The Irish and German governments have signed a joint declaration of intent to co-operate on green hydrogen, the renewable fuel likely to be produced in large quantities from European offshore wind farms in coming decades.
Green hydrogen is generated from water through a process known as electrolysis, using renewable energy from wind or solar to split water into its component molecules of hydrogen and oxygen.
The agreement between the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and the German Federal Research Ministry was signed virtually on Wednesday by Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan, who has responsibility for energy, and parliamentary state secretary Mario Brandenburg.
The German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce has been an enabler to this process with Germany committed to scaling up green hydrogen infrastructure as a key element in enabling it to get off fossil fuels.
One of the main challenges to the supply of green hydrogen is the availability of renewable energy to produce it, Mr Ryan said after the signing. “Ireland has one of the best offshore renewable energy resources in the world and realising the full potential of this resource will be a big opportunity for green hydrogen production.”
Momentum is building behind green hydrogen in Ireland, he added, “which is set to play a crucial role in decarbonising our energy system”.
The Government has set a target of 5 gigawatts (GW) of offshore energy by 2030 with a view to developing a hydrogen industry by targeting an additional 2GW of offshore wind for its production.
This could provide up to 6 terawatt hours of zero-carbon energy. “This could deliver just over 10 per cent of the electricity sector’s total final energy needs, 21 per cent of industry needs or 6-7 per cent of total transport needs,” Mr Ryan noted.
The Government’s national hydrogen strategy is due to be published shortly. This will set out how hydrogen will be produced and used in Ireland, providing certainty to investors and industry as to how the fuel will be deployed in the Irish energy system.
“If Ireland can harness the opportunities offered by hydrogen, we can achieve our goals of a zero-carbon, secure energy system and become an energy exporter,” Mr Ryan said.
“This is a vote of confidence in Ireland’s energy potential and specifically our capacity to produce green hydrogen from our excess energy. Our wind resources are amongst the best in the world. Hydrogen represents one of the best ways of capturing these resources and sharing them with European partners including Germany.”
Mr Brandenburg said: “Germany is and will remain a net importer of energy in the foreseeable future. This is why research partnerships with countries with abundant renewable energy sources like Ireland are so important for Germany and the EU at large. The results of this co-operation between Ireland and Germany will help accelerate the EU’s energy transition and will help lead to a more energy-secure Europe.”
Germany’s hydrogen strategy estimates it will be able to produce 20-30 per cent of its hydrogen needs indigenously by 2030.
“Ireland had a proven track record of delivering renewables; a trusted reputation in the business and international community; and close alignment and coherence on energy policy, markets, and regulations because of our long-standing membership of the EU. This creates the right conditions for German-Irish co-operation on the development of green hydrogen to thrive,” Mr Brandenburg added.
“Today is a historic day as Ireland and Germany sign a partnership deal on green hydrogen. We are not just going to decarbonise our own economy – we are going to help some of the world’s industrial powerhouses decarbonise theirs too,” said Brian Leddin chairman of the Oireachtas Climate Committee.
He congratulated Frank Daly and Ralf Lissek of the German-Irish Chamber for their work “to make this day happen”.