North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley project officially launched

Portorož, 26 September - The 37 partners of the North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley project from Slovenia, Croatia and Italy have signed an agreement to develop 17 pilot projects in the next six years with the aim of producing 5,000 tonnes of renewable hydrogen a year. The project is worth EUR 700 million, with EUR 25 million to be chipped in by the Clean Hydrogen Partnership.

Launched with the agreement signed in Portorož on Tuesday, the project looks to establish the entire chain from the production of hydrogen by means of renewable electricity through storage and distribution to the final use as an energy product.

The pilot projects are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the steel, cement and glass industries, and in transport, with the key goal being to create supply and demand for hydrogen as a competitive energy source. The project is also expected to create jobs.

Out of the total of EUR 700 million, EUR 300 million each will be invested in projects in Slovenia and Croatia, and EUR 100 million in projects in the Italian autonomous region of Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Environment, Climate and Energy Ministry State Secretary Tina Seršen said the project was important for Slovenia because it promised a new, green future in areas where the use of coal would have to be phased out.

In addition, hydrogen "appears to be a promising or necessary solution for the decarbonisation of energy-intensive industry in Slovenia", she added.

Tomaž Štokelj, the CEO of the power utility Holding Slovenske Elektrarne (HSE), one of the partners in the project, said the Šalek Valley in northern Slovenia is planned to be the main point of production of green hydrogen in the country.

A floating solar power plant with a capacity of 150 megawatts is planned to be built on Dužmirje Lake, close to the Šoštanj Thermal Power Plant (TEŠ), and the electricity produced there would be used to produce hydrogen in Šoštanj.

The production is planned to start in 2027, before the scheduled closure of Unit 6 of the TEŠ. This will contribute to the restructuring of the local economy, but the solar plant will produce only 7-8% of the energy produced by the TEŠ, he noted.

The investment cycle also involves other solar, wind and pumped-storage hydro power plants, while other investments by HSE are also focused on the green transition, Štokelj said, noting the important role of hydrogen in this process.

"We will have to abandon gas. It will be replaced by hydrogen and we also see potential in hydrogen as storage of surplus electricity produced in the summer months, when the production in solar power plants is higher, for the winter months."

According to Štokelj, up to 30% of gas in the gas pipelines in Slovenia by 2030 will be hydrogen.

The financing plan for the project has not yet been finalised and, additional subsidies from the EU or the state are expected in addition to private investments.

If there are no subsidies or if the projects are not sufficiently profitable, there is a safeguard in the agreement that enables the investments to be made on a smaller scale, Štokelj said.

He noted that after 2030 or 2035 hydrogen technology would have been developed in such a way that it could be profitable without subsidies.

EUR 25 million will be chipped in by the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, a public-private partnership supporting research and innovation in hydrogen technologies in Europe.

Its representative Antonio Aguilo Rullan said that the partnership had so far allocated EUR 200 million for six hydrogen valley projects. The North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley is one of the largest and was also rated very well due to its cross-border dimension, he added.

Rullan said that there were two operational hydrogen valleys in Europe, one in Mallorca, Spain, and one in the Netherlands, while around 60 more were in various stages of development.

The North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley, which is managed by HSE, includes private and public entities, mostly companies, universities and institutes, with today's introductory meeting being attended by more than 100 participants.