Exploring the Role of Hydrogen to Achieve the Italian Decarbonization Targets Using an Open-Source Energy System Optimization Model
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Exploring the Role of Hydrogen to Achieve the Italian Decarbonization Targets Using an Open-Source Energy System Optimization Model

Authors: A. Balbo, G. Colucci, M. Nicoli, L. Savoldi


Hydrogen is expected to become an undisputed player in the ecological transition throughout the next decades. The decarbonization potential offered by this energy vector provides various opportunities for the so-called “hard-to-abate” sectors, including industrial production of iron and steel, glass, refineries and the heavy-duty transport. In this regard, Italy, in the framework of decarbonization plans for the whole European Union, has been considering a wider use of hydrogen to provide an alternative to fossil fuels in hard-to-abate sectors. This work aims to assess and compare different options concerning the pathway to be followed in the development of the future Italian energy system in order to meet decarbonization targets as established by the Paris Agreement and by the European Green Deal, and to infer a techno-economic analysis of the required asset alternatives to be used in that perspective. To accomplish this objective, the Energy System Optimization Model TEMOA-Italy is used, based on the open-source platform TEMOA and developed at PoliTo as a tool to be used for technology assessment and energy scenario analysis. The adopted assessment strategy includes two different scenarios to be compared with a business-as-usual one, which considers the application of current policies in a time horizon up to 2050. The studied scenarios are based on the up-to-date hydrogen-related targets and planned investments included in the National Hydrogen Strategy and in the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan, with the purpose of providing a critical assessment of what they propose. One scenario imposes decarbonization objectives for the years 2030, 2040 and 2050, without any other specific target. The second one (inspired to the national objectives on the development of the sector) promotes the deployment of the hydrogen value-chain. These scenarios provide feedback about the applications hydrogen could have in the Italian energy system, including transport, industry and synfuels production. Furthermore, the decarbonization scenario where hydrogen production is not imposed, will make use of this energy vector as well, showing the necessity of its exploitation in order to meet pledged targets by 2050. The distance of the planned policies from the optimal conditions for the achievement of Italian objectives is clarified, revealing possible improvements of various steps of the decarbonization pathway, which seems to have as a fundamental element Carbon Capture and Utilization technologies for its accomplishment. In line with the European Commission open science guidelines, the transparency and the robustness of the presented results are ensured by the adoption of the open-source open-data model such as the TEMOA-Italy.

Keywords: Decarbonization, energy system optimization models, hydrogen, open-source modeling, TEMOA.

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