Hydrogen NI, a new membership group established to support the growth of the clean hydrogen economy in Northern Ireland, was launched on Tuesday.
Hydrogen is rapidly emerging as a sustainable energy solution and it is expected to play a central role in reducing Northern Ireland’s reliance on fossil fuels, particularly those currently used in the heating and heavy transport sectors which are more difficult to decarbonise.
An increasingly common way to produce hydrogen involves a process called electrolysis, where electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
This presents a unique opportunity for Northern Ireland to take advantage of its world-leading levels of renewable electricity – which mostly comes from wind energy – to produce clean hydrogen.
It will also create a sustainable use for wind energy produced at times when electricity demand is low. As things stand this energy is often lost.
Hydrogen NI has been established to represent organisations with an interest in developing NI’s clean hydrogen economy, and its early members include Phoenix Natural Gas, B9 Energy Storage, Solo Renewables, Green Energy Hub, UK law firm Shoosmiths and Evermore Group.
The launch of the group comes at a critical time as Northern Ireland looks to a ‘post-Covid’ green recovery.
The Department for the Economy is also currently consulting on options for a new energy strategy, which is due to be published before the end of this year.
Hydrogen NI will provide a voice for the industry in Northern Ireland and will engage with government, elected representatives, local councils, the media and the public to raise awareness of the economic and environmental opportunities created by developing a clean hydrogen economy.
Hydrogen NI committee member John Palmer, a partner and energy specialist with Shoosmiths LLP, says Northern Ireland has the potential to develop a world-leading hydrogen economy.
“Northern Ireland is uniquely placed to use its high levels of wind energy to create clean hydrogen; and has the skilled workforce required to develop world-leading expertise across all areas of the hydrogen economy,” he said.
“This will help to lower our CO2 emissions by decarbonising sectors such as heat where we have the added advantage of a modern gas network that can facilitate hydrogen, transport and the high energy industries.
“If Northern Ireland can continue to innovate and position itself as a global leader in the drive towards decarbonisation it will result in significant foreign direct investment and create thousands of sustainable jobs.
“The UK Government expects hydrogen to deliver up to £4 billion of private investment by 2030; while the EU believes investments in renewable hydrogen in Europe can reach €470 billion by 2050.
“We fully support the commitment shown by the Department for the Economy and Minister Diane Dodds MLA to make Northern Ireland a centre of excellence for the hydrogen economy – an opportunity that has also been recognised by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council as they progress plans to deliver a hydrogen training academy.
“Through our response to the current energy strategy consultation and engagement with stakeholders we will be encouraging the Executive to back these ambitions by producing a hydrogen strategy for Northern Ireland.
“This will give industry and investors the confidence needed to bring forward innovative projects and solutions that utilise opportunities presented by clean hydrogen but it’s critical that we act now.
“As a group we look forward to working with everyone to ensure Northern Ireland can achieve the full societal and economic benefits offered by having a thriving clean hydrogen economy.”
Hydrogen NI will host an online launch event on Tuesday, May 25, which will include a presentation from Richard Rodgers, Head of Energy at the Department for the Economy, on the role of hydrogen in Northern Ireland’s energy transition.
Welcoming the formation of the group, Mr Rodgers said: “Engagement with stakeholders from across Northern Ireland has been at the heart of the Department for the Economy’s approach to developing a new energy strategy, on which we are currently consulting and which we intend to publish later this year.
“Although still an emerging sector, clean hydrogen is set to play an important role in the energy transition and the shift to net zero carbon.
“Therefore, we welcome the launch of Hydrogen NI and look forward to working with the group in the time ahead as part of our wider engagement programme.”
Phoenix Natural Gas and Ryse Hydrogen/Wrightbus will also contribute to the Hydrogen NI launch event, discussing how clean hydrogen will support the decarbonisation of the heat and mobility sectors respectively.
n More information about Hydrogen NI and details on how to become a member can be found at www.hydrogen-ni.com