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Making India a Green Hydrogen Power Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere states that oil will end by 2052, gas by 2060, and coal by 2090. In times like this, green hydrogen is emanating as the fuel of the future and for all the right reasons.

By Paromita Gupta

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The world is fuelled 85 per cent by oil, coal and natural gas. Earth has harbored a significant amount of fossil fuel which has been commercialized since the Industrial Revolution. However, everything has a limit and so do fossil fuels. Decarbonizing the planet by 2050 has become an immediate priority for nations. The Paris Agreement, adopted by 196 nations in 2015, aimed at holding "the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels" with efforts "to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels." The agreement is said to be a landmark for the climate change process. However, not much has been achieved with the nations being far off the course. Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere states that oil will end by 2052, gas by 2060, and coal by 2090.

In times like this, green hydrogen is emanating as the fuel of the future and for all the right reasons.

WHAT IS GREEN HYDROGEN? When electricity is generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar and passes through an electrolyzer splitting fresh water into oxygen and hydrogen, we get green hydrogen. While it is one of the cleanest forms of energy, its production is abysmally low. As of 2018, only 0.4 per cent of global hydrogen production was produced renewably. But with a process called electrolysis, the percentage can increase drastically. According to Deloitte Global's report "Green hydrogen: Energizing the path to net zero", 15 to 30 per cent of future energy is likely to be satisfied by hydrogen, particularly green hydrogen. The industries that are expected to benefit the most from green hydrogen as an energy source include fertilizers, refining, methanol, maritime shipping, iron, steel, and transportation.

MARKET At present the market in India is valued at USD 25 million. The nation has the potential to emerge as a cost effective option for producing electrolyzers as its cost is expected to be 30 per cent+ lower than western manufacturers and China. The low-cost labor will add to the possibility of offsetting China's advantage.

STARTUPS IN GREEN HYDROGEN SPACE While they are handful as of now, the boom is in the process. Newtrace, a startup in this space, was founded by Prasanta Sarkar and Rochan Sinha in 2021 as a means to contribute to green hydrogen production. "While hydrogen is undoubtedly a cleaner fuel, current production methods are either heavy carbon emissions or present several bottlenecks (e.g., cost, supply chain) in its wide-scale adoption. The solution, we realized, lay in solving for an improved production method of hydrogen that is low on carbon emissions and affordable, leading to the idea of Newtrace's next-gen electrolyzers that use renewable electricity & water as input and utilize no rare earth metals in their composition. The resulting green hydrogen is sustainable and costeffective," shared Prasanta Sarkar, CEO and Co-Founder, Newtrace. Newtrace's line of electrolyzers offers green hydrogen production at up to 3x lower capex costs and leads to a 70% reduction in the number of core components with zero usage of rare earth metals.

Ossus Biorenewables is another start-up in this space that was founded by Suruchi Rao, Shanta Rao, and Kamar Suhail Basha in 2017. Their intelligent bioreactor, OB HydraCel, uses carbon from industrial waste as a starting material for green hydrogen. Having recently raised funds, Ossus Biorenewables will be offering its technology across sectors such as refining, foods, brewing, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. With an aim to become a global leader when it comes to deploying Green Hydrogen and Green Ammonia industry solutions, Hygenco was founded in 2020 by Amit Bansal, Anshul Gupta, and Aashish Gupta. The start-up designs, engineers, optimizes, and commissions technology on Build-Own-Operate and Build-Own-Operate-Transfer basis. "Low-carbon hydrogen has the potential to address 50% of the global man-made emissions, especially the hard-toabate emissions for which we don't yet have other economically feasible technologies. This passion combined with the significant role of low carbon hydrogen made us establish the business," shares Anshul Gupta, Co-founder, Hygenco.

INR 19,744 Crore was approved by the Union Cabinet for the National Green Hydrogen Mission in Januar y 2023

In their initiatives for production of green hydrogen, which will eventually help the industrial, commercial and residential sectors significantly, the startups are also being helped by established entities like Gautam Solar are working towards making solar power more affordable and accessible in India. "To reduce the country's dependency on fossil fuels to meet the growing power demands, it might soon be mandatory for select industries to focus more on green hydrogen and solar power. We at Gautam Solar look forward to empowering local players from across the country to use solar power for green hydrogen production and usage. This will also be a prospect for the indigenous power components, panels and parts," shares Gautam Mohanka, Managing Director, Gautam Solar.

GPS Renewables was founded by Mainak Chakraborty and Sreekrishna Sankar in 2012 with a prime focus on bio methanation. Now, it has become a full stack renewable fuels company providing end-to-end solutions for the development, production, and distribution of green. The startup powered Indore and Panchgani with their bioCNG projects to bag the cleanest city awards in their respective categories in 2022. "Currently, our scope has expanded to Green Hydrogen and Bio Refinery, with significant focus on Ethanol. In Green Hydrogen, we have a tie up with HyGear, a leader in the electrolyser manufacturer in Europe, as their India partner. GPS has also tied up with certain clients to address their Green Hydrogen requirements in India," shares Mainak Chakraborty CEO and Co-Founder, GPS Renewables. Apart from startups, corporates such as Adani Group, Reliance Industries, JSW, Indian Oil Corporation, GAIL India, sand Tata are also committing resources to develop green hydrogen capabilities.

GREAT INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY Green hydrogen space is looking bright and investors are not shying away from betting their money on it. India's first Climate Change-focused VC fund, Green Frontier Capital is focused on investing in startups delivering breakthrough innovation in the fields such as electric mobility, foodtech, agtech, renewable energy, biofuels, waste management, clean water, and sustainable lifestyles. "Green hydrogen in India offers an attractive investment opportunity due to its alignment with the nation's sustainability goals. Despite being unexplored, its potential to revolutionize energy sectors like transportation and industry fuels our interest," shares Sandiip Bhammer, founder and comanaging partner, Green Frontier Capital. The VC is actively looking at investing in green hydrogen start-ups.

"There is a national and International push towards making it cheaper and accessible," shares Shoeb Ali, co-founder and managing partner, Transition VC on what makes the green hydrogen sector attractive as an investment opportunity. "Emissions from fossil fuel are the biggest source of greenhouse gases. If we stand a realistic chance of transitioning to a greener tomorrow, we need multiple green energy sources, and hydrogen is a key piece of the puzzle," shares Dinesh Pai, heads Rainmatter from Founders office team, Zerodha.

CHALLENGES While green hydrogen shows all the potential to be the future's fuel, it has its own set of challenges with infrastructure and production cost being at the top. India aims to become energy independent by 2047 and achieve Net Zero by 2070.

"Production through methods such as steammethane reforming (at $2 - 3 / kg) emits almost 900 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 for every 94 Mt of H2 currently produced (aptly named 'grey hydrogen'). Cleaner methods of hydrogen production — although more sustainable — are highly priced (at $6 - 15/ kg) due to the use of critical and hard-to-procure materials in the electrolyzer technology," shares Sarkar. Handling of the gas is also a matter of concern, "Hydrogen and Ammonia, just like many other industrial gases, is a hazardous gas and has safety risks associated with handling it," adds Gupta. However, despite being a con currently, as Earth's decarbonization rate progresses, the cost of renewable energy will become cheaper.

"Essentially, the risks associated with it include Tech Maturity Risk; Storage and Logistics Risk; Capital Intensive and Infrastructure Heaviness of the sector; and Alternative Tech Risk such as Aluminum Air Cell in trucks over fuel cell, etc," shares Ali.

POLICIES AND GOVERNMENT PUSH A lot is being done at the national and international levels to push towards making hydrogen cheaper. Early this year, the Union Cabinet approved the National Green Hydrogen Mission with an outlay of INR 19,744 crore from FY23-30. This mission aims to produce 5 million tonnes of green hydrogen annually, save over USD 12 billion on fossil fuel imports, and make India a global green hydrogen hub. Further, it also announced an incentive plan worth USD 2.11 billion to promote green hydrogen in the country.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy rolled out the standards for hydrogen production in the country and defined that the greenhouse gas emissions from it shall not be greater than 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram of Hydrogen (kg CO2 eq/kg Hydrogen), taken as an average over last 12-month period. According to reports, India is under discussions to supply over 11 million metric tons of green hydrogen a year to the EU and Singapore, which in turn will invest in Indian clean energy projects.

"The beauty of the biofuels industry is that it is still at a nascent stage, and therefore there are opportunities across the entire value chain, starting from feedstock aggregation to design & engineering services to EPC to supply of specialised products. There are many opportunities which do not require capital, in case that is a constraint," notes Chakraborty. With the government's push, India is going to see a significant rise in the number of players in this space. In turn, propelling India towards becoming a green hydrogen power.

"There is clearly a push in India to shift towards cleaner energy sources, and as green hydrogen is on its way to becoming a mandatory requirement in industrial energy transition, in large parts due to regulations and policies. As India's industries grow, so does its energy needs but the market pressures to shift to cleaner energy sources are also going to simultaneously scale," concludes Pai.

Paromita Gupta

Features Writer with Entrepreneur India

Covering news and trends in AI and Metaverse segments. An avid book reader running her personal blog on the side. You may reach me at paromita@entrepreneurindia.com. 
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