India's Economic Paradigm Shift through Green Hydrogen



Hydrogen is emerging as one of the leading options for storing energy from renewables with hydrogen-based fuels, potentially transporting energy from renewables over long distances – from regions with abundant energy resources to energy-hungry areas thousands of kilometers away. Green hydrogen could be a critical enabler of the global transition to sustainable energy resulting in zero emissions economies. With green hydrogen, India seems to be putting itself at the forefront of a significant economic paradigm shift. The wealthiest industrialists are planning to invest billions of dollars in green hydrogen. Additionally, the government's effective programs for the green hydrogen industry might take 40-50 percent cost in producing green hydrogen

Decarbonizing the planet is one of the goals set around the world for 2050. Achieving this by decarbonizing hydrogen will give rise to green hydrogen, which is one of the keys to this goal. 

On another page, today’s life needs increasing watts to function. The latest estimate by the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts global energy demand to increase by between 25 and 30 percent by 2040. This indicates more CO2 in an economy dependent on coal and oil while also worsening climate change. Hence, decarbonizing the planet could result in a more accessible, efficient, and a sustainable world driven by clean energies such as green hydrogen.

As the IEA points out, the method of obtaining green hydrogen would save 830 million tons of CO2 emitted annually when the latter is produced using fossil fuels. Likewise, replacing all grey hydrogen in the world would require 3,000 TWh/year from new renewables equivalent to the current demand of Europe. Yet, some questions about the viability of green hydrogen, due to its high production cost, doubt its disappearance as the earth’s de-carbonization progresses and, consequently, the renewable energy generation becomes cheaper.

Hydrogen as Clean Energy

Hydrogen has a long-standing relationship with industries. This gas has been used to fuel cars, airships, and spaceships since the early 19th century. De-carbonization of the world economy, a process that cannot be postponed, will give hydrogen more prominence. If its production costs fall by 50 percent by 2030, as predicted by the World Hydrogen Council, we will undoubtedly be looking at one of the fuels of the future.

Hydrogen’s demand as fuel is that it produces zero carbon when used. But, of course, if a lot of carbon is made during hydrogen production that appeal would stand tarnished. Therefore, it is vital to produce hydrogen without that generation process itself emitting greenhouse gases.

Color Codes of Hydrogen Produced with Nuclear Power in Generating Energy

Grey hydrogen, the carbon dioxide whose generation is captured and stored, is called blue hydrogen. When methane is processed with heat to break down into hydrogen and carbon, retrieved as a solid, the resultant hydrogen is called turquoise hydrogen. These color codes for hydrogen keep expanding, with hydrogen produced with nuclear power being called pink, and those from coal and lignite, through gas, called black and brown, respectively. But hydrogen’s principal appeal is a solution to the intermittency of renewable power. 

Thermal Power to Renewable Power

When renewable power dries up, the system has to fall back on traditional thermal energy. What this means is that using renewable power is quite costly. ‘Solar tariff drops to two rupees per unit’ is a cheery headline to read. But to use that one unit of solar power, a lot more has to be spent by the utility. There is the integration cost. The grid frequency must be kept stable when you draw in renewable power and back down thermal energy. Now, thermal energy has two components: the cost of the system being available to generate power for you and the cost of the fuel burnt when you draw on that available capacity. When you back down thermal energy to accommodate renewable power, you have to keep paying the availability or capacity charge; only the fuel cost is avoided. The cost of capacity and the cost of grid integration have to be added to the generation cost of renewable power to get the actual price of renewable energy.

What if Renewable Power can be Stored? 

Things change. If enough renewable power can be produced to meet both the demand during the time of generation and the demand during the period when the sun does not shine, and when the wind does not blow, then one can stop paying the capacity charge for thermal power. There are multiple ways to store power generated by renewable sources. Battery storage is one. Pumping water up to an altitude can later be run down to turn a turbine and generate energy, which is called stored hydropower. 

Hydrogen in Generating Energy

Use the power generated by renewable sources to electrolyze water, splitting it into its constituent molecules of hydrogen and oxygen. Then, use this hydrogen to generate energy. Hydrogen can be cooled under pressure to produce a liquid. It can be transported easily, shipped to distant shores, as Australia plans to, to Japan. It can be sent to fuel pumps and fill the tanks of cars and trucks.

Hydrogen is combustible and can be used in an internal combustion engine. Or it can mix with oxygen in a so-called fuel cell to produce electricity and steam as its exhaust gas. That electricity, in turn, can power a motor to run a car or a truck. Given that 1 kg of hydrogen stores more energy than 1 kg of any storage battery, hydrogen fuel cell trucks beat battery-run electric vehicles hands down for long-range and heavy cargo movement. Similarly, for aviation and for transport by water, as well, hydrogen is seen to be the green alternative to aviation turbine fuel and fuel oil.

Renault is currently testing a car model with an internal combustion engine that burns hydrogen instead of gasoline or diesel. Yamaha has produced an internal combustion engine that uses hydrogen as its fuel for Toyota.


JCB is satisfied with its hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered excavator under development. Alstom has a hydrogen-fueled train in the works. East Japan Railway Company is ready to test drive its hydrogen-powered train.

Impact of Green Hydrogen

Hydrogen as a fuel is a reality in countries like the US, Russia, China, France, and Germany. Others like Japan are going even further, aspiring to become a hydrogen economy. Below are the impacts of green hydrogen in the future:

Electricity and Drinking Water Generator:

These two elements are obtained by reacting hydrogen and oxygen together in a fuel cell. This process has proved very useful on space missions, for example, by providing crews with water and electricity in a sustainable manner.

Energy Storage:

Compressed hydrogen tanks can store energy for longer periods and are also easier to handle than lithium-ion batteries because they are lighter.

Transport and Mobility:

Hydrogen’s incredible versatility allows it to be used in those consumption niches that are very difficult to decarbonize, such as heavy transport, aviation, and maritime transport. Several projects are already underway in this area, such as Hycarus and Cryoplane, which are promoted by the European Union (EU) and aim to introduce it in passenger aircraft.