Italian group Enel on Monday inaugurated a hydrogen-driven power station that it said was the world's first such facility to produce energy in significant amounts.
It described the plant, in Fusina near Venice, as "a first step" in the development of hydrogen as a non-polluting energy source.
The hydrogen used is a by-product captured from refining operations at a nearby petrochemical installation.
The 16-megawatt Fusina power station produces energy for around 20,000 homes but spares the environment the emission of more than 17,000 tonnes of greenhouse carbon dioxide gas per year, according to Enel.
The station, built with an investment of 50 million euros (63 million dollars), "is the first step on a path that will lead us to a significant development over the next few years," said Enel general director Fulvio Conti.
He added that it would likely be decades before hydrogen-powered electricity could be considered financially competitive. At the moment, electricity generated by hydrogen is five to six times more expensive than that produced by conventional means.
Explore further: Drive system saves space and weight in electric cars