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Moving towards a sustainable green hydrogen economy

The growth of green hydrogen production technologies, falling costs of electrolysers and fuel-cell stacks, and progressively concentrated policy actions to encourage green hydrogen projects are coming together to create a paradigm shift for the energy transition.

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Hydrogen is the most profuse element in the universe and its potential as a fuel has generated enthusiasm. For decades, governments and industry have invested into the research and development of hydrogen as future fuel. A global race to develop regional and national hydrogen economies is in progress, with the number of projects and regional policies globally expanding swiftly.

Several pilot projects scrutinizing various applications for hydrogen use and viability studies for its transportation are at present underway. Globally, governments are developing hydrogen strategies to pioneer the field and establish leading positions in the emerging market.

With the cost of renewables like solar power dropping, green hydrogen is being pushed as one part of the energy mix that will lead toward decarbonization, with applications oscillating from consumer and industrial power supplies to transportation and spaceflight. Hydrogen is a prospective substitute to fossil fuels across several sectors of the economy comprising transportation, manufacturing, heating and cooling, industrial equipment, and materials production.

Hydrogen demand is projected to continue growing, encouraged in part by a growing number of regulatory controls and government policies encouraging the decarbonization of fuel and energy systems across many sectors of the economy.

European Union (EU):

Hydrogen Strategy and Plans:

In July 2020, the EU had announced its 'European Green Deal' to enhance its commitment to tackling climate and environmental-related challenges. The hydrogen strategy focuses on hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources. The objective is to decarbonize hydrogen production and expand its use in sectors where it can replace fossil fuels.

Though the main focus is on green hydrogen, the EU Hydrogen Strategy recognizes the role of another low-carbon hydrogen in the evolution phase in the short to medium term.

The path set by the EU Hydrogen Strategy is divided into three phases. Each phase sets a specific objective to be accomplished within the applicable phase. The EU summarizes the objectives for each phase as follows:

  • Phase 1 (2020-2024): The commission's objective is to support the installation of at least six gigawatts (GW) of renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the EU, to produce up to one million tonnes of renewable hydrogen.
  • Phase 2 (2025-2030): Hydrogen needs to become an essential part of Europe's integrated energy system, with at least 40 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers and the production of up to 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU.
  • Phase 3 (2030-2050): The aim is for renewable hydrogen technologies to reach maturity and be installed at a large scale across all hard-to-decarbonized sectors, such as chemicals and steelmaking.

With the EU Hydrogen Strategy, the EU puts a robust framework in place for the development of the hydrogen sector into one of the pillars of the European energy industry.

The European Commission has launched a call for all 1,000-plus members of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance to submit projects for low-carbon hydrogen technology and solutions. The call ends on May 7. The EU Hydrogen Strategy aims to install 6 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers by 2024, and 40 GW by 2030.

Major Hydrogen Projects:

Most of the world's planned hydrogen projects and the major chunk of correlated investments this decade are anticipated to be in Europe.

Australian company H2U has partnered with Germany-based multinational utility RWE Supply & Trading to develop hydrogen solutions for the European market.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two companies will facilitate hydrogen trading between Australia and Germany.

Hydrogen produced in Australia will be brought to Europe to meet growing demand. This is in line with the objective of supply, a 24-month German-Australian feasibility study started in December by the German Academy of Science and Engineering and the Federation of German Industries.

RWE Supply and Trading plans to use an LNG terminal it will build in Brunsbüttel as a storage facility for the imported hydrogen.

WOOD and NEL Hydrogen have signed an agreement to support the delivery of large-scale green hydrogen facilities.

The three-year engineering framework agreement will see Woodwork with NEL Hydrogen to develop and execute large-scale green hydrogen plants in select regions of Europe and globally

The Indian energy company Essar has partnered with the UK's Progressive Energy to build two plants at Essar's refinery in Stanlow, England, using Johnson Matthey technology for making low-carbon hydrogen from natural gas and fuel gases. The H2 generated from this process is categorized as blue because by-product carbon dioxide will be captured and stored, in this case in depleted undersea gas fields 60 km offshore. The partners plan to spend about $1 billion on the two plants, with the first to open in 2025.

In Leuna, Germany, a joint venture between Linde and ITM Power plans the world's largest electrolyzer plant based on proton-exchange membranes. It will make zero-carbon H2, also known as green hydrogen, by splitting water using renewable energy. The 24 MW plant is set to open in late 2022.

In the south of France, Total and the hydrogen technology firm Engie will mutually build and operate a 40MW electrolyzer plant, powered by renewable energy, to generate 5 metric tons per day of green H2. The facility is due to start up in 2024 at Total's La Mède biorefinery

Nikola Corporation, Industrial Vehicles Corporation (IVECO S.p.A), and Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company (OGE) have entered into a letter of intent (LoI) for a partnership to institute a business structure for transporting hydrogen via pipeline network from production sources to hydrogen fuelling stations in support of fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).

The partnership is projected to facilitate cost-effective distribution of hydrogen from production to storage and fuelling locations in Germany to serve industry needs.

Nikola will lead the installation of hydrogen fueling locations for all OEM FCEVs at key locations supported by OGE's hydrogen delivery systems.

Danish renewable energy firm Orsted plans to build a 1GW green hydrogen facility in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) trading and refining hub. The project, which will be developed in two phases, is scheduled to be fully completed by 2030.

Munich-based energy technology company Siemens Energy announced its plans to produce green hydrogen at $1.50/kg by 2025 "based on large-scale commercial projects in operation." Currently, the project is based on wind energy. The underlining assumptions are a cost of $16/MWh and a 100 MW electrolyzer running 16.4 hours a day on average. The German company is set to roll out its in-house proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis technology to implement a gigawatt production of electrolyzers. Siemens Energy describes green hydrogen as "the second stage of the energy transition."


Policy and Strategy:

One of the key initiatives for the clean energy sector that the government announced in the Union Budget 2021, was the plan to launch a National Hydrogen Mission.

For the current financial year, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has been allotted Rs 25 crore for research and development (R&D) in hydrogen. Once the draft of the mission is in place, it will be floated for public consultation.

  • This mission will emphasize hydrogen from clean sources.
  • It also envisages linking the country's growing renewable energy capacity with the hydrogen economy.
  • India's target for 2022 for renewable energy generation is 175 GW and this mission is projected to bolster the process.
  • The renewable energy target for 2030 is 450 GW.
  • The country has set to decarbonize by 2050.
  • Using hydrogen will serve the dual purposes of accomplishing India's emission commitments under the Paris Agreement and reducing the import dependence on fossil fuels.

Replacing fossil fuels with hydrogen in these sectors will help reduce GHGs in a big way. There will be five important areas the government will focus on. These comprise R&D, demand creation, how it can be used in industry, how to create an eco-system including policies for this, and how to bring industry on board along with international partnerships.


There are several reasons why hydrogen is being promoted and the government is betting on it.

  • Electricity generation in India is profoundly dependent on fossil fuels (coal). If hydrogen can replace it, there will be reduced pollution (because of not burning fossil fuels). Additionally, the import of coal can be reduced.
  • Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the planet and has other advantages such as being lighter, more energy-dense, and energy-efficient (2 – 3 times more than petrol).
  • The transportation, iron and steel, and chemical industries will be benefitted.

Hydrogen for mobility:

  • While anticipated end-use sectors include steel and chemicals, the major industry that hydrogen has the prospective of transforming is transportation.
  • These sectors contribute to 1/3rd of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) because of their fossil fuel usage and where hydrogen is being seen as a direct replacement of fossil fuels, with specific advantages over traditional EVs.
  • Hydrogen fuel cell cars have a near-zero carbon footprint.
  • Hydrogen is about two to three times as efficient as burning petrol because an electric chemical reaction is much more efficient than combustion.

State-run power producer NTPC has already signed an MoU with Siemens for the production of green hydrogen from the company's renewable energy plants and its use in transportation. It has also planned pilot projects to run five hydrogen-cell electric buses and five cars in Delhi and Leh.

In its laboratories, NTPC is designing a prototype for hard/seawater electrolysis and reactors for hydrogen production through the photo-electrochemical process.

India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) MIGHT (Mobility and Infrastructure with Green Hydrogen Technologies) Initiative:

India's leading alliance on energy storage & e-mobility, India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) MIGHT (Mobility and Infrastructure with Green Hydrogen Technologies) Initiative is envisioned to explore opportunities for India with regards to the potential of green hydrogen technologies for green energy acceleration and the adoption of clean transport. The focus will also be on the applications of hydrogen for industrial and agricultural applications beyond electricity generation. The alliance also aims to identify and remove any barriers as well as work on building an innovation ecosystem for green hydrogen technologies.

IESA hydrogen-focus activities:

MOU with MENA Hydrogen Alliance:

MENA Hydrogen Alliance launched in 2020 to accelerate the development of value chains for green molecules in the region and brings together private and public sector actors and academia. Under the umbrella of Desertic 3.0, Dii Desert Energy acts as a neutral advisor to elaborate business cases and to educate different stakeholders on all aspects of producing, transporting, and using green hydrogen and other green molecules. This comprises exporting green molecules to world markets, comprising Europe.

MOU with Greenstat Hydrogen India Pvt Ltd:

Greenstat Hydrogen India Pvt Ltd envisions to make green happen. To accomplish this vision, Greenstat and its subsidiaries are focussing upon different business areas that will contribute to its vision.

Webinars to date:

  • Hydrogen & Fuel cell technologies & Opportunities for India: In this webinar, experts deliberated about hydrogen and Fuel cell-based generation for vehicle and stationary applications. Eminent speakers from Niti Aayog, Hydrogen in Motion, Indian Oil Corporation, TATA Sons, and NTPC participated in the webinar.
  • At the India Energy Storage Week 2020, IESA conducted a workshop on Hydrogen Economy and India-Nordic Collaboration, supported by Innovation Norway and Business Finland on 2nd November. It also steered a session on Technological Readiness of Hydrogen Storage for Stationary and EV Applications on 6th November.

Contribution in hydrogen economy:

  • Technological due diligence on hydrogen
  • Support in the market access
  • Helping in understanding the technology partnership with global companies to India

IESA Roundtable on Green Hydrogen and Hydrogen Mission for India:

IESA will be organizing its 3rd annual event on hydrogen and fuel cell, "India Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Conclave – #IHFC2021" on 25th May 2021 focused on both mobility and stationary applications. In this three series roundtable, the alliance aims to gather Indian and global stakeholders including technology providers, policymakers, and industry players to brainstorm and deliberate a suitable hydrogen roadmap for India.

Major Hydrogen Projects:

  • Italian conglomerate Maire Tecnimont through its subsidiaries NextChem, Stamicarbon, and MET Development (MET DEV) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Adani Enterprises to explore the development of industrial projects using NextChem and Stamicarbon's technologies and MET DEV's project development capabilities and expertise to industrialize green chemistry and circular economy sectors in India. The projects will be focused on producing chemicals, ammonia, and hydrogen from renewable feedstock.
  • Fusion Fuel Green PLC has signed an MoU with BGR Energy Systems Limited to develop green hydrogen projects in India. The companies aim to institute an initial demonstrator plant in the region of Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, India in the second half of 2021 using its market-leading HEVO-SOLAR technology to generate cost-competitive green hydrogen and thereafter develop larger-scale projects in the region for the supply of hydrogen for the production of green ammonia and bio-ethanol, and as a feedstock for other heavy industrial applications.
  • State-owned Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has signed a pact with Greenstat Norway for setting up a Centre of Excellence on Hydrogen. The CoE-H will facilitate the transfer and sharing of technology, know-how, and experience through the green hydrogen value chain and other relevant technologies including hydrogen storage and fuel cells. The CoE-H will be a vehicle for promoting R&D projects in green and blue hydrogen between Norwegian and Indian R&D institutions/universities.
  • Italian gas group Snam and renewable energy developer Greenko has signed an agreement to develop a Hydrogen value chain in India including production methods and industrial applications of the fuel. The two companies will be able to collaborate on the study of hydrogen production methods from renewables, on the design of hydrogen-ready infrastructure, and potential final applications in both industry and transport, including fuel cell mobility."
Author : Debi Dash
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