On Friday the CEO of Italian infrastructure giant Snam presented a vision for the future of hydrogen, saying the “beauty” was that it could be easily stored and transported.
Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe”, Marco Alverà spoke about how current systems will be used to facilitate the delivery of hydrogen produced using renewable sources and biofuels.
“Right now, if you turn on your heater in Italy, the gas will flow from Russia, as far as Siberia, into pipelines,” he said.
“Tomorrow, we will have hydrogen produced in North Africa, in the North Sea, with solar and wind resources,” Alverà said. “And that hydrogen can travel through the existing pipeline.”
Alvera said Snam had tested several percent mixture – including 100% hydrogen – in the existing tubes, and it had worked.
“So it’s an energy transition using the infrastructure we have,” he said. “And the good news is that this new renewable energy will cost less than existing energy to fossil fuels, that is. [a] true advanced “.
Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier,” hydrogen has a wide range of applications and can be deployed in sectors such as industry and transportation.
It can be produced in many ways. One method includes the use of electrolysis, with an electric current that divides water into oxygen and hydrogen.
If the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable source, such as wind or solar, then some call it green or renewable hydrogen.
Currently, the vast majority of hydrogen generation is based on fossil fuels, and green hydrogen is costly to produce.
In an interview with CNBC on Friday, Enel’s CEO, Francesco Starace, said that “there was no competition for capital between hydrogen and renewable energy.”
“Hydrogen today is a niche, and it’s a niche that needs to develop to commercial standards and into … big industry, competitive prices,” Starace said, noting that such a change would probably take 10 years.
“So it’s a big effort in R&D, it’s a big effort in prototyping, a big effort in pilot plants, but nothing compared to what’s happening, on the very big and competitive battlefield of renewables today.”
Indeed, while there is excitement about the potential role hydrogen could play in the future, it still faces challenges.
Earlier this week, a briefing from the World Energy Council stated that low-carbon hydrogen was not “cost competitive with other energy supplies in most applications and locations.”
He added that the situation was unlikely to change unless there was “significant support to close the price gap”.
The analysis – which was done jointly in collaboration with PwC and the U.S. Electricity Research Institute – raised the question of where the funding for such support comes from, but it also indicated the profile growth of the sector and the positive effect it could have.