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Ambani, Adani in India’s green hydrogen rush but hurdles remain


Hydrogen is a much more powerful alternative to lithium-based battery. India’s federal minister Nitin Gadkari is seen at left launching Toyota Mirai, a green hydrogen-based advanced fuel cells electric vehicle (FCEV), in his home in March.

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India’s vast coastline and scorching heat make it difficult to protect. India is hungry for energy and has access to a wealth of fresh water.

Indian companies have pledged to commit billions of dollars to green hydrogen projects — but experts caution that the technology is still very new and its commercial viability unproven.  

The clean fuel of green hydrogen comes from the conversion of water to hydrogen and oxygen using solar energy. It does not emit any exhaust when it is burned, but only water. According to environmentalists, it emits no exhaust but only water. It can be used to decarbonize large industries such as oil refining and fertilizers as well as reduce global emissions.

CNBC spoke with Amit Bhandari (senior fellow in energy and investments at Gateway House), a Mumbai think tank. It took solar energy about 10 years for it to be viable.

Bhandari stated that the green hydrogen industry remains in its early stages and will require pilot plants to test and evaluate it. It is expected to take five years for results.

Ten years ago, when you asked me whether solar energy was viable, I would not have answered “no,” even though the technology and potential for solar power were well-known. It only took off when its cost was comparable to other energy sources over a prolonged period,” Bhandari explained, adding that he wasn’t willing to abandon a new technology.

Renewables account for approximately 80% of the world’s energy needs. almost 40% of total installed capacityIndia is home to the world’s third largest crude oil importerAfter China and the U.S.

However, large-scale storage of energy is not possible. It is impossible for renewable energy to be a viable option to existing power sources. 

Even though lithium batteries are used for electric vehicle power, they cannot hold large amounts of energy. The storage of large quantities of green hydrogen can make it possible to power trucks and heavy-duty vehicles over great distances. 

India’s last-year government announced a national policy for green hydrogen with a goal to produce 3.2 million units. 5 million tons of the fuel annually by 2030.It provided tax relief and allotted land for plants in February to help boost the economy. Invest

India’s vulnerability to external shocks and geopolitical events is high right now. That vulnerability will decrease with the introduction of green hydrogen.

Amit Bhandari

Gateway House in Mumbai. Senior Fellow for energy and investments.

CNBC spoke to Venkat Sumantran of Celeris Technologies. “Water and low-cost power are two important resources required for a global giant,” he said. India has an extensive coastline that provides access to plenty of sunlight and seawater. 

Sumantran from Chennai, who runs a consultancy company that provides energy alternatives to traditional fossil fuels for the auto industry, stated that India’s sun shines most of the year in many Indian states.

But becoming a global player also depends on how cheaply photovoltaic cells — which convert sunlight into energy — are produced. He said that there are numerous signs that policies are in place to make this possible.

Indian companies invest in hydrogen

In the last few months, many Indian companies announced plans to develop green hydrogen.

  • India’s largest business by market capitalization in January Reliance Industries announced it would commit $75 billion to green energy, including an undisclosed amount  toward green hydrogen projects. 
  • Greenko, Hyderabad’s largest hydrogen electrolyzer company, and John Cockerill from Belgium built a gigafactory with two gigawatts of hydrogen in India.
  • State-owned enterprises were taken over by the government in March Indian Oil CorporationIndia’s largest petroleum company, India Petroleum Products, has teamed up to form a joint venture with two private firms to produce green hydrogen. It is also planned to sell and manufacture electrolyzers used in green hydrogen production.
  • Adani Group, the largest developer of solar energy in the world, announced that it will invest $70 Billion by 2030 in renewable energy infrastructure. 

Adani Group, Reliance Industries, and Adani Group both have committed to this pledge to make the world’s cheapest green hydrogen at $1 per kilogram, or about a quarter of a gallon — that’s down from the current cost of $5-$6. CNBC contacted both the companies and they did not provide details as to how they planned to lower costs. 

India has geostrategic ambitions that include green hydrogen.

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries, predicted that green energy could be a gamechanger. 

Europe became the global leader in world energy when wood was replaced by coal. He said this at the February conference in Pune (a west Indian city) on renewables.  

“India will emerge as a world power when it becomes self-sufficient in green energy and clean energy while also becoming a significant exporter,” he stated at the time.

Bhandari of Gateway House acknowledged the hype surrounding green hydrogen and said that it wasn’t necessarily bad.

The key point is that hype has the power to create reality. Human intelligence can be applied to any problem if there’s enough capital. The technology keeps evolving. He said that costs begin to drop and this creates demand.”

“The momentum is on the side for innovation and prices are dropping.” He also said there was a demand for green hydrogen that can be taken immediately by the fertilizer, steel and petroleum industries.

Need pilot projects

Bhandari stated that green hydrogen can only be commercially viable when it is cheaper. 

Reliance’s experience in handling hydrogen gas at oil refineries means that it would be difficult to invest in large plants without pilot projects. He said that large-scale capacities are still several years off.

Bhandari stated that tapping India’s 7500-kilometer long coastline can be difficult.

Other claims can be made along the coast. The area is quite habitable. It is home to many large ports and cities. It must also be considered in relation to the protection of mangroves or other fragile ecosystems,” he stated. 

He acknowledged that India would be less susceptible to oil and natural gas price shocks if the green hydrogen push is successful.

India is currently vulnerable to any and all external shocks. “With green hydrogen, this vulnerability will decrease,” he stated.