India’s inexperienced hydrogen rush lures firms however hurdles stay

Hydrogen packs much more punch than lithium-based batteries. India’s federal minister Nitin Gadkari (second from left) seen right here launching the nation’s first inexperienced hydrogen-based superior gas cell electrical automobile (FCEV), Toyota Mirai, at his residence in March.

Hindustan Occasions | Hindustan Occasions | Getty Pictures

The solar’s searing warmth will be punishing on summer time days and India’s monumental shoreline makes it a problem to defend. However huge quantities of water and considerable daylight have opened a path to inexperienced vitality that might slake India’s huge urge for food for gas.

Indian firms have pledged to commit billions of {dollars} to inexperienced hydrogen tasks — however consultants warning that the expertise continues to be very new and its business viability unproven.  

Inexperienced hydrogen is a clear gas that is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, utilizing renewable vitality comparable to solar energy. When burnt, it emits no exhaust, solely water. Environmentalists declare it might probably assist decarbonize heavy industries like oil refining, fertilizers, metal and cement, in addition to assist lower emissions globally.

“At this level, the expertise isn’t mature or low cost sufficient for use extensively,” Amit Bhandari, senior fellow, vitality and funding at Gateway Home, a Mumbai-based suppose tank, instructed CNBC. He pointed to the instance of photo voltaic vitality which took a few decade to change into viable.

The inexperienced hydrogen trade continues to be in its infancy and pilot vegetation to review the expertise and prices will take at the very least 5 years to point out outcomes, Bhandari stated.

“Ten years in the past, should you had requested me if photo voltaic vitality is viable, I’d have stated ‘no,’ despite the fact that solar energy potential was recognized and expertise was obtainable. It took off solely when the price turned akin to conventional vitality sources over an extended time frame,” Bhandari stated, including that he was reluctant to write down off a brand new expertise.

Renewables at the moment account for virtually 40% of complete put in capability in India, the world’s third largest crude oil importer after China and the U.S.

However with out large-scale vitality storage, renewable vitality can not change into a viable various to conventional energy sources. 

Lithium batteries can not retailer vitality at a big scale despite the fact that they’re extensively used to energy electrical automobiles. Inexperienced hydrogen, which will be saved in massive quantities, can energy heavy automobiles comparable to vans over lengthy distances. 

India’s authorities final 12 months introduced a nationwide inexperienced hydrogen coverage with a goal of manufacturing 5 million tons of the gas yearly by 2030. In February, it supplied tax breaks and allotted land to arrange vegetation to spice up the funding

Proper now, India is susceptible to all method of exterior and geopolitical shocks. With inexperienced hydrogen, that vulnerability will cut back.

Amit Bhandari

Senior fellow, vitality and funding, Gateway Home, Mumbai

“Two essential sources are required to change into a big international participant: water and low cost energy,” the chairman of Celeris Applied sciences, Venkat Sumantran, instructed CNBC. “India has a big shoreline with entry to seawater and ample daylight.” 

A number of states in India get good daylight many of the 12 months and this enables photo voltaic panel farms to be optimally deployed, stated Sumantran, whose Chennai-based consultancy agency gives new vitality options to fossil fuels within the auto sector.

However turning into a world participant additionally will depend on how cheaply photovoltaic cells — which convert daylight into vitality — are produced. “There are lots of indicators that insurance policies to permit this to occur are being applied,” he added.

Indian firms investing in hydrogen

In current months, a number of Indian firms have introduced inexperienced hydrogen plans:

  • In January, India’s largest firm by market capitalization Reliance Industries introduced it might commit $75 billion to inexperienced vitality, together with an undisclosed quantity  towards inexperienced hydrogen tasks. 
  • In early April, Hyderabad-based Greenko group and Belgium-based John Cockerill to construct a two-gigawatt hydrogen electrolyzer gigafactory in India, the biggest exterior of China.
  • In March, state-owned Indian Oil Company, which accounts for almost half the market share of India’s petroleum merchandise, teamed up with two personal firms to launch a three way partnership to develop inexperienced hydrogen. There are additionally plans to fabricate and promote electrolyzers, used within the manufacturing of inexperienced hydrogen.
  • In November 2021, the world’s largest solar energy developer Adani Group introduced it might make investments $70 billion by 2030 into renewable vitality infrastructure, together with in inexperienced hydrogen. 

Reliance Industries and Adani Group have each pledged to make the world’s least expensive inexperienced hydrogen at $1 per kilogram, or a few quarter of a gallon — that is down from the present price of $5-$6. When contacted by CNBC, neither firm supplied particulars on how they have been going to carry down the prices so drastically. 

Inexperienced hydrogen fuels India’s geostrategic ambitions too.

Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani predicted that inexperienced vitality has the potential to be a gamechanger. 

“When wooden was changed with coal, Europe overtook India and China to emerge the world chief. With the emergence of oil, the U.S. and West Asia outgrew others,” he stated at a convention on renewables in February in Pune, a western Indian metropolis.  

“When India turns into not solely self-sufficient in inexperienced and clear vitality, but additionally a big exporter, it’ll assist India emerge as a world energy,” he stated at the moment.

Acknowledging there was a variety of hype round inexperienced hydrogen, Bhandari from Gateway Home stated it was not essentially a foul factor.

“A key factor is that hype can create its personal actuality. If there may be the correct amount of capital, human intelligence is thrown at an issue. And expertise evolves. Prices begin to fall and that creates demand,” he stated.

“Momentum is on the facet of innovation and prices are declining. Additionally, there may be already demand for inexperienced hydrogen, which will be absorbed instantly within the petroleum refining, fertilizer and metal industries,” he added.

Pilot tasks wanted

Inexperienced hydrogen will change into commercially viable solely when it turns into cheaper, Bhandari famous. 

“You can’t begin with a 500 megawatt plant,” he stated, including that even an organization like Reliance, which has had lengthy expertise dealing with hydrogen fuel at its oil refineries, wouldn’t spend money on an enormous plant with out pilot tasks. “We’re a number of years away from large-scale capability,” he stated.

Tapping India’s 7,500 kilometer lengthy shoreline can also be difficult, Bhandari stated.

“There are different claims on the shoreline. It isn’t uninhabited. There are a number of massive cities and ports. And, it have to be weighed towards the necessity to shield mangroves and different fragile ecosystems too,” he stated. 

Nonetheless, he conceded that if profitable, the inexperienced hydrogen push would make India much less susceptible to cost shocks in pure fuel and oil.

“Proper now, India is susceptible to all method of exterior and geopolitical shocks. With inexperienced hydrogen, that vulnerability will cut back,” he stated.

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