India has ambitious green hydrogen plans, but barriers remainMay 12, 2022
The Modi government has been enthusiastically pursuing H2 but is still facing hurdles.
India has boldly and loudly announced its ambitious decarbonization plans, largely through the production and use of green hydrogen in highly polluting industries. While it has taken considerable action to shift its economy in this direction, there remain a number of barriers in the way of its widespread execution.
The country’s massive coastline and abundant sunlight provide a substantial opportunity.
To decarbonize, green hydrogen could provide a considerable opportunity produce and use a greenhouse gas emission-free fuel that will even offer adequate power for heavy industry. India’s coastline and substantial sunlight exposure means that it has the resources necessary to power H2 production using renewable energy such as solar energy (making substantial solar energy news in the country, as panels are already widely used there).
Companies across the country have pledged to invest billions of dollars into renewable hydrogen projects. That said, experts are reminding both the country and the world that the technology remains new and unproven on a mainstream commercial level. Though this doesn’t mean that it won’t work, it does mean that the door is wide open to unexpected hurdles along the way.
Still, this renewable fuel is widely viewed as among the most promising for replacing fossil fuels in decarbonizing heavy industries such as fertilizer, steel and cement production and even oil refining. It is also seen as a top option for cutting carbon emissions from transport and shipping.
The primary issue with green hydrogen isn’t its potential, but that its technology remains very new.
“At this point, the technology is not mature or cheap enough to be used widely,” said Gateway House senior fellow, energy and investment Amit Bhandari in a recent CNBC report. The firm is a think tank based in Mumbai. Bhandari underscored solar power as an example supporting his statement, as it took about a decade for that technology to reach viability.
As committed as countries and companies are saying they are in terms of using green hydrogen, the technology for its production remains in its infancy. Most projects remain in their planning or pilot phases for studying the cost and effectiveness of technology, and it will be another half decade before the results are in, he said.
“Ten years ago, if you had asked me if solar energy is viable, I would have said ‘no,’ even though solar power potential was known and technology was available. It took off only when the cost became comparable to traditional energy sources over a long period of time,” said Bhandari, who said that he wasn’t keen to write off new tech.
India has been shifting aggressively toward the use of renewable energy and electricity production.
Renewable energy currently comprises nearly 40 percent of India’s total installed capacity. That said, the country remains the third largest crude importer in the world, after China and the United States.
To broaden its use of renew power use, India is turning to green hydrogen. One of several reasons that it is using this option instead of only continuing to expand solar and wind energy resources is that it needs a place to store the energy generated through those renewable means. At the scale required, lithium batteries are far from adequate. H2, on the other hand, can be stored in large amounts and can power heavy-duty machinery, industry, long-haul trucks and cargo ships traveling long distances.
In 2021, the Indian government announced its national green hydrogen policy and its intention to reach a capacity of an annual 5 million tons of H2 production by 2030. In February 2022, it further supported this target by implementing tax breaks and setting aside land for the construction of the H2 production plants that will be required.
“Two important resources are required to become a large global player: water and cheap power,” said Venkat Sumantran, Celeris Technologies chair, in the recent CNBC report. “India has a large coastline with access to seawater and ample sunlight.”
Several Indian States have the resources necessary for large-scale green hydrogen fuel production.
A number of states in India receive reliable sunlight for the majority of the year, meaning that they are ideal locations for the solar farms needed to generate the renewable electricity to power the H2 production facilities, explained Sumantran.
That said, in that area, a major factor that will determine its success will have to do with how cheaply photovoltaic cells can be produced. They will be the center of the electricity production for renewable powering green hydrogen production. Still, according to Sumantran, every indication currently suggests that policies are being rolled out that will make this happen.