The development of a new clean energy source – green hydrogen – is the winning idea from Fine Gael’s Better Ireland campaign.
The Better Ireland campaign, run in the second half of 2021, received over 2,000 entries, all of which were in with a chance to pitch their idea to the Tánaiste and Fine Gael Leader Leo Varadkar.
Among the top ideas were the use of ride-sharing EV minivans by Dublin Bus, the introduction of driving lessons in Transition Year, and compulsory after-school care in primary schools to assist working parents.
However, a submission from David Ryan, an engineer from Cork, for the greater use of green hydrogen as a source of clean energy emerged on top.
The Tánaiste said, “To me, green hydrogen sounds like the holy grail in policy terms. It will result in import substitution so instead of importing energy, we could be a major net exporter of energy in the form of electricity and hydrogen gas.
“Ireland could achieve energy independence, energy security and at a time of volatile energy prices, we know better than ever before the benefits of price of stability.
“It could create jobs and investment all over the country, particularly in our coastal areas. It could be the fuel of the future – powering trucks, heavy industry and ships, which can’t be easily electrified.
“It can also be used to make lower-emission fertiliser helping farmers to maintain stocking rates sustainably. And it could help us make major strides towards achieving net zero carbon emissions.
“While the plan initially was to talk to the winner David over Zoom, due to the easing of restrictions it was great to be able to meet with him in person to discuss his idea.”
David Ryan, an engineer by profession, said, “I was delighted to have been selected as the winner of the Better Ireland campaign, and even more so to have had the opportunity of pitching my vision of Ireland as a leader in the area of green hydrogen to Leo Varadkar.
“Green hydrogen is a completely clean source of energy. It is a gas generated entirely by using renewable sources to split water into Hydrogen and Oxygen with zero emissions, and when burned instead of C02, only water is produced – unlike natural gas.
“The main benefits of green hydrogen are twofold: Firstly, green hydrogen is a natural solution to decarbonising the hard to electrify sectors. It could be used to make ammonia for environmentally friendly fertilizer, steel for construction or used as a fuel for heavy trucks and planes, thereby drastically reducing the carbon footprint of the agriculture, construction and transportation industries.
“Secondly, we have huge offshore wind potential here, but very limited transmission and distribution networks to transport the energy. This leads to a large amount of wasted energy that we could harness and use to produce green hydrogen.
“The renewable energy potential off our west coast in particular is huge, but as it currently stands, we don’t have the infrastructure to get the energy from one side of the country to the other where it is needed.
“What hydrogen gives us is the potential to convert and use energy close to the source, so you don’t have to worry about transporting the energy.
“Fine Gael’s Better Ireland campaign gave me the platform to outline my policy idea and to ultimately share my vision for Ireland directly with the Tánaiste. This type of citizen engagement is new and innovative, and allows people from all walks of life and areas of expertise to bring their ideas to the decision making table.”