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Green Hydrogen

2024 APR 12

Mains   > Economic Development   >   Indian Economy and issues   >   Renewable energy


GS 3 > Economic Development   >   Indian Economy and issues   >   Renewable energy


  • Recently, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has announced a Rs-496-crore (until 2025-26) scheme to support pilot projects that either test the viability of green hydrogen as a vehicle fuel or develop secure supporting infrastructure such as refuelling stations.


  • The major objectives of the MNRE scheme include (i) validation of technical feasibility and performance of green hydrogen as a transportation fuel, (ii) evaluation of the economic viability of green hydrogen-powered vehicles, and (iii) demonstration of safe operation of hydrogen-powered vehicles and refuelling stations.


  • Hydrogen (H) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, flammable gaseous substance. A molecule of hydrogen is the simplest possible molecule.
  • Elementary hydrogen finds its principal industrial application in the manufacture of ammonia (NH3).
  • Hydrogen is a clean fuel when burned with oxygen. It can be used in fuel cells or internal combustion engines. It is also used for spacecraft propulsion.


Depending on the nature of the method of its extraction, hydrogen is categorised into three categories, namely, Grey, Blue and Green.

  • Grey Hydrogen: It is produced via coal or lignite gasification (black or brown), or via a process called steam methane reformation (SMR) of natural gas or methane (grey). These tend to be mostly carbon-intensive processes.
  • Blue Hydrogen: It is produced via natural gas or coal gasification combined with carbon capture storage (CCS) or carbon capture use (CCU) technologies to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Green Hydrogen:  It is produced using electrolysis of water with electricity generated by renewable energy.


  • Environmentally sustainable:
    • Green Hydrogen is a clean fuel that produces only water, electricity, and heat.
    • For instance, Hydrogen can potentially replace the coal and coke in iron and steel production. Steel manufacturing is one of the largest carbon emitters in the world, decarbonising this sector using green hydrogen is expected to have significant impact on our climate goals.
  • Reduce fossil fuel imports:
    • At present, hydrogen produced from natural gas is widely utilized for production of nitrogenous fertilizers, and petrochemicals.
    • Substituting this with green hydrogen could allow use of renewable energy in these important sectors and reduce import dependence.
  • Lighter alternative to battery electric vehicles:
    • Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) offer a lighter alternative to battery electric vehicles (BEVs), particularly advantageous for heavy-duty trucks. FCEVs, powered by hydrogen, boast lighter fuel cell stacks compared to bulky EV batteries. This results in increased payload capacity, crucial for freight transportation efficiency. 
    • Research indicates that long-haul FCEVs can match diesel trucks in freight amounts, while BEVs incur a weight penalty of up to 25% due to heavier batteries. In the pursuit of reducing carbon emissions without sacrificing revenue-generating payload capacity, green hydrogen emerges as a promising solution.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles:

  • A hydrogen internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle utilises hydrogen through combustion — which is similar to cars running on diesel and petrol, except there are no carbon emissions.
  • A hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) utilises hydrogen electrochemically by converting hydrogen stored in a high-pressure tank into electricity, leaving water as the byproduct. 
  • Even though hydrogen ICE vehicles do not emit carbon, research suggests that burning hydrogen is far less energy efficient than converting it into electricity in a fuel cell.
  • Rapid R&D growth:
    • Researches in hydrogen as a fuel are gaining momentum worldwide.
    • As new technologies create cheaper production methods, hydrogen can become cost competitive.
  • Energy density:
    • Hydrogen has a strong octane rating and hence can deliver a tremendous amount of energy.
  • Hydrogen-based transport:
    • Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) run on hydrogen fuel and have no harmful emissions.
    • While Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) are dependent on imported raw materials like lithium and cobalt for lithium-ion batteries, the hydrogen fuel cell supply chain can be wholly indigenized, making India Aatmanirbhar in the clean transportation segment. 
  • Storage:
    • Electricity can be difficult to store and convey over long distances. But by using electricity to extract green hydrogen, both storage and transport become simple.
  • Energy security:
    • Green Hydrogen can be locally produced, meaning countries can power themselves independently without having to rely on external energy suppliers.
    • This can save India from potential geopolitics-led energy crises like oil blockades.


  • National Green Hydrogen Mission:
  • The Mission is under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. It is a program to incentivise the commercial production of green hydrogen and make India a net exporter of the fuel. The Mission will facilitate demand creation, production, utilization and export of Green Hydrogen.
  • Sub Schemes of the Mission: Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition Programme (SIGHT), Green Hydrogen Hubs:
  • Green Hydrogen/Ammonia Policy.
  • State-Level Initiatives
    • Andhra Pradesh: Offers 100% exemption from electricity duty for the power consumed in the production of green hydrogen/ammonia from renewable plants.
    • Uttar Pradesh: Provides various incentives including reimbursement of SGST and exemptions from payment of electricity duty.


  • Green hydrogen is relatively expensive:
    • The cheapest way to manufacture hydrogen is to rely on fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, which produce carbon emissions.
    • However, green hydrogen produced from renewable energy is relatively expensive.
    • For instance, it costs between 0.9 and 1.5 USD to produce a kilogramme of hydrogen from coal and anywhere from 3.5 to 5.5 USD per kg to produce it from renewable energy sources.
  • Competition with Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs): 
    • BEVs currently dominate the zero-emission vehicle market due to lower fuel costs and a more established charging infrastructure.
    • For hydrogen FCEVs to compete with BEVs, green hydrogen needs to cost between USD 3 and USD 6.5 per kilogram by 2030. For instance, retail green hydrogen prices in California touched USD 30 per kilogram in 2023. Also, the California Transportation Commission estimates that building a hydrogen truck fuelling station costs up to 72% more than the cost of building a battery electric truck fuelling station.
  • Storage and transport: 
    • In India, most cylinders are made for compressed natural gas (CNG) and cannot safely contain hydrogen due to its higher pressure requirement. To hold hydrogen, cylinders need stronger carbon fiber, making them costly. This poses a major barrier to hydrogen adoption in transportation. Similarly, existing natural gas pipelines are unsuitable for hydrogen transport due to the same pressure constraints.
    • Also, because of its high flammability, high diffusivity and very low density as a gas, hydrogen needs bulky storage facilities and safety systems.
  • Regulatory regime:
    • Applicable codes and standards for hydrogen-based systems have not been established in India.
  • Safety imperatives for hydrogen retail stations:
    • Hydrogen is extremely flammable, which means that special care would be needed in handling the fuel at retail stations compared to diesel, petrol, or even CNG. Robust and fool-proof handling and safety standards need to be developed before pushing large-scale adoption.
  • It is not easy to replace existing infrastructure:
    • Creating infrastructure that can support hydrogen as fuel requires huge investment.
    • This is why it becomes highly expensive to replace gasoline.


  • Policy Support and Regulation: Develop and implement comprehensive regulations and standards specific to hydrogen production, storage, and transport. This will ensure safety, encourage investment, and facilitate technological advancements.
  • Economic Incentives: Implement financial mechanisms such as subsidies, lower GST rates, and grants to make green hydrogen cost-competitive with traditional fuels. This would accelerate adoption across various sectors.
  • Infrastructure Development: Invest in the necessary infrastructure to support hydrogen storage, transportation, and refuelling systems. Collaboration with private partners to develop and maintain this infrastructure is critical.
  • Research and Development: Enhance funding for R&D in hydrogen technology to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Engaging with global hydrogen initiatives can also help share knowledge and accelerate innovation.
  • Public Awareness and Education: Launch educational campaigns to raise public awareness about the benefits and safety of hydrogen energy. Engage with stakeholders across sectors to foster a supportive environment for hydrogen technologies.
  • Human Resource Development: Build expertise in hydrogen technology through dedicated programs in universities and technical institutes to sustain the growth and innovation in this sector.
  • Establish a National ‘Fuel Cell Institute’: This institute would serve as a collaborative hub to foster research, development, and commercialization of fuel cell technologies, uniting government, academia, and industry to accelerate innovation and adoption across sectors.


Q. “Green Hydrogen has often been touted as a fuel of the future”. In this context, discuss the prospects and challenges for India to switch to a green hydrogen-based economy.(15 marks, 250 words)