April 28, 2022

How can hydrogen support a green future in Ireland?

Bart Biebuyck, the director of the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, believes that hydrogen technology has progressed significantly over the last decade and that Ireland can become an exporter of renewable energy to Europe, predominantly by developing offshore wind farms. Accelerating clean hydrogen development in Europe requires further access to more affordable renewable energy to ensure green hydrogen becomes cheaper. 


Utilising hydrogen as a source of clean energy has been discussed for years, with some energy experts suggesting that hydrogen represents the future of our energy systems. Has hydrogen reached a point where it is now a viable green energy option?


A few years ago, the European Commission introduced a new plan to support decarbonisation in Europe. These measures included the development of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, which intended to accelerate the build of large-scale clean hydrogen technology and support investment plans to launch clean hydrogen facilities.


While hydrogen is considered a critical energy source for our future, there are several challenges concerned with commercial hydrogen projects, relating to costs and the amount of renewable energy required to enable it to be a clean or green hydrogen product.


While Ireland may be a little behind in terms of focusing on the hydrogen industry in Europe, Biebuyck believes there is momentum, with industry and educational groups exploring the potential of green hydrogen across the country. For example, The GenComm renewable hydrogen project is exploring the feasibility of utilising hydrogen technology and supporting communities with implementing plans to introduce renewable hydrogen-based energy systems. Ireland also has access to abundant wind resources and is capable of developing multiple offshore wind sites. The price of offshore wind has decreased considerably in the last few years, enabling cheaper renewable electricity production. 


Paul McCormack, the programme manager of GenComm, believes Ireland stands at the core of the hydrogen industry, emphasising domestic and international projects currently active in the country. Ireland is playing a pivotal role in transforming energy plans in Europe and supporting the development of a hydrogen-focused economy capable of providing many sustainable environmental and economic benefits.


Biebuyck believes that Ireland has the potential to develop a hydrogen valley within Europe, combining industry and research plans and delivering pilot projects across the entire value chain. Last year, Ursula Von Der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, stated that it was part of a network of nations committed to developing 100 hydrogen valleys worldwide. Von Der Leyen highlighted the Groningen region of the Netherlands, which is currently establishing a green hydrogen value chain and expects more areas to follow a similar path. She believes this is the solution to creating a hydrogen economy on a local scale and progressing towards a larger European hydrogen economy.


In the case of Ireland, a top priority is developing a hydrogen strategy that allows the country to focus on creating a hydrogen valley or exporting energy to other European members. At the beginning of this year, Wind Energy Ireland, the representative group for the wind energy industry, urged the Government to launch a hydrogen strategy focusing on green hydrogen. Noel Cunniffe, the CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, explained that the plans would support Ireland in creating a long-term alternative to the existing gas facilities and a more efficient long-duration storage option for the future. 


Cunniffe states that Ireland is one of few EU members that lacks a hydrogen strategy, emphasising that the Government needs to accelerate its efforts in creating a structured plan and incorporate green hydrogen targets for industry, transport, shipping and power generation. Ireland is prepared for the green hydrogen revolution but requires clear and structured commitment from the Government to drive the industry forwards.