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Insights into Editorial: Boosting green hydrogen

 

 

 

Context:

Prime Minister Modi recently announced that India would aim for net-zero carbon emissions by 2070.

The announcement was given credence by the country’s solar achievements since 2015.

India is the only major economy whose policies and actions are on track to limit global average temperature rise below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, as envisioned in the Paris Agreement.

Recently, the Government of India has announced to scale up the target of having 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030. In this context, the Union Budget 2021 has proposed the launch of the National Hydrogen Energy Mission.

About Green Hydrogen:

Green Hydrogen is the clean hydrogen generated by using renewable energy such as solar power and wind energy. The by-products are water and water vapor.

Green hydrogen is produced via the electrolysis of water. All you need to produce large amounts of hydrogen is water, a big electrolyzer, and large supplies of electricity.

If the electricity comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar or hydro, then the hydrogen is effectively green; the only carbon emissions in its production will occur from the generation infrastructure.

 

India’s need of Renewable Energy:

It spends around Rs.12 trillion annually for its energy needs. Any savings because of reduced energy imports following the domestic increase of green hydrogen production will be a boon.

The valuable foreign exchange savings can be deployed towards infrastructure creation, health, and education.

It will also help India meet its nationally determined contribution targets under Paris Agreement.

 

India has a head start: Green hydrogen:

  1. As of now, 75% of India’s energy demand is met by coal and oil, including imports. This is expected to increase. Therefore, the synergy between renewable energy and green hydrogen must be tapped to tackle the dependence on fossil fuel and take greater advantage of India’s solar capacity.
  2. Hydrogen: Green hydrogen, in particular is a crucial weapon in India’s arsenal to fight climate change as it improves the long-term energy storage capabilities of renewable energy. The simplest element in the periodic table is also the most promising solution to de-carbonize sectors like cement, steel, and refineries.
  3. Hydrogen can provide the lowest-cost decarbonization solution for over a fifth of final energy demand by mid-century, contributing a cumulated reduction of 80Gt of CO2 and is thus an essential solution to reach the 1.5°C climate scenario.
  4. Several major economies which are adopting legislation to reduce carbon emissions are also catalyzing global efforts towards transitions to green hydrogen.
  5. A low-carbon source of energy is required to generate hydrogen through electrolysis – the splitting of a water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen.
  6. The hydrogen produced is coded with a colour, depending on the method of its production.
  7. While hydrogen generated through renewable energy sources is green, it is blue when the carbon generated from the process is captured and stored without dispersing it in the atmosphere. When the carbon is not captured, the generated hydrogen is labelled grey.
  8. Nearly 70% of the investments required to produce green hydrogen through electrolysis goes into generating renewable energy.
  9. With India’s solar capacity increasing nearly 3,000 times in less than a decade, the cost of solar energy has reached a low of ₹2 per kWh. This gives India a unique head start in scaling up the use of green hydrogen.

 

Challenges that need to address in using green hydrogen:

  1. The major challenge in the usage of green hydrogen will be its storage. Given the very low density of hydrogen, it will require large volumes for its storage.
  2. Alternatively, if one chooses to store it in the liquid form, reducing the storage space requires the maintenance of temperatures as low as minus 253° C. This will entail huge costs.
  3. The production cost’ of ‘Green hydrogen’ has been considered to be a prime obstacle to the usage of green hydrogen.
  4. According to studies by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the production cost of this ‘green hydrogen’ is expected to be around $1.5 per kilogram by adopting various conservative measures.
  5. Currently, most renewable energy resources that can produce low-cost electricity are situated far from potential demand centres. If hydrogen were to be shipped, it would significantly erode the economics of it.
  6. The technology used in production and use of hydrogen like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and hydrogen fuel cell technology are at nascent stage and are expensive which in turn increases the cost of production of hydrogen.

 

Solutions:

Government funding and long-term policies that attract private investments within the standards and a progressive compliance framework are essential to boost green hydrogen.

Hydrogen’s cross-sectoral capabilities should be exploited according to each sector’s cost and ease of adoption.

A few key sectors with low transition costs, such as refineries, fertilizers and natural gas, should be mandated to use hydrogen to bring down costs as part of near-term goals.

New demand from steel, cement and road mobility should be mandated as part of medium-term goals. Heavy-duty vehicles should receive State and Central incentives.

Shipping, aviation, energy storage and solutions towards power intermittency should be mandated to use green hydrogen in the long run.

India can reduce its carbon emissions and make a dent in its annual import bills by developing a value chain for hydrogen from its production to its diverse applications, including production technologies, storage, transport and distribution, infrastructure (ports, refueling stations), vehicular applications, and electricity/gas grid.

 

Way Ahead:

Enforcing time-bound mid- and long-term policies would inspire the private sector to invest more in green hydrogen and give the boost it requires in its nascent stages.

India’s current grey hydrogen production is six million tonnes per annum, which is around 8.5% of global annual production.

India should replace this with green hydrogen and reduce dependence on imported ammonia.

It should aim to produce 4-6 million tonnes of green hydrogen per annum by the end of the decade and export at least 2 million tonnes per annum.

India has already taken the first step with the Indian Oil Corporation floating a global tender to set up two green hydrogen generations units at the Mathura and Panipat refineries.

 

Conclusion:

At present, more than 30 countries have hydrogen road maps and over 200 large-scale hydrogen projects across the value chain.

If all the projects come to fruition, total investments will reach $300 billion in spending by 2030.

Governments worldwide have committed to more than $70 billion in public funding, according to Hydrogen Council, to develop a hydrogen economy.

With its abundant and cheap solar energy, India has the upper hand to tap into these investments and lead global efforts in transitioning to green hydrogen.