Hydrogen report

Minister Eamon Ryan TD: Green hydrogen momentum is growing

Ireland is committed to playing its full part in EU and global efforts to stop climate change and, in so doing, harnessing the opportunities and rewards that will come from moving quickly to a low-carbon society, writes Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD.

We have set ourselves the ambition of halving greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade and becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Green hydrogen will have an important role to play in achieving our climate ambitions and decarbonising our energy system by 2050. As a zero-carbon energy dense molecule, it will be pivotal in the so-called ‘hard to decarbonise’ sectors, such as high-temperature heat industries like cement production or heavy transport vehicles, where direct electrification alone may be challenging.

It also offers a solution for decarbonising our electricity sector. Producing hydrogen from electrolysis at times of surplus renewables as a long duration store of energy can be used to create electricity at times of scarcity, thus providing flexibility and ensuring security in our energy system.

Ireland also has one of the best offshore renewable resources globally and this presents a significant industrial opportunity for us. We could produce significantly more renewables than we will ever need alone, creating opportunities to develop new green products and export renewable energy internationally. We already know countries such as Germany are actively looking to source clean hydrogen for import and Ireland is one of a small number of countries who have the natural resources to supply this.

National Hydrogen Strategy and programme

In July 2023, the Department published the National Hydrogen Strategy, which was a major milestone for the hydrogen sector in Ireland. This strategy sets out both the long-term vision for green hydrogen in our economy and energy system, as well as the short-term actions to enable early growth in the sector. Our focus now is on implementing it. Developments in the hydrogen sector will cut across many sectors, notably with offshore renewables. Delivering the 21 actions set out in the strategy will require strong coordination across government departments, agencies, and industry, which has already started.

Given its complexity and the many moving parts, we are developing a National Hydrogen Programme in 2024 which will set out a detailed plan for delivery of our hydrogen ambitions, clear governance, and ownership of actions. We will establish a dedicated National Hydrogen Programme office in my department to oversee its delivery, ensure close cooperation with other policy areas, and enhance our engagement and communications with industry. This programme will be essential to delivering on our policy commitments in the years ahead as set out in Climate Action Plan 2024.

“We are developing a National Hydrogen Programme in 2024 which will set out a detailed plan for delivery of our hydrogen ambitions…”
Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport, Eamon Ryan TD

In December 2023, the Department completed a detailed analysis of the economic opportunities associated with developing a significant offshore renewable sector in Ireland. This analysis confirmed that Ireland can become an internationally competitive supplier of renewable hydrogen, particularly in northwest Europe where pipeline transportation is economically favourable. This work supported the development of our Offshore Industrial Strategy, already published, and Future Framework Policy Statement, which will be published by May 2024, which set out the long-term approach to delivering the offshore renewables needed to power our hydrogen ambitions.

The Department continues to work closely with our counterparts in neighbouring countries to cooperate on renewable hydrogen development and further explore the opportunity for export. In 2023, we executed cooperation agreements with the United Kingdom and Germany for green hydrogen and have engaged closely with others also. The Danish presidency of the North Seas Energy Cooperation has also set out hydrogen as a key priority during its presidency this year. This is something we actively support as it represents the best way to explore what a North Seas hydrogen supply corridor to Europe might look like. Better outcomes can be achieved for all by cooperating and working on this together.

Hydrogen sector at EU level

The past year has also been a significant one for the hydrogen sector at EU level. In March 2024, the results of the first hydrogen bank auctions were announced. With a total of 132 bids received, sufficient to deliver 10 per cent of Europe’s REPowerEU hydrogen targets, this auction demonstrated that there are projects on the ground ready to deliver. The EU Hydrogen and Decarbonised Gas Market Package was also agreed, marking another key milestone for the sector. This package sets out the regulatory rules and market frameworks to enable the coordinated development of an integrated EU hydrogen market and will be an important enabler to infrastructure deployment in future years. Finally, the sixth Projects of Common Interest list was published, marking the first time that hydrogen cross border infrastructure projects could be awarded PCI status.

Future developments

To develop Ireland’s hydrogen sector further, there are areas where progress is needed in the short-term. The geological storage of hydrogen will be essential to the commercial viability of capturing our surplus renewables and storing them. We need to ensure we better understand Ireland’s storage potential and develop the legislative and regulatory frameworks to support it.

There is also a clear need to support early innovative projects which can showcase green hydrogen across the value chain in Ireland, at a small yet commercial scale. The Department is actively working to secure funding to support these types of projects, as signalled in the National Hydrogen Strategy.

On the ground momentum is growing and there have been some major recent steps forward:

  • in 2023, Project Shamrock was awarded EU funding to establish a hydrogen hub in Galway; and
  • the Celtic hydrogen cluster to be developed in the Cork region was recently announced.

These industry-led initiatives are vital to establishing the hydrogen sector in Ireland. The Government will ensure that we work to support their development where possible.

Whilst the past year has seen significant milestones achieved for the sector, we still have a distance to travel. Our core focus has been on ensuring we have the right foundations in place to grow. Through continued cooperation and dialogue, we can support this growth and ensure that we pursue the best interests of the country through responsible, transformative climate action.

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