What will the National Green Hydrogen Mission mean for India?

The idea is to bring down the production cost from Rs 350-400 per kilogram to about Rs 100 per kg

By Aishwarya Iyer
Published: Friday 06 January 2023

On January 4, 2023, the central government approved Rs 19,744 crore for the National Green Hydrogen Mission to create export opportunities, decarbonise energy production and develop local manufacturing capabilities. The idea is to bring down the production cost from Rs 350-400 per kilogram to about Rs 100 per kg.

But what is green hydrogen after all? Hydrogen gas can be used as a fuel in transportation, power generation and industrial activities without the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) when burned.

An electrolyser is used to split water into its basic components (hydrogen and oxygen) — since hydrogen in itself isn’t abundant enough to be used. Green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy, such as wind (USE ICON) or solar power (USE ICON).

There are two other categories — blue [generated from fossil fuels (USE ICON) with carbon capture and storage options] and grey (produced from fossil fuels (USE ICON), most common today).

After the oil price hikes of the 1970s, Japan’s Honda and Toyota, and South Korea’s Hyundai were the first ones to commercialise the technology, but on a small scale. If green hydrogen is commercialised on a large scale, it can decarbonise sectors like iron, steel, chemicals and transportation.

Additionally, renewable energy that cannot be stored can be redirected to produce green hydrogen. EVs also use hydrogen to generate power. A device called a fuel cell stack converts oxygen and hydrogen to power the electric motor.

While the electrical chemical reaction in FCEVs (Fuel cell electric vehicles) converts almost 60 per cent of the electrical energy to power the vehicle, the combustion in petrol / diesel vehicles is only able to convert about 20 per cent energy stored in the fuel.

According to a study published in Nature Energy green hydrogen would likely supply less than one per cent of final energy globally by 2035. The European Union could reach the one per cent mark by 2030, as energy prices are soaring.

Market ramp-up of electrolysers is a huge challenge because electrolysis capacity is still tiny (Global electrolyser capacity needs to grow 6,000-8,000-fold) compared to where we need to be in 2050 for Net Zero emissions scenarios.

Electrolysers also have expensive metals like platinum which increase the cost of production, according to Adrian Odenweller, lead author from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy wants to develop green hydrogen production capacity of at least five million metric tonnes (MMT) per annum with renewable energy capacity addition of about 125 gigawatts (GW) by 2030.

In April 2022, Oil India Limited commissioned India’s first 99.99 per cent pure green hydrogen plant in Jorhat, Assam. US-based Ohmium International has commissioned India’s first green-hydrogen factory in Karnataka.

As part of the Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition Programme (SIGHT), domestic manufacturing of electrolysers and the production of green hydrogen will be promoted to reduce fossil fuel imports and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

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