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Challenges in India’s Transition to Green Hydrogen: Pollution Concerns


A study by the environmental think-tank Climate Risk Horizons (CRH) warns that India’s shift to green hydrogen production could lead to increased pollution unless measures are taken to control fossil fuel emissions during the process.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Green Hydrogen?
  2. Current Challenges in Green Hydrogen Production
  3. Implications of Green Hydrogen Production

What is Green Hydrogen?

  • 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.
  • But a 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.
  • Green hydrogen is produced through electrolysis using renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind or hydel power.
  • Hydrogen can be ‘grey’ and ‘blue’ too.
    • Grey hydrogen is generated through fossil fuels such as coal and gas and currently accounts for 95% of the total production in South Asia.
    • Blue hydrogen, too, is produced using electricity generated by burning fossil fuels but with technologies to prevent the carbon released in the process from entering the atmosphere.
Green Hydrogen Importance
  • Hydrogen is being used across the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany. Countries like Japan desire to become a hydrogen economy in future.
  • Green hydrogen can in future be used for
    • Electricity and drinking water generation, energy storage, transportation etc. 
    • Green hydrogen can be used to provide water to the crew members in space stations.
    • Energy storage- Compressed hydrogen tanks can store the energy longer and are easier to handle than lithium-ion batteries as they are lighter.
    • Transport and mobility- Hydrogen can be used in heavy transport, aviation and maritime transport.

Current Challenges in Green Hydrogen Production

Defining Green Hydrogen:

  • The MNRE (Ministry of New and Renewable Energy) has established a definition of green hydrogen, setting a limit of 2 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per kg of hydrogen.
  • However, this definition remains open to interpretation, raising concerns about its practical implementation.

Intermittent Electrolysis:

  • The production of green hydrogen relies on electrolysers, which are essential components.
  • Electrolysers need to operate continuously, even during nighttime when solar power is unavailable.
  • Operating them at night may necessitate drawing electricity from conventional coal-fired grids, potentially increasing carbon emissions.

Uncertain Electricity Sources:

  • A significant number of green hydrogen projects have not disclosed the sources of their electricity.
  • It is unclear whether projects that have made commitments are using 100% renewable energy sources to meet their electricity requirements.

Implications of Green Hydrogen Production

Biomass Inclusion and Emissions:

  • India’s green hydrogen standards allow the use of biomass, which, when burned, can produce carbon emissions.
  • This inclusion of biomass introduces a challenge in achieving truly clean green hydrogen, raising environmental concerns.

Renewable Energy Diversion:

  • Green hydrogen production demands a substantial amount of renewable energy (RE) capacity.
  • Diverting a significant portion of this capacity to green hydrogen may lead to a shortage of clean electricity for consumers, affecting energy availability.

Large Renewable Capacity Requirement:

  • Meeting the demand for green hydrogen would necessitate the installation of renewable energy capacity of about 125 GW.
  • This capacity is approximately 13% of India’s existing electricity generation, signifying a significant investment in renewable energy infrastructure.

Financial Diversions and Investment Risk:

  • Diverting finances from projects aimed at decarbonizing the electricity grid to prioritize green hydrogen production presents a risk.
  • Major Indian power utilities, including Reliance Industries, the Adani Group, and the National Thermal Power Corporation, have ambitious plans for green hydrogen production.
  • Concerns regarding potential investment diversions may impact further commitments to green hydrogen initiatives.

-Source: The Hindu


December 2023