Green hydrogen industry could create up to 1,800 jobs

Legislation and capital support needed from Government to enable sector, say stakeholders

Ireland’s burgeoning green hydrogen sector has the capacity to create up to 1,800 jobs by 2030, while also supporting the transition of the Irish public transport fleet to zero emissions, an industry stakeholder group has said.

A new White Paper by Hydrogen Mobility Ireland (HMI), a group representing businesses involved in the energy and transport sectors looking to develop the use of hydrogen as a transport fuel, sets out a number of steps the Government could take to boost the sector.

The report notes that the Government, which last month opened a public consultation on the development of a national hydrogen strategy, describes the development of green hydrogen infrastructure as a “horizon action” in the Climate Action Plan. It is envisaged as a way to reduce emissions from “hard-to-abate” sections of the transport fleet such as heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

But this outlook “is timid”, HMI said, “given the readiness of hydrogen for mobility now”.

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“The energy transition is about eliminating carbon emissions, not abating them,” the group said. “HGVs using green hydrogen represent a simple way to eliminate carbon emissions, in particular once initial infrastructure has been developed.”

As such HMI said its proposals could create 20 hydrogen refuelling stations and over 6,000 vehicles by 2030. This would help the Government reach its target for zero emission vehicles in urban public transport and in public service vehicles while also cutting 900,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions up to 2030.

However, the report notes hydrogen projects have a lead time of at least two to three years “so policy changes are needed now to enable projects by 2026″.

HMI said the inclusion of hydrogen in the upcoming Biofuel Obligation Scheme was welcome and will provide fuel cost parity. But significant cost hurdles still exist for green hydrogen businesses and additional capital support will be needed, it said.

“Some support can be sourced from the EU, but extra funding from [the] Irish Government will ensure stations are developed to facilitate the growth of the sector,” it said.

Capital cost support will also be needed for hydrogen-fuelled cars, buses and other methods of transport given that hydrogen fuel cell are currently two to three times more expensive than equivalent diesel vehicles. While costs are expected to drop as the industry grows over the coming decade capital expenditure subsidies could reduce the difference in cost between hydrogen and fossil fuelled vehicles.

Commenting on the report’s publication, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said it was “essential” to examine all technologies that can help reduce Ireland’s carbon footprint. “It is vital that Ireland should realise the full potential of green hydrogen in decarbonising our economy and energy and transport systems, and we are taking important steps to achieve this.”

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times