Green hydrogen: a risky bet


    In News

    • Recently, the Countries have been betting on green hydrogen to meet their climate goals. 
      • But a new study has warned against relying on this green technology calling it a risky bet.

    About Green hydrogen

    • About: It is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, non-toxic and highly combustible gaseous substance.
      • Hydrogen is the lightest, simplest and most abundant member of the family of chemical elements in the universe. 
    • Future hydrogen: The colour green prefixed to it makes hydrogen the “fuel of the future”. 
      • The ‘green’ depends on how the electricity is generated to obtain the hydrogen, which does not emit greenhouse gas when burned.
    • Production: Green hydrogen is produced through electrolysis using renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind or hydel power.
    • India’s Green Hydrogen production: India has just begun to generate green hydrogen with the objective of raising non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030. 
      • India’s first 99.99% pure green hydrogen pilot plant was set up in eastern Assam’s Duliajan, at the petroleum exploration major’s Jorhat pump station.
        • It was in keeping with the goal of making the country ready for the pilot-scale production of hydrogen and its use in various applications

    Advantages of Green Hydrogen as a fuel

    • Stored for a long period: The intermittent nature of renewable energy, especially wind, leads to grid instability. Green hydrogen can be stored for long periods of time. The stored hydrogen can be used to produce electricity using fuel cells. 
    • Grid stability: In a fuel cell, a device that converts the energy of a chemical into electricity, hydrogen gas reacts with oxygen to produce electricity and water vapour. Hydrogen, thus, can act as an energy storage device and contribute to grid stability. 
    • Monetary benefits: Experts say the oxygen, produced as a by-product (8 kg of oxygen is produced per 1 kg of hydrogen), can also be monetised by using it for industrial and medical applications or for enriching the environment. 
    • Flexible carrier: Hydrogen is a flexible energy carrier and can be used for many energy applications like the integration of renewables and transportation. 
    • Fewer emissions: It is produced using RE and electrolysis to split water and is distinct from grey hydrogen, which is produced from methane and releases greenhouse gases. 
    • The byproduct is also environmentally friendly: Energy can be extracted from hydrogen through combustion or through fuel cells, which emit only water as a by-product.
    • Global dominance increasing: Several countries in Europe and North America are experimenting with mixing green hydrogen with PNG. For instance, in the UK, power utilities are blending hydrogen into pipelines to fuel power plants, industrial applications and to serve homes. The mixing is around 15-20% in some networks. 


    • Supply side issues
      • Its supply will likely remain scarce in the short-term and uncertain in the long term even if its growth is at par with solar and wind energy.
    • Supply of electrolysers
      • It is a device in which green hydrogen is produced.
      • Electrolysis capacity is still tiny compared to where we need to be in 2050 for Net Zero emissions scenarios.
    • Infrastructure
      • In addition to ramping up supply, policies should also boost infrastructure and demand.
    • Increased leakage risks
      • On the pipeline front, hydrogen embrittlement can weaken metal or polyethylene pipes and increase leakage risks, particularly in high-pressure pipes”.
    • Brittle
      • Hydrogen embrittlement is a situation when the metal (pipeline) becomes brittle due to the diffusion of hydrogen into the material. 
      • The extent of embrittlement depends on the amount of hydrogen and the material’s microstructure. 
    • Other disadvantages
      • This may lead to a fossil lock-in, delaying or preventing the transition to low-carbon alternatives.

    Why is India pursuing green hydrogen?

    • Under the Paris Agreement of 2015, India is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 33-35% from the 2005 levels.
      • It is a legally binding international treaty on climate change with the goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels. 
    • At the 2021 Conference of Parties in Glasgow, India reiterated its commitment to move from a fossil and import-dependent economy to a net-zero economy by 2070
    • India’s average annual energy import bill is more than $100 billion.
    • The increased consumption of fossil fuel has made the country a high carbon dioxide (CO2) emitter, accounting for nearly 7% of the global CO2 burden. 
    • In order to become energy independent by 2047, the government stressed the need to introduce green hydrogen as an alternative fuel that can make India the global hub and a major exporter of hydrogen.
    • It will benefit India’s transportation sector (which contributes 1/3 of India’s greenhouse-gas emissions), iron and steel and chemical sectors.
    • Hydrogen energy can provide impetus to India’s aim to decarbonise by 2050 and attain 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022.

    Way Ahead

    • Renewable developers see green hydrogen as an emerging market and some have targeted the transport sector, although electric vehicles have begun to catch the imagination of consumers today.
    • Policymakers need to take a holistic approach to plan and analyse the best model suited to adopt green hydrogen as a primary fuel.