Berlin energy crisis may be opportunity for Dublin

Cantillon: Irish wind energy could be sold to energy-hungry German industrialists

In 1957, writer Heinrich Böll passed on to German readers of his Irish Journal a piece of mindful wisdom he picked up while living on Achill: when God created time, he created enough of it.

In this era of war and human misery in Ukraine, time is a luxury in short supply in Berlin. Russia's invasion has destroyed decades of bilateral ties and left Germany, like a few of its neighbours, dangerously dependent on Russian energy supplies, in particular natural gas.

With an EU embargo on Russian energy a real possibility – if Moscow doesn't halt supplies first – German is scrambling to reduce its dependency. Enter Ireland. After post-Brexit years of pursuing closer bilateral relations with the EU's most influential member, Berlin's energy crisis could be a moment of practical opportunity for Dublin.

Ryan’s move

With little fanfare, Eamon Ryan, with climate and energy in his ministerial portfolio, was in Berlin last month and signed a memorandum of understanding on renewable energy development.

A particular focus is on co-operation on energy supply chains as well as the holy grail of renewables: turning Irish wind energy into so-called "green hydrogen" which could be stored and sold to energy-hungry German industry customers.

On Thursday, Peter Altmaier, chancellor Angela Merkel's last economics minister, said he was happy to advocate for a closer bilateral energy partnership. But he told a video conference organised by the Institute for International and European Affairs (IIEA) that, given the lead-time for such major projects, there was no time to lose.

Experimental field

“You have to define your interests, what you expect to do, what you expect from us and what you are willing to offer and accept. I think you can earn a lot of money from doing this,” he said.

With green hydrogen still an experimental field, the former minister suggested Ireland follow Oslo's example and, in parallel, push for an undersea cable like the one that supplies Germany with Norwegian hydro-electricity in the winter.

Two months ago after the Dublin-based German Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce set up a new "hydrogen council", its members visit Berlin next week for talks. No time like the present.