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Towards a deployment plan of hydrogen refueling infrastructure in Italy

H2IT launches its works to provide Italy with a National Plan for Hydrogen Refueling Infrastructure, as required by directive 2014/94/EU

“We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the less harmful alternative or to find short-term solutions” (Pope Francis, Encyclical letter “Laudato Sì”, 24 May 2015).

With a rate of 76.9% (2013), Italy is the only major EU Member state having an energy dependency from foreign imports above 75%. This is why improved energy efficiency is a major objective of the Italian government. However, energy efficiency alone will not allow setting the path to reach the ambitious long-term emission reduction targets in the transport sector set at European Union level (-60% GHG emissions in the transport sector by 2050 compared to 1990 levels). Locally produced renewable energy may have a major role in this: the production of green hydrogen for transport applications through electrolysis, and/or of (green) synthetic methane for household or industrial use, may contribute in fact to decrease the rate of dependency from foreign sources of energy while greening the economy.

A group of industrial and scientific partners led by H2IT (the Italian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association) met in Milan early this month and launched InIMI (Iniziativa Italiana Mobilità a Idrogeno), the Italian Initiative on Hydrogen Mobility. Based on the experience and on the lessons learned from similar initiatives in Germany, United Kingdom, France and various other European countries, InIMI will provide scientific evidence to support central authorities in the drafting of the National Deployment Plan for Hydrogen Infrastructure for Transport, which the Italian Government has to submit to the European Commission by 18 November 2016 (as required by directive 2014/94/EU). If the Italian Government fails to do so, the EU funding available for hydrogen transport applications in Italy may be strongly reduced and hydrogen transport will remain a dream for anyone wishing to apply further this technology from the Alps to Sicily. Fortunately, national authorities have already demonstrated a good commitment towards sustainable transport in the National Deployment Plan for Recharging Infrastructure of Battery Electric Vehicles, adopted last year by the Government, with pledged € 45 million as co-funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

As pointed out during the EUSEW 2015 workshop “Towards 2030: hydrogen fuel cell technology for sustainable growth”, significant hydrogen transport initiatives already exist at local level, such as H2 Südtirol in Alto Adige/South Tyrol and the INGRID project in Apulia, in addition to the various hydrogen buses currently being used for regular service in various Italian cities. Furthermore, the 2DS-High H2 scenario developed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) for its Hydrogen Technology Roadmap, which presents available options to keep the increase in global temperature below 2°C, clearly shows that around 40 million hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles will have to be circulating in Italy, Germany, UK, and France (EU-4) by 2050. If this is what is needed, it is high time to start working on it!

In fact, Italy is only the last among a club of countries that have already worked on national deployment plans for hydrogen infrastructure or are currently working on this. The list includes Germany, UK, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, Finland, Latvia (Riga region) + Switzerland (Non-EU). Outside Europe, the most ambitious plans are being implemented in Japan, South Korea and in the United States (in particular, California).

InIMI is being set up and is open to members willing to work together to achieve the common objective of aligning Italy with other industrialised countries. A website with all detailed information will be available soon and the proposal for a National Deployment Plan of Hydrogen Infrastructure will be officially presented in May 2016.

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