Interview with Ph.D. Ivan Herak, member of the Management Board of ACI d.d. for finance, corporate law and human resources published in Glas Istre, we are transmitting it completely.
Author: Milan PAVLOVIĆ
Photo: Milivoj Mijošek
THE LARGEST CHAIN OF MARINAS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN IS THE LEADER OF THE GREEN TRANSITION
On the basis of the European Green Plan, the transition to sustainable energy sources in the last few years is one of the basic determinants of EU policy, in which Croatia also actively participates. In March 2022, the Croatian Parliament adopted the Croatian strategy for hydrogen until 2050, which determines the framework possibilities for the development of production, storage, transport and general use of hydrogen with the aim of reducing CO2 emissions. As stated in the Strategy, a special form of international cooperation is related to the potential establishment of Hydrogen Valleys, regional systems located within several countries that connect hydrogen production, transport and various end users.
The Republic of Croatia is included in the Northern Adriatic Hydrogen Valley project together with the Republic of Slovenia and the Autonomous Italian Region of Friuli, Venezia Giulia. With regard to the intention of the fastest possible adaptation, i.e. the transition to green energy, a series of tenders have been launched at the EU level, from which funds can be withdrawn precisely for the purpose of the described use of hydrogen. Thus, ACI d.d., the largest chain of marinas in the Mediterranean, which has thus positioned itself as one of the leaders of the green transition in Croatian tourism, applied to the competition “Hydrogen Valley Northern Adriatic”, Program Horizont Europe – Joint Enterprise – Partnership for Pure Hydrogen in 2022.
We talk about the vision or the issue of implementing hydrogen technologies in the system of ACI’s marinas with Dr. sc. Ivan Herak, member of the Management Board of ACI d.d. for finance, corporate law and human resources, in whose jurisdiction the mentioned issue is. To begin with, we were interested in the intention with which ACI applied with the Ičići marina project to the public call for grants from the Horizon Europe program, that is, what is the purpose and goal of the mentioned project.
– The main goal of the project is to implement energy solutions and innovations in our system that include hydrogen technologies, which will simultaneously implement the European Green Deal and the European Hydrogen Strategy. Both the European Commission and the Croatian Government are convinced that the integration of hydrogen ecosystems is an effective way to transition to a carbon-neutral society. With the hydrogen valley, the partners want to encourage the transition to an integrated ecosystem in the field of energy. ACI has definitely profiled itself here as one of the leading partners in the project. The aforementioned Partnership includes 34 organizations from three countries, and covers the entire value chain, from production to storage and distribution to the final end use of hydrogen as a key energy vector in several sectors.
The management of ACI has estimated that the energy transition represents a challenging period with many uncertainties, i.e. that cooperation with other industrial and technological partners and development pioneers, with the support of the three governments, will contribute to positioning ACI with its new energy infrastructure as a key driver of the energy transition in Croatia tourism and maritime industry. In this context, the innovation development project in Ičići is essentially a pilot installation of innovation, where we want to establish an energy self-sufficient and efficient energy hub. Our wish is for the marina in Ičići to become the first ACI marina where the entire hydrogen value chain would be developed, from OIE-PV, energy storage, energy efficiency measures and maritime transport, and the use of hydrogen.
– It is to be assumed that the implementation of the project implies a significant participation of grants in the structure of financing the investment. What are all the sources related to the realization of hydrogen projects available to ACI?
– The Northern Adriatic Hydrogen Valley project assumes the co-financing of projects through other tenders, partly with own funds. Practically, funds for the mentioned projects can be applied for in different stages of development of projects related to the implementation of hydrogen technologies. It can be applied in the phase of research and development of the project, demonstration of the project, the phase of commercialization of the project and the phase that we can define as other.
In relation to all the mentioned phases of the project, funds are available from the National Recovery and Resilience Program (NPOO), for example under NPOO item C3.2.R3-I1- Introduction of a more functional program framework for project financing of research, development and innovation, i.e. measure C1. 1.R1-13- Use of hydrogen and new technologies. In all phases, funds from the Competitiveness and Cohesion Program (PPK) for the period 2021-2027 can be counted on, especially in the RSO 1.1 segment. -Development and strengthening of research and innovation capacities and acceptance of advanced technologies, segment RSO 1.4.- Development of skills for smart specialization, industrial transition and entrepreneurship, segment RSO2.2.- Promotion of renewable energy and RSO2.3.- Development of smart energy systems, networks and storage outside the TEN-E network. There are also funds from the Integrated Territorial Program (ITP) for the period 2021-2027. years. At ITP, I would like to emphasize that we have at our disposal funds allocated within the framework of the Strategic Partnership for Innovation, Support for Innovation Clusters and Support for the Development of Smart Skills for Industrial Transition.
In the research and development phase and the demonstration phase, you can apply mostly to the Horizon program, EEA and Norwegian Grants, Innovation Fund and LIFE. In the commercialization phase of the project, the Modernization Fund, CEF traffic, Invest EU, and the EIB are available, while in relation to the rest, the Effective Human Resources Program for the period 2021-2027, the Technical Support Instrument, IPCEI, Interreg, Hydrogen Bank and EMFAF.
– On the website of HANFE, you can find an announcement by ACI, which states that ACI d.d. still intends to be involved in that chain in the production part of hydrogen and in innovations for its application, but only on the condition that it is in accordance with special regulations and previously determined as sustainable and profitable for the Company. Therefore, at this stage, we cannot talk about further undertaking any concrete legal and financial obligations regarding the mentioned project until the normative, spatial planning, property-legal and economic assumptions for the realization of the project are met. What exactly is this about?
– ACI is a company with more than 600 shareholders, of which the Republic of Croatia has the largest share, 78 percent. Any information that any member of the Management Board makes public may have an impact on the price of shares listed on the stock exchange. Therefore, it is my obligation, as well as the obligation of every member of the Management Board, to provide shareholders with complete and clear information about every important activity or project. In this particular case, if they were to announce that we have initiated procedures for the implementation of hydrogen technologies, and at the same time fail to convey the information that it is necessary to fulfill the assumptions we stated in the statement we sent to HANFI, they would mislead the shareholders.
– Can you clarify which assumptions are involved?
– In short, when it comes to the legal requirements for the implementation of hydrogen technologies, I will state, for example, that hydrogen as an energy source is not regulated by Croatian legislation. Furthermore, any conversion of energy from renewable energy sources, through a physical or chemical process into another form of energy, in this particular case into hydrogen, is considered energy production. Since energy production is an energy activity, it is necessary to obtain the approval of HERA for the performance of the mentioned activity. In advance, it is necessary to fulfill all technical, personnel and administrative prerequisites for performing energy activities. Similarly, for the construction of an energy facility, that is, an energy production plant, it is necessary that the same is provided for in the spatial planning documentation, which is not the case in the specific case of the Ičići marina. and therefore it is necessary to launch an initiative to change the spatial planning documentation in order to enable the construction of an energy facility. Before issuing the construction act, it is necessary to carry out an evaluation procedure on the need to assess the impact of the intervention on the environment. After the previous condition has been met, it is necessary to obtain the appropriate act on construction, after which the works can begin.
– Given the above, I assume that ACI cannot perform energy activities based on valid concession contracts?
– Exactly. Considering that most of the interventions are planned in the concession areas, then it is necessary to amend the concession contract, since the performance of energy activities is not covered by the existing concession contract. It should not be emphasized that the concessionaire who executes the concession contract is prohibited from performing activities outside the scope of the concession activities determined by the concession contract. It would be necessary to amend the concession contract so that the concession includes, in addition to the economic use of the special-purpose port, the performance of energy activities. Namely, in accordance with Article 63 of the Law on Concessions, an amendment to the concession agreement is considered essential, among other things, if the amendment significantly expands the scope of the concession’s activities in order to include goods, works or services that were not included in the concession agreement. In case of significant changes, a new concession granting procedure is initiated and a new concession contract is concluded. Before the conclusion of the concession contract, a series of actions must be carried out, ACI must prepare documentation containing a detailed analysis of the budgetary effects of the proposed changes to the concession contract with associated explanations, it must provide an estimate of the value of the concession after the change to the concession contract, which describes the obligations and rights of the concessionaire in relation to the concession contract for which changes are foreseen, including the division of risks that may result from changes to the concession contract, the explanation of other effects that arise as a result of the change to the concession contract, followed by the implementation of a new procedure for granting a concession in accordance with the currently valid regulations.
– You also mentioned the economic assumptions necessary to implement hydrogen technology implementation projects. What does that entail?
– I previously stated what options are available to us when it comes to using grants from various sources. Of course, we will apply to all possible tenders and public calls, but at this moment it is impossible to estimate what share of grants we can count on. However, it is not disputed that the ratio of project financing, I mean the ratio of the share of non-reimbursed and own funds required for the realization of each individual project, will have a decisive effect on the feasibility of each project idea. It is understandable that we will implement only those projects that are profitable for ACI, concluded Herak.