Energias de Portugal, S.A. (“EDP”), is a multinational, vertically integrated utility company. Throughout over 40 years of history, it has been building a relevant presence in the world energy scene, being present in almost 30 countries. With more than 12,200 employees, EDP is present throughout the electricity value chain and in the gas commercialization activity. It is the fourth largest wind energy production company in the world and 75% of its energy is produced from renewable resources . It provides electricity and gas to more than 9 million customers. EDP, intends to continue to grow through a business model adapted to the challenges of sustainable development. For this reason, the EDP Group’s Sustainability strategy is based on two pillars: to lead the energy transition and to commit to the Environment and Society. EDP’s Vision is to assume the leadership of the energetic transition, ensuring the creation of superior value. With the strategic architecture that has been followed, it is already well positioned to lead the energy transition: we count with 2.5 times more renewable installed capacity than the average of the other integrated players; our asset base is ‘young’, having an average residual life of 25 years which allows us to have visibility over the coming years. EDP’s vision also reflects its commitment to sustainable development, fully assuming a structuring role in energy, supporting more balanced growth models from an economic, environmental and social point of view. This vision was recently reinforced in the update of its Strategic Plan 2021-2025, where EDP announced its commitment to be totally coal-free by 2025 and all green by 2030, anticipating its carbon neutral targets by 20 years. EDP’s goal is to have more than 50 GW of renewables additions before 2030, moving production from 75% renewables as of today, to 100% in 2030. Furthermore, the company is still maintaining its commitment in ensuring that its activity actively contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. EDP raised the bar in the decarbonization process by reinforcing its environmental targets up to 2030: the company will reduce specific CO2 emissions by 98% up to 2030 (compared to the levels of 2015), reinforcing its commitment to the previous goal, which was 90% for the same period. Another reinforced target involves indirect CO2 emissions, which will also decrease 50% by 2030 . This ambition is supported by the growing production of energy from renewable sources, in parallel with the progressive deactivation of the group’s coal-fired power stations.

Our role in the project

Asturias H2 Valley foresees several key objectives directly related with its R&D ambition: The Project is included in a bolder perspective to shift totally from a carbon-based thermal Power Plant site to a green hydrogen production site. In this context, a systemic conversion approach is applied to EDP thermal Power Plant in Aboño. The Project will repurpose existing combustion process, infrastructures and the local workforce to accommodate hydrogen-enriched BFG gas mixtures in the conventional power plant. Also extensive site conversion activities will ensure the usage of the former site for the Project where the electrical equipment, like transformers or cells, water infrastructures for refrigeration, in-take, demineralization, storage, and also civil equipment like roads or buildings will be shared with the existing coal power plant. The existing power plant will keep on working in the meantime. Two groups are there, one may close down but the other of 560 MW it is foreseen to keep on providing electricity during some more years. Promote and support the joint development of an advanced Process Control System with the focus on flexibility valorisation and value optimization of the Hydrogen Production Process accounting for the external factors (forecast of RE production, hydrogen demand, power market dynamic) and internal constrains (characteristics of the equipment, safe operation, state of the plant). Novel control algorithms will be developed, tested and implemented at TRL9 in Aboño Power Plant to dispatch and operate the plant towards optimizing the LCOH in real-time. 

The challenges:

  • Demonstrating a Hydrogen Control System for flexible hydrogen supply and multiple industrial users in operational conditions.
  • Developing a probabilistic forecast for hybrid RE sources;
  • Consolidate the learnings from the large-scale reconversion plan of a historically coal-powered industrial cluster into an incipient flexible hydrogen hub; 
  • Promote conditions to export improved/new knowledge, technologies, and services to other geographies;
  • Implementation of a strategic Dissemination and Communication Plan to maximize the impacts of the Project and stimulate the exploitation of the key results, thus facilitating replication projects at national and European levels and opening new decarbonization avenues for hard-to-abate sectors;
  • Creation of highly qualified scientific jobs in Spain related the R&D+I agenda of the project, totalizing more than 50 direct specialized jobs.

EDP Spain participates in WP4, where the industrial use of hydrogen is studied. EDP is leading task 4.1 where will develop the engineering and manufacturing of burners that could be potentially installed in the coal power plant of Aboño (Asturias). This work will be subcontracted. In  task 4.2 and 4.3 EDP will colaborate with the other partners involved in this task giving information about its process and working in the required deliverables and milestones.

Our impact within our region

The contribution of this project to the Hydrogen value chain and to the decarbonization of several other sectors (steel, cement, chemical and others) will push for more quality employment in Europe. The renewable energy industry will also be impacted positively, particularly the wind offshore industry in the long term. The potential scale up to more than 500 MW of electrolysers will contribute to add economical activity in the site and in the value chain in the medium term. The power plant has two groups that started working in 1974 and 1985, so most workers have been working there for many years and are expected to retire in the coming years. The first phase of the project is expected to create around 40-50 direct jobs. The scale up timings up to 500 MW, it is very likely that a large part of the current power plant staff is retired, which will require the hiring of additional staff. The ratio of employees needed to operate a large electrolysis modular facility is nearly stable when increasing the size of the electrolyser. The project is located in a just transition zone affected by the closing down of coal power plants and coal mining. The development of a Green Hydrogen economy will only be possible through a close partnership between the public and private sectors, connecting researchers and industry partners. These partnerships will be able to establish actors’ networks and drive new renewable Hydrogen projects, allowing a permanent exchange of knowledge and skills.

As a conclusion, we identified at least the following positive externalities, that are not reflected as a positive revenue of the project:

  • Independence of feedstock and energy from imports. This will impact positively in the European GDP, avoiding hydrocarbon imports, and in the resilience of the European industry, that would be less dependent and exposed on imports.
  • The project will reduce the transportation costs and emissions with the avoidance of imports. This will cause a reduction of the emissions coming from the transport sector, therefore contributing positively to the environmental and climate goals of the EU.
  • The creation of new opportunities for SMEs, start-ups, technological centres, academia and others at local and at European level to cooperate in the deployment and operation of the hydrogen industry, creating jobs. The project will help the establishment of an ecosystem of companies, technological centers and specialized human resources, key to the growth and consolidation of the Hydrogen whole value chain. In particular, the company estimates a positive impact in the dissemination of knowledge and spill-over effects as described in the project portfolio document.
  • The positive externalities are not only supposed to be in a particular region but at European level as the company cooperates with several European companies and technological centers.  
  • Positive social impact, in an area severely affected by the closure of the coal industry. Contribution to Just Transition principles.
  • Being the first steps for a future European Hydrogen Backbone.
  • Developments in the digitalization area.

These positive externalities produce mainly a benefit outside the scope of the project, and they do not necessarily translate into an improvement in the business case.