In the executive chair with: Catherine Sheridan, Chief Operating Officer EIH2

by | Sep 4, 2022

An energy professional with over 20 years’ experience, Catherine Sheridan’s key focus as Chief Operating Officer with EIH2 is to help Ireland, and Europe, achieve Net Zero 2050 through green hydrogen and energy system integration. A Chartered Engineer and Fellow of Engineers Ireland, project manager and communications expert, her experience includes site and contract management as well as commercial roles with national utilities. She was recently named one of the top women globally working in hydrogen and is the policy lead with Hydrogen Ireland. Catherine will be speaking at the World Hydrogen Congress in Rotterdam and European Hydrogen Week in Brussels in October. She is also a speaker at the CIF Southern Construct Summit in Cork on September 8.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

Be brave enough to suck at something new. It’s the best way to maintain a growth mindset and stay humble.

What project are you most excited about?

Ireland has an excess of energy in the form of offshore wind. We can convert it to electricity and fill the Irish electricity grid as well as using that electricity to separate hydrogen from oxygen in water, creating a carbon free fuel. That hydrogen can replace fossil fuels in transport, industry and as a back-up to renewable electricity.

This means we can meet all of Ireland’s energy needs as well as exporting to Europe. Exporting energy is of particular interest to me because it means Ireland can play a role in changing geopolitics through the provision of renewable energy meaning Ireland can support the energy transition in Europe.

How do you approach long-term planning and strategy?

We live in volatile and uncertain times. While the specifics of a pandemic or the timing of geopolitical events can’t be known, we can take steps to prepare ourselves and mitigate against emerging risks and capitalise on opportunities. We should be persistent in our goals but flexible in the route we take. This approach is heavily influenced by the Nicholas Taleb ‘anti-fragility approach’ to create multiple pathways to success.

What technology are you embracing to get work done?

In ActionZero, EIH2 and Green Rebel, we lean heavily on a company language around core project management principles. This means we don’t get hung up on particular tools or technology.

Sometimes using a whiteboard to map out a 90 day plan allows us to think big. On a personal level, I allow time for deep work by time blocking my calendar – these are both concepts popularised by the author Cal Newport.

What are the big industry trends you’re noticing right now?

Previously, there was a focus on the role for renewable electricity above all else. Now, there is more consideration being given to non electrifiable energy needs such as heavy goods vehicles and industry.

This need is being met by fossil fuels today but could be met by green hydrogen in the future. There is also a focus on the need for the energy transition to be not only sustainable but also affordable and provide energy security.

Who’s impressing you most in the industry at present?

Green Rebel CEO Kieran Ivers is leading the way when it comes to making sure that Irish supply chain plays a key part in the energy transition. His focus on innovation and challenging convention is exemplar for how Ireland can achieve a green independent energy future.

What did you learn from your biggest failure?

I trained to swim the 26 miles of the English Channel but on the day, after 15 hours of swimming and three miles from France, I had to stop for safety reasons. I learned that setting big goals and not reaching them is infinitely more rewarding than living small; that the lessons learned during the process stay with you longer than the result and that we’re capable of more than we imagine. The biggest learnings happen outside our comfort zone.

Who’s your role model within the industry or wider business community?

Rather than relying on his previous successes, environmental advocate and entrepreneur Pearse Flynn has chosen to put his money into companies in Ireland that are enabling good quality jobs and will have a positive societal impact. We should always look to see how we can maximise our contribution.

Best book you’ve read recently?

The New Map by Daniel Yergin. It highlights how renewable energy can replace oil and gas and what that would mean for geopolitics. Energy solutions need to be sustainable and affordable for sure, but sometimes there is not enough focus on the need for energy systems to be secure and this book provides an excellent overview of that.

What’s your passion when you’re not at work?

I enjoy a challenge – having completed my last Ironman in 2021, I’m currently training for the Dublin Marathon and training for my fourth degree Taekwondo black belt. I’m learning to play golf, which is immensely frustrating but somehow enjoyable.

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