Hydrogen power: Unlocking the next frontier in renewable energy

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As the world transitions towards sustainable energy solutions, India stands at the forefront of this revolution with hydrogen power emerging as a pivotal element in its renewable energy landscape. With its vast solar potential and growing energy demands, India is uniquely positioned to harness hydrogen power, particularly green hydrogen produced via solar energy, to meet its energy and environmental goals.

India is a world leader in the expansion of its solar power generation system and has recorded immense progress in terms of installation of capacity and costs. According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), India’s installed solar capacity reached 84.28 GW as of May 31, 2024, with ambitious plans to expand this to 280 GW by 2030. Currently, among all nations in the world, the cost of solar electricity in India has declined to one of the lowest rates that have been recorded and certified at INR 1.99 per kWh (in an auction by GUVNL) .

Despite this progress, solar energy is not an instant source of power that generates electricity all the time, and this is a major challenge. Hydrogen helps to address the problem by stinging excess solar energy in the form of water through a process called electrolysis which gives hydrogen and oxygen both from water. This green hydrogen can then be used as a fuel or can be converted back to electricity, ensuring a stable and reliable energy supply.

Industry data and market growth

The hydrogen economy in India is speculated to undergo vast development in the coming years owing to government participation and industry funding.  For instance, National Hydrogen Mission has been initiated by the government in order to set up hydrogen production plants that would serve the global market. According to a report by NITI Aayog in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Institute, India’s hydrogen demand is expected to increase fivefold to 28 million tons per annum by 2050, most of which will be green hydrogen.

Currently, the primary sources of hydrogen production in India include natural gas (grey hydrogen), although green hydrogen production is significant and is increasing at a very rapid rate. Electrolysers which are important in green hydrogen production are expected to reduce in cost by 70-80% in the next decade, further augmenting the chances of green hydrogen on the economic feasibility point of view.

Applications and innovations

Hydrogen’s versatility makes it suitable for various applications in India:

Transportation: Hydrogen FCVs are slowly making inroads in India as evidenced by several active pilot projects for hydrogen buses and hydrogen cars. Hydrogen usage in transportation sector is logical to decrease the urban air pollution and dependence on imported oil.

Industrial use: Currently, environment-hard-to-abate sectors including steel and cement industries are looking at the use of hydrogen in order to replace coal and natural gas. In steelmaking in India, one of the largest industries globally, there is a particular emphasis on adopting hydrogen as a clean fuel.

Energy storage and grid stability: Hydrogen is storable and transportable, meaning it can be used to smooth demand and supply curves for electricity, and thus contribute to energy security. This is even more pertinently in the context of India’s plans and goals pertaining to the share of renewable energy sources, where such storage mediums are of paramount importance.

Challenges and the path forward

Despite its potential, several challenges hinder the widespread adoption of hydrogen power in India. Hurdles to overcome include high initial cost of electrolysers, lack of infrastructure for hydrogen storage and transportation. It is important to note that policy support and financial incentives play a pivotal role in driving investments into the hydrogen economy.

However, initiatives by the Indian government together with private sector investment has created an enabling environment for uptake of hydrogen. For instance, the National Hydrogen Mission initiative as well as partnering with other countries will ensure that India realises her dream of becoming world leader in this sector.

In conclusion, the power generated using hydrogen, especially green hydrogen obtained through solar energy, has a potential to change India’s power landscape significantly. By utilizing vast solar resources and adopting technology associated with production of hydrogen, India would deal with her security issues related to energy supply thus moving closer towards lower carbon emissions and attaining sustainable development goals. As the technology matures and costs decrease, hydrogen is set to unlock new frontiers in India’s quest for a cleaner, greener future.

 

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