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Renewable Energy Generation

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 4 November 2021

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Questions (8)

Ivana Bacik

Question:

8. Deputy Ivana Bacik asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his plans to make the production of green hydrogen more cost-effective within Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53535/21]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Environment)

My question is to ask the Minister the plans to make the production of green hydrogen more cost-effective within Ireland. Again, this is about seeking answers on how we can meet our targets, particularly targets on the generation of electricity through renewables.

The programme for Government recognises the need for research and development of hydrogen from renewable sources, known as green hydrogen, for use in power generation and as a zero-emission energy source in difficult to decarbonise sectors such as transport and industry.

In July 2020, the European Commission published a hydrogen strategy for a carbon-neutral Europe. Ireland supported the hydrogen strategy, including the need to deploy green hydrogen in line with the programme for Government. Ireland also supported the publication of the Council conclusions on a hydrogen market for Europe in October 2020. In the development of these conclusions, Ireland strongly supported the need to focus on green hydrogen. I expect further initiatives to assist in the development of green hydrogen to form part of the European Commission's proposals to reform the gas regulation and directive. These proposals are expected later this year and I expect them to be discussed at the Council of energy ministers meeting in December.

As part of the development of the climate action plan, my Department is working with relevant Departments, agencies and stakeholders to examine the future role of green hydrogen and identify the policies and measures we need to ensure its deployment. These policies and measures will need to ensure green hydrogen is developed in a cost-effective way while contributing to our commitment of net zero emissions by 2050. In this regard, the 2021 climate action plan will to set out a range of actions focused on the development of green hydrogen in Ireland.

I am very glad to hear there are such moves under way and particularly that we will see in the climate action plan this afternoon a range of initiatives on green hydrogen. I am also pleased to hear the Minister of State's announcement that the Council of energy ministers will discuss this at December's meeting. It is good to hear there are initiatives under way both at European level and here in Ireland.

Any engagement I have with stakeholders on how we meet those targets for generation of electricity through renewables indicates green hydrogen is the energy of the future, although that may be a clichéd term. There has been a doubt about whether we can develop the production of green hydrogen in a cost-effective way, as the cost seems to have been the biggest obstacle to development. What I am seeking to explore is precisely what initiatives we can take in Ireland to ensure the roll-out of green hydrogen can be done in a way that is cost-effective.

This was discussed informally discussed at the Council of Ministers last week. Some countries have different views and some are going for blue hydrogen rather than green hydrogen. Ireland is going for green hydrogen. In Ireland we brought in three buses that run on hydrogen in order to get experience of what it is like to use them. This is not a mature technology but I do not want it always to be a future technology. We can achieve that by trying things out. I know in west Dublin there is a trial to inject hydrogen into the normal gas network and see how it works. It would be good if the existing gas infrastructure used to pump gas around the country could be reused for hydrogen. It would give us greater energy security for the future and avoid problems where we are dependent on unstable foreign powers for our energy needs, which affects people directly suffering from energy poverty.

This is a story of hope and positivity, as not so long ago it seemed offshore wind generation and solar panels were too expensive but we have seen the cost of the production of energy from such sources reducing dramatically. We all very much hope the same will happen with green hydrogen. As the Minister of State has acknowledged, we certainly have an opportunity to build out renewables through green hydrogen, among other technologies. This might even allow Ireland to become a green hydrogen exporter in place of being an importer of fossil fuels to generate the energy we need.

I very much welcome the ambitious target on the generation of electricity through renewables and I am very conscious of the vision increasingly being promoted around the world of electrifying everything as a way of ensuring we can move to a carbon-neutral or zero-carbon economy and society around the world. The technologies are there or are being developed to decarbonise electricity and they could ensure that electricity powers all the human activities that have for far too long been powered by fossil fuels.

Does the Minister of State agree that the key to this potential is developing a stronger electricity network? This week we saw legislation introduced which I am thankful was withdrawn that would have blocked the development of onshore wind. Earlier in this Question Time we heard the dismissal of a review being carried out by the Government - effectively rubbishing it - and the backing of full resistance to the strengthening of our electricity grid. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot hope for green hydrogen and then block the instruments that would help to realise such an opportunity.

With the development of hydrogen, it is not clear exactly which scenario will be best. Will it be ideal for long-distance trucking or suitable for storage so it can help to balance electricity grids when the wind is low? Will it be appropriate for the heating of homes and directly replacing gas in those homes?

There are different use cases which have to be tried out and which have to be economically sound. Hydrogen will be appropriate in some circumstances and inappropriate in others. It has challenges and it is a new technology but it has the potential to balance out the fundamental variability in renewable energy where the production is related to what the weather is at the time. It also allows us to avoid the volatility and variability that comes with relying on the international price of fossil fuels, which can vary. At one point a barrel of oil was $10 and then at another point it was $140. It is hard for any country to deal with that and it has direct consequences for people. Hydrogen allows us to move towards sustainability, self-reliance and a clean energy supply.

Question No. 9 replied to with Written Answers.
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