Clean Tech

Is green hydrogen the future clean energy?

V Rishi Kumar | Updated on December 27, 2020

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Its potential is being cited as a game-changer in the renewable energy sector worldwide

Green hydrogen, or Green H2, is attracting the attention of governments and businesses globally as it is a multi-functional gas that can be used as feedstock, for storage solutions and for fuel cell electric vehicles.

While hydrogen produced from conventional methods has been in use for centuries in various applications, Green H2 holds out an attractive value-addition opportunity for the growing renewable energy (RE) sector. It is a new offtake segment with multi-gigawatt potential.

Green H2 is essentially a clean burning fuel that eliminates emissions by using RE to electrolyse water. In the process it separates the hydrogen atom within it from its molecular twin, oxygen.

As India aims at a RE capacity of 450 GW by 2030, there is renewed focus on production of Green H2. With RE costs rapidly dropping, Green H2 is being seen as a game-changer as it can use the existing gas pipeline network for distribution and as feedstock.

During a recent interface event by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, Niti Aayog, said, “We see hydrogen as our next big sunrise sector and a transition to the hydrogen economy as the way forward for India. The improvement in technology and fall in cost of hydrogen will happen sooner than estimated. It would be good to consider adding electrolysers to produce hydrogen in industries that are to receive the production-linked fiscal incentives recently announced by the government for economic recovery.”

Kumar felt that the steadily falling cost of renewable energy makes it an extremely attractive source to produce Green H2. A recent solar bid had discovered a price of ₹2 per kWh and the cost of clubbing this with storage is estimated to be ₹4 a unit. And if we added hydrogen, it would be the next big opportunity towards energy transition.

Studies have also arrived at the above prognosis. According to a TERI report, Green H2 demand is estimated to rise five-fold in India by 2050, with the cost more than halving by 2030. Experts suggest that hydrogen can potentially compete with fossil fuels in certain industrial applications by 2030, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors such as steel and cement.

Globally, projects with Green H2 are already underway. Mike Hayes, Global Head of Renewables, KPMG International, cites the example of a major oil and gas company that is working on an offshore wind venture in the Netherlands and building a 200-megawatt electrolyser, because it views Green H2 as a way to send electricity generated from offshore wind to the European market. “Most of us in the industry would say green hydrogen is something for 2030-35. But I can tell you, we are already seeing an incredible shift in focus and support from governments for Green H2… We are at the very early stages of commercialisation of green hydrogen... It is still incredibly expensive. But with support and commitment, things will move faster,” he feels.

Wind energy major Siemens Gamesa is also on a roll. It is developing the world’s first project capable of producing Green H2 directly from air with a wind turbine, with no connection to the grid — in an “island mode”, as it were. The pilot project, located close to its Danish headquarters in Brande, will be ready by January 2021.

Some of the renewable energy companies in India also realise the need to look beyond merely generating energy from wind and solar. Greenko Group and Adani have teamed up with Snam, an Italian major, to engage in value addition and possibly production of Green H2. So, it won’t be long before India begins to look at Green H2 as a big opportunity.

Published on December 27, 2020

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