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Going green from grey!

Green hydrogen is the new energy frontier to conquer. India has the potential to decarbonize its economy, embark on clean journey to future and give tough competition to US and EU


Going green on energy front and decarbonizing Indian economy estimated to be US $ three trillion is a gigantic task for any government. Bharat i.e. India will have ‘first mover’ advantage in making a tectonic shift in energy production, consumption and exports. The advantages in moving to green hydrogen from the grey version are too many. Challenges are countless.


Indian government’s announcement to set up a dedicated hydrogen mission in the federal budget of 2021-22 attracted the ire of usual sceptics that include the naysayers. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the mission in September 2021post his independence day address from ramparts of the Red Fort not many were willing to get ready for a transformative change in the country’s energy matrix.

On Wednesday, the Cabinet’s decision to in hydrogen energy and make an initial investment of Rs 20,000 crore (approximately $ 3 billion) demonstrates Indian government’s readiness to move away from carbon fuels, cut the massive import bill on crude oil and address serious environment sustainability apart from larger climate change issues.

If India can take the lead in Conference of Parties (COP) 27 and make decisive push on solar energy in sync with civilizational life styles and tap the huge potential Sun offers, there’s no reason why green energy mission cannot deliver. In September 2022, US democratic administration led by President Joe Biden had decided to pump in US $ 7 billion in green hydrogen hubs to export the gas worth 10 million tonnes by 2030. Similarly, entire European Union has committed US $ 5.2 billion on hydrogen energy to decarbonize the economy in 27-member countries.

In this context, India’s decision to increase the green hydrogen through dedicated hubs to five million tonnes, set up 125 megawatts green hydrogen based energy generation capacity and undertake research in this nascent area is forward looking and doable. In the process, the government proposes to reduce its hydrocarbon imports by a whopping Rs. 100,000 crore, mobilize investments worth Rs 800,000 crore and create 600,000 direct and indirect jobs in next seven years.


Quickly creating cost competitive electrolysers capacity to produce green hydrogen will be the clincher. Most of public investments by the central government would be to create these capacities. Providing early fiscal and monetary incentives through this green hydrogen hubs and dedicated mission will go a long way in creating green energy economy.

Outcomes from this green energy campaign could be enormous. The way our industries produce products, service providers operate, the way we move around or transport goods and changes in energy sector will be huge. Though hydrocarbons based crude, naphtha, gas and coal would continue to be our main stray for energy generation in short term, the tactical shift in this scenario seems inevitable.

One big challenge in this shift is developing cutting edge technologies, keeping up the curve and optimizing the costs to derive the best for commercial users in electrolysers to produce hydrogen and its derivatives with multi-fold applications.

Second big issue could be making available cost-effective debt and equity funds. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman should use the budget to be unveiled on February 1 to set up a dedicated green hydrogen development finance company to take the lead. Indian government may invest about Rs 5000 crore as initial equity capital to mobilize funds from both bilateral and multi-lateral sources, if required. Hydrogen hubs, whether it is pilots or large scale, need not be limited to big corporates like the Reliance or Adanis that have big plans in tapping green energy. Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Industries Ltd had announced in January 2022 its plans to make a shift to green energy across the entire value chain beginning with 20 GW energy production capacities by 2025.  Gautam Adani has not minced words in his investment commitment in green hydrogen technologies, infrastructure and generation capacities after the Independence Day speech of Prime Minister Modi in 2021. Most corporate board rooms in private sector, state-run energy enterprises have already been abuzz with discussions on foray into the green hydrogen as the next energy frontier to be conquered.

Third big challenge will be evolve partnerships globally that would not cannibalize Indian green hydrogen ecosystem, know-how and companies. Carefully choosing dependable partners in the international arena that add value to the Indian ecosystem could be another decider.

Fourthly, success of this policy framework would be in democratizing the entire value chain with a slice of cake for both small and large companies while the energy start-ups providing the edge.

Fifthly, states will have to now jump into the fray and make hay out the ecosystem for green hydrogen as was done in the solar power panels’ capacities, generation projects and the whole chain ending with end-consumers.

Sixthly, since India is eyeing a huge export market for its electrolysers, their maintenance and services, a dedicated export promotion mission may have to be mounted. But, the biggest challenge will be to counter below the cost cheaper and low-grade Chinese products that are likely to flood the markets once the dragon country gets some relief from blanket envelope of Covid 19 pandemic.

Seventhly, identifying dedicated institutions of excellence to pursue research into the green hydrogen technologies and setting aside funds against deliverables in innovation knowhow should be done concomitantly.

Eighthly, data collation and tracking developments in this area internationally on real time basis should be prioritized to keep India above water in this sector.

Ninthly, green hydrogen should become an effective instrument to diversify India’s clean energy alternatives that include hydro-electric power, solar energy apart from nuclear power. It’s also time for India to chug ahead with coal sequestration as a diversified enterprise as a green alternative.

Tenthly, evolving a healthy mix of both hydrocarbon based energy sources with increasing shift to newer areas like green hydrogen may have to be mapped vis-à-vis its US and European Union counterparts for the just announced policy to deliver.

(author is Director & Chief Executive, Centre for Integrated and Holistic Studies, a bipartisan think tank based in New Delhi)

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