Italy to Build World's First Hydrogen-Fired Power Plant

VENICE, Italy, December 18, 2006 (ENS) - The worldís first industrial scale hydrogen-fired power plant will be built near Venice, the Veneto Region and Italian energy company ENEL announced Friday. The announcement came as 20 Greenpeace demonstrators perched atop the towering chimney of an ENEL oil-fired plant to protest its planned conversion to coal.

The new plant will be located in the Porto Marghera industrial area on the Italian mainland across from the Venice lagoon, next to ENELís coal-fired Fusina plant.

The project will involve ENEL investment of 40 million euros over the next five years and more than four million euros in support from the Veneto Region for research and development.

At Veneto Region headquarters in Venice on Friday, the Region and ENEL signed an agreement on the granting of funding for research and experimentation of hydrogen technologies.

With the signing of the agreement by Gennaro De Michele, head of ENEL Research, the Veneto Region will contribute 4.16 million euros to ENEL.


Porto Marghera industrial area on the Italian mainland across from the Venice lagoon (Photo courtesy Simar)
This grant strengthens ENELís commitment in the hydrogen field, which began in the Venice area with the founding of Hydrogen Park in 2003, the company said in a statement.

The funding will support development of zero-emission hydrogen combustion power generation systems; development of innovative hydrogen production technologies and coal and biomass power generation systems; as well as innovative hydrogen accumulation systems, the company said.

ENEL will conduct these research programs in collaboration with numerous industrial and university partners.

The signing of the agreement is the final act in a long process that involved the granting of funding to ENEL Ricerca by the Veneto Region under a European call for projects, following the program agreement with the Ministry for the Environment in March 2005 for the creation of a hydrogen district at Porto Marghera.

The construction of the hydrogen power plant at Fusina is part ENELís plan, announced Thursday by CEO Fulvio Conti, to invest four billion euros over the next five years in renewables and environmentally friendly innovation.

Meanwhile, on Thursday 20 Greenpeace volunteers climbed the 250 meter high chimney of an ENEL power plant in Porto Tolle, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Venice.


Greenpeace climber ascends the ENEL chimney at Porto Tolle south of Venice. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace / Vasari)
The protest was staged to protest the company's planned conversion of two of its biggest oil power plants to coal - one is in Porto Tolle, while the other is near Rome.

Greenpeace calls ENEL the greatest carbon dioxide, CO2, emitter in Italy, and says conversion of the oil plants to coal would raise Italian greenhouse gas emissions above limits required to adhere to the country's commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations climate treaty.

The Greenpeace climbers left the Porto Tolle chimney on Saturday. Nearly 2,000 cyberactivists joined them in virtual protest at the plant, and after failing for three days to respond to entreaties for a meeting, Economy Minister Pierluigi Bersani finally has agreed to meet with Greenpeace representatives.

Bersani agreed to turn down ENEL's request for an increase in their carbon emissions cap. "In effect," says Greenpeace, "this means the Porto Tolle plant will get no emissions license and cannot convert to coal."

The agreed cap will, however, allow the conversion of the second ENEL plant in Civitavecchia near Rome. The environmental group says it will continue efforts to have that conversion overturned.

Greenpeace Italy campaign director Giuseppe Onufrio said, "We will continue to pressure Bersani and the government to find out if they take the part of Kyoto and the atmosphere or only the part of Italy's industrial interests.

To dramatize the need to purchase energy efficient consumer electronics, over the next few days, Greenpeace activists will show up in front of electronics stores Rome, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Padova, Parma, Genoa, Venice, Bologna, Modena and numerous smaller localities.

The group says preventing climate warming is not just a government and industry responsibility - consumer choices can make the difference between a cooler planet and an overheated one.