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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 14 March 2023


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 14 March 2023


Contents

  1. A The Green Hydrogen Roadmap Remains Uncertain
  2. Buildings Must Be Zero-Waste

The Green Hydrogen Roadmap Remains Uncertain


Context

  • Strategic interventions for green hydrogen transition, one of the National Green Hydrogen Mission Document’s components, call for allocating $17,490 crore to domestic producers of electrolysers and green hydrogen.
  • Although this is admirable, it is still unclear what the procedures and requirements are for receiving financing, etc. To the appropriate stakeholders, more information must be given given the urgency of the energy transition.

Relevance

GS Paper-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Mains Question

With the National Green Hydrogen Mission, India has made a good start towards achieving its decarbonization objectives. The mission, however, does not demonstrate a clear commitment to achieving the goals. Comment. (250 words)


Hydrogen

  • Most hydrogen in the world today is produced from coal or natural gas, which has high carbon dioxide emissions. Hydrogen is used primarily to make chemicals like fertiliser and in oil refineries.
  • Green electricity, such as that generated by solar and wind energy, is used to produce green hydrogen.

Where Does Green Hydrogen Come From?

  • Water is the source of green hydrogen, which is produced by electrolyzers, which use renewable (“green”) electricity to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen in water (H2O). The method is known as electrolysis.
  • While the production of green hydrogen produces no carbon dioxide, the current infrastructure for renewable electricity is built using fossil fuels, which do produce carbon dioxide.
  • In the past, producing hydrogen from non-renewable energy sources like coal and natural gas resulted in “black hydrogen” and “grey hydrogen,” respectively.
  • The hydrogen created using these techniques is referred to as “blue hydrogen” when it is combined with carbon capture and storage.

Which difficulties does green hydrogen pose?

  • Even though the cost of producing renewable energy has been declining, electrolysis is still not economically viable.
  • Compared to liquefied petroleum gas, liquefied natural gas, and liquid fuels based on oil, hydrogen transportation costs are higher.
  • Hydrogen must be transported by ocean at extremely low temperatures (-253°C).
  • Gasoline or diesel can be transported at room temperature without the need for pricey refrigeration.
  • Because hydrogen only transports 25% as much energy as a litre of gasoline, it is much more expensive to store and transport the same amount of energy.
  • The National Green Hydrogen Mission states that by 2030, India will increase its capacity to produce green hydrogen to at least 5 million tonnes (MT) annually, adding an additional 125 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity as a result.
  • Additionally, it will result in a cumulative decrease of over Rs 1 lakh crore in fossil fuel imports as well as a reduction of nearly 50 MT in annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition Programme (SIGHT):

  • It will draw significant investments and promote electrolyser-focused R&D over the following few years.
    • The scheme implementation guidelines for each component will be developed by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
  • Benefits of the plan include the following: o Development of indigenous manufacturing capabilities; Creation of employment opportunities; Development of cutting-edge technologies. o Decarbonization of the industrial, mobility, and energy sectors. o Reduction in dependence on imported fossil fuels and feedstock.
  • 2. Green Hydrogen Hubs: According to the mission, green hydrogen hubs will be developed in areas close to fertiliser and refinery facilities.
    • The mission will additionally support pilot initiatives in developing end-use industries and distribution channels.
    • Areas that can support large-scale hydrogen production and/or use will be found and developed as Green Hydrogen Hubs.
  • 3. Strategic Hydrogen Innovation Partnership (SHIP): The mission will facilitate the Strategic Hydrogen Innovation Partnership, a public-private partnership framework for research and development.
    • R&D projects will have clear objectives, deadlines, and be appropriately scaled up to produce technologies that are competitive globally.
    • A coordinated programme for skill development will also be implemented.

The way forward for India is as follows:

  • Short Term Goals: It will be prudent to choose the locations while considering the ready availability of water, which is a difficult task in and of itself.
    • The upcoming MNRE guidelines need to provide a more detailed roadmap on incentives to OEMs for production of hydrogen-based vehicles and development of refuelling infrastructure in the event that the government is ambitious about introducing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
    • The roadmap for switching to hydrogen-powered cars should be finalised after taking into account the lessons learned from the EV switchover.
    • The regulatory bodies will play a significant role because the industry cannot develop without a strong regulatory architecture, safety codes, and standards.
    • In order to support more advanced and creative storage methods, it will also be necessary to scale up green hydrogen storage.
  • Mid-Term Objectives: o Bulk green hydrogen transportation will be required.
    • Although the mission document pledges support for the construction of pipelines for the transportation of green hydrogen, it is unclear from the document whether new, specialised pipelines will be created or whether existing natural gas pipelines will be modified to transport green hydrogen.
    • Each of the aforementioned scenarios will take time and may cause the mission’s objectives to be derailed as a result of having to clear numerous regulatory obstacles, amend laws, create new regulatory bodies, etc.

Conclusion

The mission lacks a clear commitment because there isn’t enough information on incentives, rules, or the government’s plan to scale up related infrastructure. India has made a good start, but there are still significant issues that must be resolved if it is to achieve its decarbonization goals.


Buildings Must Be Zero-Waste


Context

As part of a larger push to reform and modernise the sewage disposal system, the Indian government is planning to make it mandatory for all upcoming housing societies and commercial complexes to ensure net zero waste and have their liquid discharge treated.

Relevance

GS paper-3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution, and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment

Mains question

Describe the Indian government’s efforts to achieve net-zero waste and ensure proper sewage disposal systems. What effect will this have on the country’s economy? Analyze the efficacy of these measures in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (250 words).


What exactly is Net-Zero Waste?

  • Achieving net zero waste entails reducing, reusing, and recovering waste streams (sludge) in order to convert them to valuable resources and ensure that no solid waste is disposed of in landfills.
  • This method of waste management is considered sustainable because it aims to reduce environmental impact and the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.

Buildings must be Net-Zero Waste

  • By the end of March, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs will send a directive to all state governments making net zero waste mandatory for all new housing societies and commercial complexes. This will be included in the building bylaws and strictly enforced.
  • The government is also considering incorporating septic tank design into building codes, lowering GST on mechanised cleaning vehicles, and geotagging all septic tanks and manholes for proper tracking.
  • The proposed directive also includes guidelines for urban local bodies such as municipalities to: o investigate the commercial potential of processed sludge as fertiliser, o appoint all agencies providing sanitation services in both the organised and unorganised sectors, and o review Indian standards for mechanised cleaning equipment.
  • In addition, the government will examine Indian standards for mechanised cleaning equipment and consider different tariff rates for residential and commercial de-sludging.
  • Legal Penalty for Non-Adherence: o In order to ensure proper implementation, the Centre will request that states impose a legal penalty if buildings fail to follow the bylaws and standard operating procedures.

Significance:

  • Contribution to SDGs: o SDG 6.3 of the United Nations aims to “halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and significantly increase recycling and safe reuse globally” by 2030.
    • The implementation of net-zero waste will contribute to this goal, resulting in a cleaner and healthier environment for all.
  • Improved Sewage Disposal System: o The primary benefit of mandating net-zero waste for buildings is improved sewage disposal.
    • A mechanised sewage system and adherence to the zero net waste clause will significantly reduce the amount of untreated wastewater entering rivers, lakes, or groundwater.
  • According to data from 2023, India currently generates 72,368 million litres per day of urban wastewater, of which only 28% is treated. This means that 72% of untreated wastewater is likely to end up in rivers, lakes, or groundwater.
    • The implementation of net-zero waste will help to reduce this figure while also improving the country’s overall sewage disposal system.
  • Boosting the Country’s Economy: o According to a 2021 Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs report titled ‘Circular Economy in Municipal Solid and Liquid Waste,’ institutionalising the sale of treated sewage could boost the country’s economy.
    • According to conservative estimates, it has the potential to add close to 3,285 crore per year.
  • Complete Removal of Manual Scavenging: o The directives are part of the government’s effort to implement the Manhole to Machine-hole scheme to eliminate manual scavenging entirely.
    • The Finance Minister stated in her budget speech for 2023-24 that all cities and towns will be able to transition their sewers and septic tanks from manhole to machine-hole mode.
    • With the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment estimating 400 people have died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks since 2017, experts believe a mechanised sewage system combined with the mandatory zero net waste clause for housing and commercial complexes was critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Collaboration with other programmes: o The directives were developed as a result of collaboration between programmes such as Swachh Bharat, NAMASTE (National Action Plan for Mechanized Sanitation Ecosystem), and AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation).
  • The Real Estate Sector’s Reaction: o The Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI), India’s apex body of private real estate developers, has applauded the move.
    • They have encouraged their members to install solid and liquid waste management units in their projects, with some developers even installing sewage treatment plants (STPs) on-site.

Conclusion

  • The move to mandate net zero waste for buildings is a significant step forward in India’s sustainable waste management. It aligns with the country’s Sustainable Development Goals and will help to reduce the amount of untreated wastewater entering rivers, lakes, and groundwater.
  • This move is intended to encourage the real estate sector to invest in solid and liquid waste management units as well as sewage treatment plants.

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