EnergyEnergy & Environment

Towards a national hydrogen strategy

In anticipation of the Government’s forthcoming unveiling of Ireland’s national hydrogen strategy, Odrán Waldron speaks with hydrogen experts Rory Monaghan and James Carton to ascertain what the experts expect.

What do you expect to see from the upcoming national hydrogen strategy?

Rory Monaghan

What I expect to see is an aspirational statement of the potential for hydrogen in Ireland, especially the potential to produce hydrogen. It will talk about how hydrogen can be used as an additional route to market for offshore wind, so I think there will be a lot of statements about the positives that hydrogen can deliver. There will also be a lot of recognition of the direction of travel in Europe with respect to hydrogen, so they will talk about the European Hydrogen Strategy and some of the progress being made in countries like Germany and the Netherlands that are looking to become hydrogen importers. They will probably also point to the progress in Portugal and Spain, who are looking to become big producers. It will mostly be laying out the vision for what hydrogen could be; I would worry that we will not see a huge amount of concrete support or policies.

James Carton

I expect it to be a nicely written document, with lots of objectives to engage with the hydrogen economy to help with the deployment of renewable energy. That will be all noted and explained well, and it will touch on the areas the Government see hydrogen being used, such as backup power. Other than that, I think the document will not have much else. It might mention the 2GW target for hydrogen production from offshore wind; it might give some clarity on that and how it can be achieved. Unfortunately, I am not sure if the strategy will have enough detailed targets for what needs to be achieved to reach the bigger targets that have been mentioned.

Rory Monaghan, Lecturer of Mechanical Engineering, University of Galway.

What would you hope to see from the strategy?

Rory Monaghan

What I would hope to see would be something that would resemble in structure the German hydrogen strategy. What they have got are specific targets, dates, and actions. Some of the specific approaches that I would like to see would be mandates for hydrogen production; we have got this target for 2GW of offshore wind being dedicated to hydrogen production for 2030. How is that going to be delivered and enforced? That is just production, and we have a real focus on the potential production of hydrogen in Ireland.

The other side is the market and the demand for hydrogen. What are we going to do to stimulate demand for hydrogen in Ireland? If we export it all, we are missing value. I would like to see statements around implementing the alternative fuels infrastructure requirement, which would set specific targets for where and how many hydrogen filling stations there should be. There has been talk in the Department of Transport around east coast and west coast hydrogen corridors, so I would like to see some mention of them in there as a way to stimulate demand. What is going to be said around the burning of hydrogen in gas stations? I would like it if there was some sort of incentive or requirement for gas power plant operators to burn hydrogen.

There is a support scheme in the Climate Action Plan for zero emissions vehicles, but it is not particularly big, and so having that expanded massively for heavy duty vehicles would be very important. It would be good to see how government plans to help set a price for hydrogen. The American Inflation Reduction Act has come out with a tax credit worth $3/kg, which is very generous, and the British Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation has a subsidy of £7/kg, so is Ireland looking at a similar level of support?

The final thing is planning; how do we speed up planning and permitting? If it is a block of renewables, then there is going to be no electricity source for hydrogen production, so if hydrogen producers are going through that block and then an additional block on hydrogen-specific infrastructure, that could damage a lot of projects, so I would like to see something in there on planning and permitting.

James Carton, Assistant Professor in Sustainable Energy, Dublin City University.

James Carton

I would like to see acknowledgement that Ireland is on par with Europe. The EU has its own objectives and Ireland recognises that it is behind, but it wants to contribute to the European targets; I think that statement would be important to align us with Europe and REPowerEU.

Aligning ourselves at that level would also mean that I would like to see more ambition. The Government has mentioned the 2GW target a number of times but has not locked it self into what that means. I would like to see that put into the strategy with some realistic figures around it, such as a certain date and how it proposes to support the development. For example, offshore wind development needs grid connection by 2030, but if you are producing hydrogen offshore, you may not need grid connection. We need clarity on that and how it might enable both electricity and other applications other than electricity.

I would also like to see recognition for how hydrogen can be used in various industries in Ireland, not just the basic language that says hydrogen can back up renewables. There are lots of options for hydrogen, and I would like to see specific sectors mentioned. One could be transport, and the Government could detail how it sees it working there and aligning with what is happening in Europe and the UK.

Finally, I would like to see a budget to get hydrogen going. It could be part of the Covid recovery funds, the funds for getting off Russian gas, European funds, a carbon tax, or a windfall tax. There should be a budget to kick-off the hydrogen economy, put into certain projects and clusters. I would like to see some commitment funding for some of these initial lighthouse projects.

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