A quarter of a century from now, Indians will be drawing their fuel and power differently. And, at the root of this change will be the array of alternative fuels India is investing in, while walking the tightrope on economic growth along with stemming emissions. The ubiquity and dominance of fossil fuels will be reduced significantly, if not phased out, paving the way for a new energy mix of renewables, green hydrogen (H2), natural gas and biofuels/biogas.
Currently, coal is the country’s top energy source with a share of 44%, followed by oil (24%) and biomass (22%). Natural gas accounts for 6% and primary electricity — hydro, nuclear, solar, wind — is at 4%.
Thus far, government policies have pushed growth in renewables — 100 GW installed capacity from less than 30 GW in 2016 — aiming for double-digit growth ahead. But the dream of a gas-based economy and becoming a green H2 hub is what the country is betting on the most to meet its its rising energy demand.
Currently, India needs 1,650 billion units of power from its 400 GW capacity, which is expected to see an over 10-fold rise when the economy touches $5-7 trillion. Gas, though a clean fuel, runs up the import bill. Alternatives like biogas are good but can’t satiate demand.
The answer lies in green hydrogen, the greenest vector of energy. With their 1-1-1 mantra — $1 for 1 kg of green hydrogen in one decade — Indian companies have vowed to become the largest and cheapest producers of the gas, pledging trillions of rupees in investments with more in the pipeline.
But green hydrogen is a fledgling source, facing its own challenges: The high cost, lack of skilled manpower, procurement of clean electricity to produce green hydrogen and competitiveness with other countries that are pursuing a similar ambition. Nevertheless, it’s expected to follow a growth trajectory of renewables, playing a key role in India aiming for energy independence by 2047.
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