To overcome the challenge of climate change, the role of hydrogen is considered fundamental in the energy transition and without its contribution the targets set by the European Community can hardly be achieved.
Hydrogen and green economy
As we have already seen, Europe has adopted an overall strategy to achieve climate neutrality in 2050 (European Green Deal), setting itself as objectives the reduction of polluting emissions and the use of renewable energy sources (RES), through a progressive “decarbonisation” of the system.
Especially with regard to our sector, an important role in this decarbonization process is to be attributed to green gases, including green hydrogen.
Even the International Energy Agency in a report entitled The future of hydrogen: seizing today’s opportunities, had defined hydrogen as a “key driver towards sustainability” and the time has come to exploit its potential, safe, clean and sustainable for all consumers.
The “faults” of the civil sector
In Italy, as per the emissions, domestic heating can seem almost “innocent”: we are one of the European nations with the largest methane distribution network ever, since about 85% of homes are heated with a gas system. And methane (CH4) is a relatively a clean fossil fuel, compared to coal and oil.
But if we consider that there are about 20 million heating appliances in Italy, whose average age is over 15 years (with very high consumption and high harmful emissions) and, as we have already seen, it is estimated that the methane reserves may run out by the end of this century, perhaps it is time to run for cover.
The role of Assotermica
Unfortunately, the conversion of heating from gas to electric, through condensing boilers, hybrid systems, solar thermal systems, electric heat pumps, is not always simple and very often the costs are high.
In fact, it has been seen that in 2020 only 5% of the new generators installed are represented by electric heat pumps, and that still in the next few years the prevalent technology will be the gas boiler.
However, many do not know that most of the new boilers are designed to operate with hydrogen mixtures up to 20% and that this supply, together with other sustainable gases, can be fed directly into the natural gas network, which is already usable by most of the existing technologies. And even gas heat pumps are already available today to be fueled with mixtures of fossil gas and hydrogen, in low percentages.
Progressively, there will therefore be the possibility of having 100% hydrogen network parts to power new zero-emission boilers.
100% hydrogen boilers towards reality
on the role that hydrogen can play in the national decarbonization process by contributing to the National Hydrogen Strategy that will be published this year.
Assotermica can already confirm that existing technologies are ready to work with mixtures containing hydrogen up to 10%. And, thanks to the pilot project launched in 2019, in collaboration with SNAM and CIG, the Association will be able to formalize the compatibility of these devices even with mixtures containing up to 20% hydrogen.
Assotermica producers are however active in the production of hydrogen, hybrid or “hydrogen ready” technologies, or those technologies compatible with 100% hydrogen, thanks to the replacement of some components, and many companies have already built prototypes of boilers operating exclusively in hydrogen, prototypes already in use in pilot projects in the UK and the Netherlands. In the European Union, it is assumed that these extremely high-performance products for the residential, commercial and industrial sectors will be available by 2030.
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