs by 2030, a crucial step in making hydrogen more economically viable.
Transporting hydrogen was also under scrutiny. Large volumes over long distances are best suited for pipelines, while trailers remain effective for smaller volumes. Establishing the right infrastructure is essential for efficient hydrogen distribution.
While Italy is making progress, it’s evident that the country is yet to define a comprehensive strategic vision for hydrogen. In contrast, countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have already established their roles in the European hydrogen landscape.
Italy currently faces challenges in integrating initiatives across the hydrogen value chain. Projects, albeit growing in number, are often characterized by small-scale production capacity. The country’s focus on formulating a clear market design model becomes imperative.
According to Stefano Clerici, CEO of Agici, green hydrogen is a key component of the EU’s decarbonization strategy, and it has gained significant attention from countries and industry players. Italy’s relatively slower progress suggests the need for a more coherent and nationally coordinated approach to hydrogen adoption.
Massimo Andreoni, Head of Management Consulting at Fichtner, emphasized the importance of acquiring the skills needed for the successful implementation of hydrogen projects. The hydrogen ecosystem involves a diverse range of stakeholders, from producers to consumers and logistics operators, all of whom need a skilled workforce to ensure a smooth transition.
Italy’s hydrogen journey hinges on public funding, technological advancements, and the development of a clear strategic vision. While the path ahead may be challenging, embracing green hydrogen could position Italy as a key player in the global push towards decarbonization. As Italy works to develop a role for itself in hydrogen production and distribution, its progress will be closely watched not just within Europe but internationally.