India unveils green hydrogen production policy  

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The Indian government has launched the National Green Hydrogen Mission designed to substantially increase the use of the clean fuel in its energy mix, and for the development of the country’s green hydrogen ecosystem. 

The policy, approved by the cabinet last week with an outlay of Rs. 19,744 crore (over $2.4 billion) aims to make India a global hub for green hydrogen production and fuel cell technology. 

The mission targets setting up green hydrogen capacity of at least 5 million tonnes per annum by 2030, alongside adding an associated renewable energy capacity of 125 gigawatts (GW). 
 
The targeted production capacity is expected to generate total investments of over Rs. 8 lakh crore (around $98 billion) and result in the creation of over 600,000 jobs.  

India’s Power and Renewable Energy Minister R.K. Singh said that the mission will make India a leading producer and supplier of green hydrogen. In a meeting with stakeholders, he said that the mission would result in attractive investment and business opportunities for the industry and contribute significantly to India’s efforts towards decarbonisation and energy independence. It would also create employment opportunities and lead to economic development. 

The green hydrogen mission has also set a target of reducing CO2 emissions by about 50 million tonnes per annum by 2030.   
 
As per the country’s commitments towards clean energy transition, India has committed to achieving net zero emissions latest by 2070 and reduce its carbon emissions until 2030 by a billion tonnes.   

Green hydrogen is produced via electrolysis – the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen – with electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind or biomass. However green hydrogen, also called “renewable hydrogen”, is expensive to produce and accounts for less than1 percent of worldwide hydrogen production. 

Currently, most of the hydrogen globally is generated from fossil fuels, resulting in an adverse impact on the environment. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that hydrogen production is responsible for the emission of around 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Most of the hydrogen manufactured now is the so-called “black or brown” hydrogen produced from coal.  

Instead, “blue hydrogen” refers to hydrogen produced using fossil fuels — usually natural gas — with the associated emissions captured and stored via the process known as carbon-capture.   

The intent of the mission is to incentivise the commercial production of green hydrogen and make India a net exporter of the fuel.

According to the government, the mission will “facilitate demand creation, production, utilisation and export of Green Hydrogen.”   

There are two umbrella sub-missions under the programme. The first is the Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition Programme (SIGHT), that will fund the domestic manufacturing of electrolysers and produce green hydrogen. The second is to support pilot projects in emerging end-use sectors and production pathways. States and regions capable of supporting large scale production or use of hydrogen will be identified and developed as green hydrogen hubs. 

Green hydrogen development is still in the nascent stages globally, and while it is the fuel of the future, it is not the production of hydrogen per se which is the challenge, but the production of green hydrogen.   

According to a recent report titled “The Potential Role of Hydrogen in India,” by the New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) “as of today, essentially all of the hydrogen consumed in India comes from fossil fuels. However, by 2050, nearly 80 percent of India’s hydrogen is projected to be ‘green’ – produced by renewable electricity and electrolysis.” The report also said that in the mid-term, the cost of hydrogen from renewables would drop by over 50 percent by 2030, enabling it to “start to compete with hydrogen produced from fossil fuels.” 

Indian industry has already kick-started its hydrogen project. A coalition of energy and industrial firms named India H2 Alliance (IH2A) has joined together for commercialising hydrogen technologies and creating a hydrogen economy. “The India H2 Alliance will work together to build the hydrogen economy and supply chain in India and help develop blue and green hydrogen production and storage as well as build hydrogen-use industrial clusters and transport use-cases with hydrogen-powered fuel cells”, an IH2A statement said last year. 

“The India H2 Alliance will focus on industrial clusters, specifically steel, refineries, fertilizer, cement, ports and logistics; as well as heavy-duty transport use cases and the establishment of standards for storage and transport hydrogen in pressurized and liquefied form”, it said. 

“IH2A intends to collaborate with private sector partners, the government and the public to ensure that costs of hydrogen production are brought down, a local supply chain for hydrogen and related applications grows and India is able to achieve its net-zero carbon ambitions by developing a hydrogen economy that complements its national renewable energy and EV (electric vehicle)/battery-technology plans”, the statement added. 

In April 2022, state-owned Oil India Limited commissioned India’s first 99.99 percent pure green hydrogen plant at Jorhat in northeastern India. 

Indian private companies such as Adani Group, Acme Solar, Greenko and state-run firms such as Indian Oil and NTPC have been tying up with technology providers for venturing into green hydrogen production.  

According to industry sources, India requires to develop the infrastructure necessary for a hydrogen economy. Besides, the government needs to announce appropriate incentives for users of industrial hydrogen to switch to green hydrogen. To facilitate industry, India must develop supply chains in the form of pipelines, tankers, intermediate storage and last mile distribution networks. The country also needs suitably trained manpower to operationalise a green hydrogen economy.  

In this connection, the Power Minister said in the meeting with stakeholders that the mission will support pilot projects in other sectors like steel, long-range heavy-duty mobility, shipping, energy storage, among others, “for replacing fossil fuels and fossil fuel-based feedstocks with Green Hydrogen and its derivatives.” 

Pointing to the significance of hydrogen for India, R.R. Sonde, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, said that to carry all the energy as electricity, massive investment is required in the development of transmission and distribution infrastructure. 

“Green hydrogen is generated from electricity and if the electricity used is renewable such as solar, wind or biomass, hydrogen can act as storage of renewable energy, and by doing so make the ‘infirm’ nature of renewable energy a ‘firm energy’. In that sense, hydrogen is a carrier of renewable electricity, and might in future be of nuclear energy as well”, Sonde says. 

Renewable energy that cannot be stored or used by the grid can be channeled to produce hydrogen. Besides, hydrogen is an energy carrier, not a source of energy. Hydrogen fuel must be transformed into electricity by a device called a fuel cell stack before it can be used to power vehicles.