Franco Donatini: Green Heat is crucial to combat climate change

02 December 2021

 Franco Donatini: Green Heat is crucial to combat climate change

Thanks to MGTES, efficiency, flexibility, security, low costs: it projects the Company towards  levels of attention to the ESG philosophy “always higher”

“Thermal uses consume about two - thirds of primary energy sources at a global level and in Italy what aggravates the situation is the fact that renewable sources contribute only 20% in this sector”. Franco Donatini, Professor at the University of Pisa, points out the data of the International Energy Agency (IEA), to highlight how focusing on Green Heat is essential to combat climate change.

In this framework, Thermal Energy Storage systems have a key function in increasing the share of Green Heat in industrial heat production. In particular, MGTES - Magaldi Green Thermal Energy Storage, in addition to offering “considerable efficiency, flexybility and security, with low costs that make it competitive on a large scale and has high capacities”, it projects Magaldi Group towards levels of attention to the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) philosophy “always higher”.

MGTES – Donatini explains – “uses sand as a storage material, a clean material perfectly compatible with the environment, as well as steel plant structures, it is free of polluting materials and totally recyclable at the end of life. Technological sustainability due to the absence of special elements that are of limited availability in the underground, or that request in the costruction, disposal or recycling phase complex and energy-expensive processes”.

Franco Donatini, University Professor at Pisa, has worked in Enel as Head of Research and Development Policies for Renewable Energy until 2010.

Afterwards he served as Scientific Advisor for international companies operating in the energetic sector. In 2018 he has taken part in the organization of the International Festival of Robotics covering the role of Coordinator of Energy and Environment Initiatives.

He holds patents in the sector of renewable sources regarding technologies that work with the usage of solar energy. He is also author of many scientific publications with over five hundred citations in international journals.


The International Energy Agency (IEA) claims that industrial heat constitutes the two – thirds of the industrial heat request and almost one – fifth of the global energetic consume. It also constitutes the majority of direct industrial CO2 emitted every year. On the basis of these data, is it on Green Heat that we shall bet on to combat climate change and implement the energy transition?

The thermal uses, as International Energy Agency (IEA) claims, consume around two-thirds of the primary energetic sources at a global level, in Italy we are at 55 %, more or less aligned with Europe. The situation is aggravated by the fact that renewable sources only contribute 20 % in the thermal uses, with higher emissions compared to other energy sectors of pollutants and altering climate greenhouse gases. In addition these emissions are at a distributed level and therefore difficult to control – problem highlighted also by IEA.

What are the problems related to heat production?

Heat generation is essentially based on the combustion of fossil fuels, such as methane gas that has gradually exceeded the share of coal and diesel. In order to overcome this criticality we are moving from combustion to heat pump systems. The advantage is that heat pumps, instead of fossil fuels, use electricity that can be produced from renewable sources and that for each unit of electricity around three of heat are produced. Therefore energy savings combined with green type heat. Next to heat pumps there is another energy-efficient technique, cogeneration, which is the combined production of electricity and heat. In this case, with the same amount of electricity and heat produced can lead to a primary source savings of around 30% on average.

Beyond the technical difficulties, the topic of industrial heat often lacks in energy analyses and policies. Even at the Cop26, there was little talk of it. Why?

It is true, often the sector of thermal uses is more neglected than other sectors such as transport or electricity. In the case of transport, the dependence on fossil fuels is for now very high, while in the electricity sector the penetration of renewable sources is much more intense and fast expanding. It is no coincidence because renewable sources such as solar, wind, water have an essentially electric vocation.

Therefore, in order to combat climate change we also need to develop the use of electricity even in the transport and heating sector. The challenge we face is truly epochal.The aim reconfirmed also by COP26 is to limit, compared to the pre-industrial level, the increase of the average temperature of the Earth to 1,5 degrees centigrade, which means zero carbon emissions by 2050.

To achieve the goal it is necessary to meet global energy consumption using electricity created from renewable sources.

How the Thermal Storage systems and in particular the MGTES - Magaldi Green Thermal Energy Storage technology can contribute to increase the share of Green Heat?

The MGTES technology developed by Magaldi is a high temperature storage system, characterized by considerable efficiency, flexibility and security, with low costs that make it competitive on a large scale and has high capacities. It is based on a fluidized sand container able to absorb the heat and to keep it over time with very low losses, thanks to the interruption of the fluidization and therefore of the heat exchange with the external environment.

Indispensable for concentrated thermodynamic solar systems, to ensure the continuity of production over a whole day, can be used in fossil plants to allow the flexibility of the load and for all heat storage applications, even with relatively long times.

In an electric scenario, with a high presence of renewable sources, the storage takes on a strategic character to ensure flexibility, reliability and security of the electric grid.

More and more investors and companies are focusing on the respect of the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) principles. In your opinion, which are the characteristics and strenghts of the ESG philosophy of Magaldi Group?

Having collaborated with Magaldi, I know very well how much this company is attentive to environmental, technological and economic sustainability of its products. MGTES is no exception to this philosophy, indeed projects the company towards always higher levels.

Environmental sustainability, as MGTES uses sand as storage material, a clean substance perfectly compatible with the environment, as well as steel plant structures, free of polluting materials and totally recyclable at the end of life.

Technological sustainability due to the absence of special elements, of limited availability in the subsoil, or that require energy-expensive processes in the phases of construction, disposal or recycling.


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