India's Hydrogen Readiness: Future Hope

For energy storage, long-distance transportation, and industrial plants, green hydrogen is a game-changer

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"Green hydrogen will not only serve as the foundation for green growth through green employment, but it will also serve as a global model for the transition to clean energy." As the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced on August 15, 2021, the new saviour in the fight against climate change will be hydrogen.

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Introduction

Hydrogen is a flexible form of energy that, when created using low-carbon-emitting sources, may help to decarbonize the world economy. Indian policy must provide clearer avenues to encourage Indian businesses, which stand at the forefront of energy transfer. Although hydrogen has always been touted as the "fuel of the future", it hasn't quite succeeded in becoming a significant participant in the energy infrastructure. Today, several significant breakthroughs imply that the moment has arrived for hydrogen to play a significant role in the power system.

Hydrogen is an important source of energy because of its non-polluting features and zero carbon content in contrast to hydrocarbons (net carbon content 75–85 per cent). Hydrogen energy is the alternative to reduce carbon emissions with the highest energy content by weight and lowest energy content by volume. As per International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Hydrogen shall make up six per cent of total energy consumption by 2050. The Hydrogen Council Report, 2021 also mentions that, global investments on hydrogen will constitute around 1.4 per cent of the total global energy funding by 2030.

Renewable is the way

The transition to renewables is challenging industries that have become more dependent on hydrogen as a power source. Carbon-free hydrogen will be essential for allowing substantial emission reductions in many industries, including those that produce iron ore and steel, fertilizers, petroleum refineries, methanol, and marine transportation all producing significant volumes of CO2.

The possible function of hydrogen must thus be evaluated from a systems viewpoint, taking into account all feasible end applications, manufacturing pathways, and value-chain combinations. This present push for the hydrogen revolution in India is in line with the country's bigger goals for economic growth, energy independence, and a super low-carbon and possibly carbon-free economy.

Pave the way for hydrogen

According to an EY analysis, in applications requiring extreme temperatures (over 250°C),Hydrogen can often be helpful, particularly in the chemicals and metal processing industries.It can be a great substitute for other power sources under certain circumstances and crucial to encourage the use of hydrogen in industries where direct electrification is impractical.

The National Hydrogen Mission, since 2021, has made green hydrogen the most affordable kind of hydrogen over the long term due to India's specific edge in producing low-cost renewables. The

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed to launch a National Hydrogen Mission for generating hydrogen from green power sources during her budget speech for 2021-2022. The proposed National Hydrogen Energy Mission aims to lay down the vision, intent and direction for harnessing hydrogen energy by the Government of India. This makes India possibly one of the most economical green hydrogen generators on the entire planet.

The India Scenario

The government of India's goal to reduce its emission levels by 33-35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 will rely heavily on hydrogen and calls for a much more diverse strategy. Around $10.2 trillion in global investments are anticipated between now and 2050. The government has attracted $70 billion in investments to facilitate the switch to hydrogen, with an anticipated yearly sale of $2.5 trillion by 2050.

Similar circumstances exist now when numerous technological advancements are combined to make it possible for hydrogen to successfully enter the energy grid. These consist of expanding demand across several end-use industries. Supply-side innovations in manufacturing technology, particularly in electrolyzers and renewables, facilitate the development of high-renewable power grids, which creates "technical issues" that hydrogen may aid in resolving (particularly the necessity for long-term electricity storage and surplus renewable output). There is growing interest from policymakers in promoting profound decarbonization of energy systems, which will call for chemical energy carriers like hydrogen, as well as in utilizing hydrogen's industrial advantages.

India is the third-largest crude oil consumer, relying on imports for more than 80 per cent of its needs. Additionally, it purchases 24 per cent of the coal it needs and 54 per cent of the natural gas, which has a significant impact on India's balance of trade. India can seize early possibilities to acquire the full hydrogen supply chain and pursue worldwide exports.

The Hydrogen Mission Policy was notified by the ministry of power on 23 Feb 2022 after it was formally launched on 15 August 2021 by PM Narendra Modi. Under the policy, the government is offering to set up manufacturing zones for production, connectivity to the ISTS (Inter-State Transmission System) on priority basis, and free transmission for 25 years if the production facility is commissioned before June 2025. Green hydrogen/ammonia manufacturers will be allowed to purchase renewable power from the power exchange or set up renewable energy capacity themselves or through any other developer. The policy grants open access to procure electricity within 15 days of application.

Currently, producing green hydrogen in India costs around USD 7 per kg and the price can be further lowered through reduction in prices of renewable energy and electrolyzers.The use of hydrogen as a raw material can help decarbonise sectors that include fertilizers, steel and petrochemicals. Stored hydrogen can also serve as a flexible energy source to manage the intermittent nature of RE. If India can replicate its solar energy success in the hydrogen field, it would contribute to India's energy security and the goal of being carbon neutral by 2070. ACME Group, Azure Power and Fortum India, renewable energy companies have formed an independent advocacy group for green hydrogen.

India has a huge edge in green hydrogen production owing to its favourable geographic conditions and the presence of abundant natural elements. More than 30 countries and regions have hydrogen strategies that include import or export plans, indicating that cross-border hydrogen trade is set to grow considerably.The Government has given impetus in scaling up the gas pipeline infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country and has introduced reforms for the power grid, including the introduction of smart grids. Setting the right priorities for hydrogen use will be essential for its rapid scale-up and long-term contribution to decarbonization efforts. With appropriate capacity addition to renewable power generation, storage and transmission, producing green hydrogen in India can become cost-effective which will not only guarantee energy security but also ensure self-sufficiency gradually and help bolster India's geopolitical heft and support energy security.

Conclusion

Although the corporate market has shown a readiness to construct production plants, research and innovation expenditures and new initiatives must be financed by government money. This once more emphasizes the requirement for a global basis to link India with other hydrogen-based sustainable industries.

For energy storage, long-distance transportation, and industrial plants, green hydrogen is a game-changer. However, its development is not assured. India must seriously consider it if it wants to avoid falling behind in terms of technology once more.