Green hydrogen a key bow to climate resilience and increasing energy demands

By Gunjan Sharma

Countries around the world are facing a shared challenge: a long-term mission for sustainability. To get there, countries will have to delicately balance present day needs with long term obligations, including energy security, economic growth, and climate change mitigation.

For India, this includes the journey to net zero by 2070 and to becoming the third-largest economy in the nearer term. It is imperative to both that it prioritises climate change mitigation and drastically reduces its carbon footprint. As a result, the need for cleaner and more efficient energy sources has never been more critical.

In this regard, green hydrogen presents a golden opportunity to lead the charge.

Green hydrogen has been lauded as a key energy source for several reasons:

  • Clean Energy Transition: Green hydrogen is a game-changer in India’s transition to cleaner energy sources. With an ambitious target of achieving 450 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030, harnessing surplus energy for green hydrogen production is a logical step. It offers a means to store excess renewable energy, assisting grid stability and reducing curtailment issues.
  • Energy Security: India’s heavy reliance on fossil fuel imports poses a significant economic and strategic risk. By investing in green hydrogen production, India can reduce its dependence on imported energy sources, bolstering energy security and self-reliance.
  • Job Creation: Developing a green hydrogen ecosystem can generate employment opportunities in research, manufacturing, infrastructure development, and various downstream industries.
  • Industrial Decarbonisation: Green hydrogen can play a crucial role in decarbonising energy-intensive industries like steel, cement, and chemicals, which continue to be vital to India’s economic growth. By substituting hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, these industries can significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

By embracing green hydrogen, India can position itself as a global leader in clean energy technologies. At the same time, the nation can export its expertise and related technologies (and of course surplus green hydrogen) thereby boosting the economy and its international standing.

India has approximately 80% import dependency on crude oil for instance, making it heavily reliant on other nations for its energy needs. Green hydrogen has the potential to help India reduce this import dependency on fossil fuels by providing an indigenous and theoretically infinite source of energy.

Earlier this year, on 4 January 2023, the Government of India launched the “National Green Hydrogen Mission” with a budget of approx. INR 20,000 crore/GBP 2 billion. This programme intends to boost annual green hydrogen production capacity to at least 5 million tonnes and the addition of 125GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030.

The existence of a strong domestic consumption market would aid in the advancement of green hydrogen. A recent UKIBC report anticipates green hydrogen demand to reach 2.85 million tonnes by 2030 as industries transition to cleaner fuels.

Currently, India produces about 6 million tonnes of hydrogen every year. This hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels and mostly used in the production of ammonia for fertilisers and petroleum refining. Due to its abundance of wind and solar resources, India is well placed to explore and invest in greener fuels, including green hydrogen.

To get there, India needs:

  • Investment in renewable energy: To produce green hydrogen, India must significantly expand its renewable energy capacity from other sources, enabling cost-effective hydrogen production.
  • Infrastructure development: A robust hydrogen infrastructure, including production facilities, storage, and transportation, is needed to make green hydrogen accessible and competitive.
  • Supportive policies: Government support via incentives, subsidies, and regulatory frameworks that encourage private and public investment in green hydrogen projects.
  • Research and Development: Investment in research and development is vital to enhance the efficiency and reduce the cost of green hydrogen production and utilisation.
  • International Collaboration: Collaboration with international partners can facilitate knowledge sharing, technology transfer, and access to global markets for green hydrogen.

India has demonstrated its strength in developing supply chain ecosystems for various industries in the past and is capable of doing so in the case of green hydrogen.

The UK, which also possesses a strong record on renewable energy R&D and technology, is well placed to support India among other nations. On what is ultimately an international issue, international collaboration is vital. Our countries, by working together, can emerge as global leaders.

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