The Future of Energy!
With the latest round of global climate talks coming up in a few weeks, all eyes are set on our world leaders and their stand on the issue. The members of business groups, media, civil society, etc, will gather for the event to express their views and concerns.
The global climate conference will be held in Glasgow, United Kingdom and can be referred to as the COP26 (Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The nations have finally realised the impacts of climate change and the need to counter it.
The use of renewable energy is being promoted across continents in order to cut carbon emissions and hence, decarbonise the planet. At present, the major renewable energy resources are centered around solar, wind and water energy.
However recently, Green Hydrogen has been making headlines, owed mainly to its ease and efficient mode of production. Unlike coal and oil, it only emits water vapours and with hydrogen being the most abundant element available to us, this gas has the potential to be used across industries. Some observers even dub it as the ‘fuel of the future’.
Nonetheless, there are a few challenges which need to be dealt with before this hydrogen produced fuel makes its way to commercial and domestic use. Until now, hydrogen is used as a building block to produce other carbon-neutral synthetic fuels. Use of pure hydrogen as an energy source is a fairly new practice and thus, new infrastructure and technology will be a prerequisite.
Let's dive in to understand the so-called future of energy!
What is green hydrogen and how is it produced?
Green hydrogen is a hydrogen fuel which is formed using renewable resources instead of fossil fuels. The generation of green hydrogen is done through the chemical process of electrolysis. This process separates the hydrogen from oxygen in water with the help of an electric current. It can help in supplying up to 25% of the world’s energy needs. The entire process is sustainable and can help cut carbon emissions by a huge amount.
Cost of production and other challenges
The cost of production of green hydrogen is very expensive. In a report published in 2019, the International Energy Agency (IEA) puts the cost of producing green hydrogen at $3-$7.50 per kilo, compared to the production cost of $0.90- $3.20 of steam methane reformation.
Electrolysers constitute a major proportion of the costs involved and it needs to be cut down in order to make the production process effective. According to the claims of IEA, This will only be possible by 2040.
Storage and transportation of green hydrogen is not an easy task either. It is a highly inflammable gas and requires a lot of space, making steel pipes and welds brittle, and prone to failure. A safe transportation of the gas requires construction of pipelines which would eventually add to the price.
What are the major uses of green hydrogen?
Green hydrogen is an efficient and sustainable source of energy which makes it an attractive source. It can be applied across various industries, thus making its versatility a lucrative option for big business houses and nations. Issues pertaining to storage and transportation do not impede its acceptance as they are not just exclusive to this fuel alone.
Green hydrogen in the Indian context
India is already working on various sustainable energy projects. It has emerged as the sixth largest producer of wind and solar energy.
For a developing country, which is yet to fully realise its potential, investing in sustainable energy is a huge dilemma. Nonetheless, the nation has never backed out of protocols and has always supported the steps needed to be taken to curb global emissions.
On the country’s 75th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the government’s vision of making the nation ‘energy independent by 2047’. This goal is a very ambitious target for a country which heavily relies on fossil fuels for its energy requirements.
In his speech, he also initiated the National Hydrogen Mission (NHM) to curb global warming, consequently accelerating the country’s pace of embarking on the sustainable journey. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has been undertaking research & developmental programmes on the sustainable future including hydrogen fuels. Additionally, the country has collaborated with Norway to manufacture India-centric technology for green hydrogen production.
John Kerry, the US presidential envoy for climate, in his visit to India in September 2021, also launched the Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue (CAFMD) under India-US Climate Clean Energy Agenda 2030.
One of the main objectives of CAFMD is finance mobilisation which would focus on attracting capital and technologies for India to scale up its renewable energy generation capacities. The US envoy said, ”Over the past months, six of the largest banks in America had publicly committed to investing a minimum of $4.16 trillion in the next 10 years to make the transition happen”.
Nations such as Germany are extending financial help outside their region for investment in sustainable projects, particularly relating to green hydrogen.
Currently, China is the largest producer of green hydrogen with an output of 20 million ton. The European Union is also following the same steps by investing heavily in this fuel. Their extensive network of underground pipelines and storage facilities would enable them to store and even have the potential to transport green hydrogen across the continent. This can act to their advantage by allowing them to dominate the green hydrogen market in the near future. Oil rich nations such as Oman and Saudi Arabia are also proceeding in this direction.
In the first quarter of 2021-22, Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of the largest company of the country - Reliance Industries, unveiled the company's push into green energy by committing to invest $10.1 billion in the sector by 2024. This investment will involve setting up energy production plants (including those for hydrogen fuels) and building battery grids to store electricity.
The coal shortage in India in early October 2021 and the consequent fears of power blackouts gives us yet another reason to move to an untapped and unlimited source of sustainable energy. The mass availability and properties of hydrogen seems to be the perfect alternative for most of our energy needs.
Every nation is on the move to decarbonise, and is looking for sustainable substitutes for mass production with lower costs. The goal of minimum cost will be achieved in future by means of economies of scale, however at present, it is essential to make the investments with new and appropriate infrastructure and technology. This will require time and consistent efforts but the outcome makes it worth the effort.
The first major step towards a sustainable planet has been taken and many more are yet to come.
We’ll have to wait till COP26 to find out about the latest green initiatives our world leaders have in store for us, till then let's all make a conscious effort to move towards sustainable habits in day-to-day lives.
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