Hydrogen helping to create a flexible, resilient and integrated energy system

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Through the GenComm Hydrogen project we have developed and delivered a renewable hydrogen solution that is flexible (can operate to meet system and customer requirements), resilient (robust storage and management solutions) and can be integrated in to local/community energy systems.

One of the key priorities in the NI Energy Strategy is to deliver an energy system that is modern and can take full advantage of new and innovative technologies. We are always careful to point out that hydrogen is not the silver bullet it is useful however to show how it can play its part in delivering solutions in multiple areas of a modern and efficient energy system

A fully integrated green Hydrogen production and storage system (not forgetting the potential of oxygen) will increase renewable generation while delivering much needed system services/storage for our electricity network, increase zero emission fuel to our gas network and bring emission free fuel to drive our fleet of heavy goods vehicles.

By connecting and integrating smart hydrogen generation and storage solutions to the network we can show how it will deliver on one of the aims of the key priority that is a flexible, resilient integrated energy system from the energy strategy, this includes

  1. Using real time data, it will review and monitor the security and resilience of our energy system
  2. Implementing measures on system flexibility services, energy storage, data and electromobility
  3. Introducing smart measures as part of a wider digitisation and data framework
  4. Continually adopting policies to facilitate active consumers and energy communities

To deliver on this priority we believe the following areas need to be prioritised.

Firstly, our network operators must investigate the potential of a data capture system that will instantaneously monitor, report and act upon every area of the electricity, gas, and transport networks, this should include energy substations (all HV and LV) customer meter, transport user and so on, data should be captured and with this information the system should respond to customer and operators’ requirements.

There are numerous opportunities to bring solutions that will utilise and take advantage of accurate reliable data, below are a few examples of how this will work in practice in various areas of the energy market

The domestic customer – There are multiple applications in the domestic home ranging from EV’s, Solar Panels (including smart export) heating controls, storage, appliances, load management and so on. One step and quick win, a solution which has been talked about on many occasions (especially by NIHE), is water heating. We should move quickly to start controlling our home 3kw immersion heaters to bring a flexible load to the energy market. These controllers can run in sync with the smart grid bringing local distribution services which will reduce the energy used to heat water using fossil fuels 

The small-scale renewable generator – will have the ability to supply to a community hydrogen electrolyser with local power purchase and use of system contracts

The EV driver – one solution is charging from either their privately owned solar panels or from neighbours exported generation, there is also potential of using the car battery storage to generate into the network taking advantage of system services

The business – together with the solutions discussed above (for example connecting a fleet of EVs) businesses should be encouraged to look at exporting heat and play its part in a district heating scheme 

The local community – the solutions can all work in the local community however each area is different and should take advantage of their local situation, the GENCOMM project showed how in Stornoway 

Our energy strategy is an excellent document, yes, we have got off to a good start because the energy industry working with government have been delivering solutions for decades however it is time to move up a few gears by taking action now to ensure we meet our 2045 targets.

In conclusion Hydrogen and hydrogen technologies are enablers of energy system integration, flexibility, and resilience. As energy vectors they contribute to improving the overall efficiency of the system and deliver cost reductions in the energy sector and across the economy. Hydrogen is a versatile, clean, and flexible energy vector that will play a crucial role in the process of energy transition and environmental balance. It has multiple use opportunities including as a feedstock for industry, a carbon-neutral fuel for transport, and an energy carrier in the power sector as well as for heating in buildings and heavy industry. Hydrogen and hydrogen technologies will drive decarbonisation through innovation, boosting our economies and competitiveness through leadership such as shown in the NI Energy Strategy and importantly also driven by the creation of a highly skilled workforce.

By Mark Welsh, Hydrogen Ireland Board Member

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