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ADVANCING TOWARDS THE ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: HARNESSING THE POTENTIAL OF GREEN HYDROGEN

INTRODUCTION

In the Union Budget Speech 2023-24 on February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman approved the National Green Hydrogen Mission with a total expense of Rs 19,744 crores compared to Rs 25 crore in the Union Budget 2021–22. It will serve as a watershed moment towards sustainable development and creating investment opportunities for our youth. It was initially launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on the 75th Independence Day with the vision of making India the global hub for the manufacturing of green hydrogen and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy will be in charge of the overall management and implementation of the mission.

GREEN HYDROGEN- A BETTER ALTERNATIVE TO FOSSIL FUELS

Green hydrogen will be crucial for India’s economic development, energy security and achieving decarbonization of harder-to-abate sectors, according to the Economic Survey 2022-23. The Department of Energy is putting up to $100 million into the research and development of hydrogen and fuel cells. So, what is green hydrogen? Simply put, hydrogen fuel is created using renewable or non-conventional energy sources such as solar or wind power instead of fossil fuels. The term “green” is used to emphasize that the production process does not emit greenhouse gases, unlike the production of “grey” hydrogen, which typically relies on fossil fuels. It has the potential to provide clean power for manufacturing, and transportation, and its only by-product is water.

HYDROGEN: FUEL OF THE FUTURE

The International Energy Agency (IEA) report of 2021 entails the following uses of hydrogen in different spheres. In recent times, many industries have been profoundly using hydrogen for production in oil refineries, the fertilizers sector, and steel production units. Nearly all of this hydrogen is processed through the use of fossil fuels, so there is a significant potential for reducing the emissions from clean hydrogen. In transport facilities as well, the use of hydrogen can be dearly noted. The competitive sphere of hydrogen is different for different conveyances. For cars, it is about the cost of the batteries and refueling stations, while for trucks, the contention is to reduce the delivery cost of hydrogen. There are certain restrictions on the options available for low-carbon fuels in the Shipping and aviation industry, and thus it paves an acceptable way for hydrogen-based fuels to enter. Hydrogen projects tremendous long-term potential for direct use in hydrogen boilers or fuel cells in buildings. At the same time, in the short term, it can power multifamily and commercial buildings by blending into existing natural gas networks. Once successfully produced, hydrogen as a primary source can be used as a leading option for storing renewable energy and further in power generation.

OBJECTIVES OF INDIA’S GREEN HYDROGEN MISSION

The underlying objective of the Green Hydrogen Mission is to make India self-dependent and self-sufficient in the production, usage and export of Green hydrogen all over the globe. This aligns with India’s goal of achieving self-sufficiency (Aatmanirbhar) through clean energy and will serve as a model for the worldwide shift towards clean energy. This mission will lead us to monumental economic decarbonization, reduced fossil fuel dependency, and market leadership in Green hydrogen. It will encompass various targets that it is supposed to achieve by 2030 like establishing the production of green hydrogen with an annual capacity of 5 million metric tonnes, along with the addition of 125 GW of renewable energy sources in the nation and Investing a total of about 8 lakh crore. Further, the creation of over Six lakh jobs.

LEGAL ASPECTS

Many legal authorities have stressed the importance of green hydrogen in advancing toward energy independence and harnessing the potential of this emerging technology.

Cases

In the case of  Shanti Star Builders vs. Narayan Totame, the Supreme Court, while upholding the decision of the National Green Tribunal, observed that the right to a clean environment is an integral part of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Court emphasized the importance of protecting the environment and stated that “environmental protection and sustainable development are interwoven and must be mutually reinforcing.”

In the case of Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court held that the right to a pollution-free environment is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. The Court held that the right to life is not merely a right to survive but also includes the right to lead a healthy and wholesome life, which includes the right to a pollution-free environment.

International Convention

Promoting green hydrogen supports environmental protection in line with the UN resolution. It replaces fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality for better public health and a cleaner environment. Other international agreements like the Paris Agreement also recognize the importance of sustainable and clean energy sources. These resolutions form a strong foundation for advocating green hydrogen and ensuring environmental preservation and human rights.

Constitutional Provisions

Article 48A of the Indian Constitution is a Directive Principle of State Policy which was inserted by the 42nd Amendment Act in 1976. It states that “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.”

While Article 48A does not specifically mention green hydrogen, it is a broad provision that obligates the state to protect and improve the environment. Therefore, promoting the production and use of green hydrogen can be seen as an effort to protect and improve the environment, which is in line with the spirit of Article 48A.

CRITICISM

Hydrogen faces several hurdles that could hinder its potential growth and thus are needed to be addressed promptly:

Cost: Renewable hydrogen is 2-3 times more expensive than fossil fuels, making it costly. Hydrogen pipelines, fuel cells, and storage tanks for transport are also pricier than traditional options. Synthetic fuels for aviation are 3-6 times costlier than regular jet fuel.

Lack of differentiation: There is no established method to differentiate low-carbon hydrogen from fossil-based hydrogen, resulting in a disconnect between market incentives and production. Consumers cannot determine the origin and environmental impact of the hydrogen they use.

Lack of hydrogen market: Hydrogen is not a traded commodity, leading to higher costs, low price transparency, and limited competition. The low demand for low-carbon hydrogen and integration challenges worsen the situation.

Limited infrastructure: Globally, there are only about 4,500 km of hydrogen pipelines. Additional investment is needed in infrastructure to utilize renewable resources from remote areas, increasing initial costs.

Energy losses: Energy losses occur during every conversion step, requiring more renewable capacity to produce hydrogen and posing challenges to decarbonization efforts.

Policy: Initial policy efforts focused on road transport, but now attention is shifting to comprehensive national strategies, hydrogen supply, infrastructure, and industrial adoption.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The global momentum to promote green hydrogen as a clean energy source is growing. Countries acknowledge its potential in decarbonizing sectors and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Governments invest in research, set production targets, and implement supportive policies. The use of green hydrogen technology is expected to expand, driving progress towards a sustainable energy future. Further, The G20 should establish a “Technology 20” initiative that brings together key players from both the private and public sectors to serve as a hub for technology and policy discussions, to speed up innovation. The example of hydrogen shows how adopting clean technologies can help move towards a low-carbon economy, but its widespread adoption faces challenges that cannot be solved by either sector alone. Governments promoting clean hydrogen should increase innovation investment, bring stakeholders across the supply chain, and work together to overcome first-mover risks, strategic barriers, and opportunities and When adopting clean hydrogen, nations and regions must conduct comprehensive analysis and planning, considering the long-term impacts of policy decisions. It is essential to assess their position in the clean hydrogen market from geopolitical and market perspectives, as well as identify infrastructure limitations and financial gaps in specific markets and applications. The synchronization of infrastructure investments with supply and demand growth will be crucial but challenging. Closing the price gap between clean and fossil-based hydrogen will require policy interventions, such as implementing clean hydrogen standards and carbon pricing. Those who invest in producing carbon-free hydrogen should be appropriately recognized. This will require developing principles, best practices, and standards for secure blockchain platforms that are supported by key stakeholders, as well as educating stakeholders about blockchain technology. To speed up the adoption of clean hydrogen and enable global trade, nations, and regions should implement policies that align with the market and establish production and safety standards.

Author(s) Name: Arjun Maheshwari and Samarth Varshney (Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University)