Interview with Piergabriele Andreoli

If you want to – and you understand Italian – you can also watch the interview on YouTube.


Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa): We are live. Good afternoon. Today our guest is Piergabriele Andreoli, Engineer at the Energy and Sustainable Development Agency AESS in Modena. Before asking what kind of agency it is and what it does, I want to point out that this interview is for FCHgo, our project concerning the creation of an educational toolkit addressing all school levels that aims to bring schools, pupils and teachers closer to the world of alternative energy, specifically hydrogen as a source of sustainable energy. Today with us there is one of our stakeholders from the Energy and Sustainable Development Agency that besides supporting and carrying out projects around Modena and its regional territory, it also supports our FCHgo initiative.So, Mr. Andreoli, what is the Energy and Sustainable Development Agency in Modena?

Piergabriele Andreoli (AESS): That is a good question.The Energy and Sustainable Development Agency was founded in 1999 in Modena, with the support of public founder partners.We are involved in other areas as the name of the agency itself suggests like sustainable development.We are an innovation centre, so what we’ve done over the years is to take these processes to the next level and bring innovation starting from public administration.We support public administration for the development and implementation of energetic strategies. We’ve had many adventures since the “photovoltaic energy era”, let’s call it so, from the first sources of renewable energy to hydrogen today, which is one of the most advanced areas. We try to put the pieces together, we are a facilitator for the concrete realization of actions. Briefly, this is what we do.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa): Clear. Moreover I want to add something else since InEuropa, our society, is involved in European funding. You are also very dedicated to transnational projects and cooperation projects.Who knows, maybe one day we will interview you, which will be certainly interesting, about the projects you are involved in. Let’s think about Modena, hydrogen and what has happened in the district since 2019: Modena as the “Hydrogen Valley”. We’ve read this in newspapers, so what is happening in Modena? What are the province and its institutions doing? What are they thinking up?

Piergabriele Andreoli (AESS): We have to say that our agency was firstly created as a European project, so this Europe connection has always been in our blood, in our DNA, it has also increased so that for us is a great source of inspiration as well as a resource.What happened to Modena? Modena is already known as the Motor Valley, a fertile ground for innovation and also smart mobility, since hydrogen has many ways of application.The Hydrogen Valley relies on Motor Valley’s concept. The idea was born in Spilamberto, and then spread in the province of Modena involving the city of Modena and itsneighbouring areas, the cradle of the 40 square metres automotive industry, and its most renowned brands and their supply chains.There is a great interest. Actually, there are many companies that already work with hydrogen maybe because it is used in Mirandola biomedical district, a neighbouring area dealing with a different sector than the motorist one, that is biomedicine, where hydrogen is already in use. We realized that we have neighbouring realities already producing hydrogen distributors around the world or people who have experience in hydrogen distribution. I’m talking about compressor and decompressor groups, transports, tubes. We discovered there’s a whole know-how around us, and there’s more.If we widen the scope, the region itself, which is the region of mechanics, has a lot of competences. Emilia-Romagna has the right sensibility towards hydrogen and, through the creation of thematic clusters within Clust-ER Greentech, has created a hydrogen-dedicated group. We are part of it as well as companies, stakeholders and universities, like UNIMORE with Professor Romagnoli who is carrying out a huge project on fuel cells, which is another application of hydrogen. We try to help and to coordinate, we’ve also represented the region to make clear what the needs of the territory and the region are, which projects the region wants and should do according to the territory. The projects runs from hydrogen distribution, to fuel cells or “on the road” applications as well as static applications. We put these projects on the European tables and so did stakeholders from other countries.In fact, we will certainly go in search for European funding to get initial support because the ground is ready.What we realize every single day is that there is a great interest in co-financing projects about hydrogen. The ground is ready and what we need is an initial input as we have already experienced in other cases and we try lay the bases so that the projects can get started and go on in a sustainable way.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa): I definitely agree. Moreover, the University of Modena, which I want to underline is the Lead Partner and promoter of the FCHgo project, has taken action in this operation which has an educational purpose, and aims to raise awareness within the territory of Modena as well as of the Region and the whole Italy through the schools. This is a picture conceived in Modena.Listen, what are some of the concrete examples of the applications of hydrogen? Earlier you told that in biomedicine it is already in use, as well as in the automotive sector with hydrogen cars but… Not only!I want to highlight that FCHgo project has introduced an international contest for schools, the contest was launched on17thFebruary but obviously the deadline will be extended until Spring 2021 because schools were closed because of the pandemics. The contest wants schools of any level to invent or think of some alternative applications of hydrogen, so if we provide inspiration we can help the participants to come up with new ideas.

Piergabriele Andreoli (AESS): There are quite a lot of applications and it’s necessary that children bring forth new ideas. I always say this because we need a think thank of young people with new ideas to drive all the possible applications forward. This must be so, it’s a great incentive. Among other things that put Modena in the spotlight, there is the “green highway”, as it’s called, connecting Munich to Modena. Along this road axis there are already some hydrogen fueling stations, which run right up to Bolzano, but Autostrade per l’Italia has planned to implement others right up to Modena, in Campogalliano. thisis another element which nourishes our job, because being within this green corridor is certainly very important. Remember that transport is not all about cars, but there are also heavy good vehicles, especially heavy goods vehicles, because what we’ve seen in Europe and all over the world is that there are interesting applications on freight transport, such as on trains on non-electrified lines, where the electrification…

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa): I lost you for a while. Sorry, my Internet connectionis unstable. You were talking about trains.

Piergabriele Andreoli (AESS): Trains without electrification, but especially vehicles where electrification is limited by the weight of batteries, such as in trucks, where the weight of batteries becomes a problem. Their autonomy has a limit that with hydrogen can be overcome. These vehicles have from 600 to 1,600 km of autonomy with hydrogen, and there is no need to carry the weight of batteries. Problem solved then. There are countless applications to urban areas as well, with waste collection vehicles, for example. So, in urban areas we’ll have no emissions because hydrogen cars are electric cars powered by a fuel cell having a hydrogen fuel tank. The idea is that nothing is dispersed, so where there is a concentration of pollutants, introducing objects which do not pollute is a very interesting and important thing. In transports we have many different applications, not only cars but also bigger and more polluting vehicles.And then there are all its static applications, such as the use of hydrogen in houses and for civilian purposes. We’ve chosen this as our first operational and practical step because we need something to start with. We’ve talked for years about hydrogen; sometimes we need o take a step forward and someone brave enough to try it. In this case the province of Modena was brave enough to include in its call for energy efficiency upgrades of its building stock a hydrogen-powered school. I’m talking about Meucci High School in Carpi which is, I mean will be hydrogen-powered, because the call will be published these days, actually it’s already been published and we’re waiting for the call for bids to be closed, so we’re right in the process. As compulsory intervention, the school will be provided with a supporting hydrogen boiler because this is a pilot plan and we want to see how it works. There will also be an energetic improvement with a solar power system producing hydrogen. We hope to see a small but complete energy production chain, with solar panels producing hydrogen to fuel the boiler. In this way we close the circle and the hydrogen used will be eco-friendly since it can be produced in many different ways but this one is best way to have eco-friendly hydrogen.

This is an important step, small but important, because it shows how an object can actually be made and it also means passing right in the preparatory stage, since it is a public call, safety tests.The idea is great, the results are amazing if we think about emissions, achieving European goals and reducing carbon footprint but we have new obstacles to overcome when it comes to its implementation and safety. I’m stressing this because it is very important. Besides,doing this in a school is a real challenge.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa): Exactly. The challenge gets harder, but it’s amazing that such a trial starts in a school. The challenge might be difficult, but its effects and results will encourage other schoolsto do the same.

Piergabriele Andreoli (AESS): Starting with a school is extremely significant. This explains why an office wasn’t selected. There were many resources in the building stock of the province, but it’s clear that a school has a very significant value. I hope it will be implemented and it will work soon.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa): We’ll follow you with FCHgo. We’ll see what happens when the call is closed and when works start so that we’ll keep updated. Considering that FCHgo addresses schools, we hope that this application will be implemented in many other schools in Italy.

Piergabriele Andreoli (AESS): That’s what we all hope.

Barbara Grazzini (InEuropa): Thank you. We might talk again if you have other projects which can be useful on the theme of hydrogen to inform and keep updated the schools which have joined our contest and people who are interested in this theme, to make local communities and people discover this alternative energy source. Thank you, we’re ready, we’re on the front line and we’ll go through with it. That’s how you do it. We’ll support you. We’ll talk again soon, thank you again for your time. Good luck with all your projects and activities.Talk to you soon! Thank you, bye.



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