Green Hydrogen Plans: Strategies for a sustainable future

In India, green hydrogen is emerging as a transformative and promising industry, marking a critical step towards achieving sustainable and clean energy objectives. This segment has attracted significant attention as India strives to minimise its carbon footprint. Green hydrogen provides several opportunities for sector coupling and energy storage solutions. However, several challenges must be addressed, including high production costs, the need for infrastructure expansion and scaling up of production to meet the rising demand. Overcoming these obstacles is essential for the widespread adoption of green hydrogen. In this context, a panel of senior experts from top renewable energy companies shared their plans for green hydrogen development at Renewable Watch’s conference on “Green Hydrogen in India”. Edited excerpts…

Murtuza Kakuji, Senior Vice-President, Avaada Group

Murtuza Kakuji

The Avaada Group currently has an operational capacity of more than 4 GW with 3 GW of projects in the development stage. We aspire to reach 11 GW by 2025-26 and roughly 30 GW by 2030. We have made investments in the solar model manufacturing space as well. Moreover, we are now keenly exploring the green hydrogen segment. In this regard, the company has re­cei­ved approval for a project in Odisha, where we have been assigned land at one of the port locations. Moreover, we are at advanced stages of discussion with various states for developing our green hydrogen and green ammonia projects. To ensure adequate funds for executing these projects, we recently raised $1.3 billion.

We are aiming for an offtake agreement with a target of roughly 4 million tonnes per annum by 2026-27. For this, we are seeking land closer to ports, which currently makes more economic sense. I also believe that the market for green hydrogen in India is still at a nascent stage and the demand may not fully mature even by 2025-26 unless we have certain regulations in place. Thus, we are looking primarily for offtake agreements in the Global North, where we see significant traction. We are also focusing on the Indian market, monitoring it very closely because fertiliser consumption in the country is very high and the fertiliser industry deman­ds substantial incentives for making fertilisers affordable for farmers. This presents an immense opportunity for green hydrogen absorption. With the right incentives, India could become a hub for green hydrogen and green ammonia production.

There are certain key areas that require attention going forward. While financial and policy incentives have been anno­un­ced at the central level, aligning them with the needs of each state will be crucial. Moreover, building adequate manpower to ensure that we have the right people for the future, whether it is for el­ectrolyser manufacturing or other re­se­­arch and development endeavours, will be essential. We are also actively pu­rsu­ing global partnerships and technology transfer. The Paris Agreement emphasises bridging the gap between the Global North and Global South. We are looking at partnerships not only from a technical perspective but also for funding partnerships, which would play a key role in shaping India’s green hydrogen story over the coming years.

“While financial and policy incentives have been announced at the central level, aligning them with the needs of each state will be crucial.” Murtuza Kakuji

Kapil Maheswari

Kapil Maheswari, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Welspun New Energy

The Welspun Group seeks to create a platform for both renewable energy and hydrogen. Although Welspun Energy was the largest developer in the past and one of the first to achieve a gigawatt-scale por­tfolio, that capacity was divested to Tata Power in 2016. However, we aim to remain a significant player.

India has recently announced the Natio­nal Green Hydrogen Mission, whi­ch is more detailed than the policy annou­nced in February 2021. States are coming up with incentives and promising policies to complement the Centre’s efforts. India offers an inherent benefit, ready ports and infrastructure thanks to its maritime line. Like most developers, we are also identifying land at ports that are capable of handling hydrogen and its derivatives. While many of these ports are identified by the Gov­ernment of India, others are not.

India also has the land to achieve the required scale of 125-200 GW to achieve the target of 5 million tonnes of hydrogen. We have a competitive advantage over several countries as many countries have no experience in developing giga­watt-scale projects in a year. Over the past few years, we have built an ecosystem with a capacity to deliver 15-20 GW of renewable energy every year. We have access to skilled and semi-skilled manpower as well as project financers offering strategic capital to invest in these projects. Many countries are looking to import green hydrogen from India at the most competitive prices because we are positioned to produce hydrogen at one of the lowest global costs.

The first phase of green hydrogen development in India will focus on exports. The demand centres will be Japan, Korea and Singapore in the Asian region, as well as the European Union. While incentives in the US provide a cost of $3 per kg, their grid may not have the capacity to meet such heavy global demand. Thus, now is the time for India to place itself on the global map as a leader in green hydrogen and its derivatives.

“Now is the time for India to place itself on the global map as a leader in green hydrogen and its derivatives.” Kapil Maheswar

Arnava Sinha, Vice-President New Energy Business, Greenko Group

Arnava Sinha

Greenko has a total portfolio of about 7.3 GW. Over the past few years, the company has invested almost exclusively on solving the renewable energy intermittency problem by coming up with pumped hydro storage projects. It is crucial for providing round-the-clock green power and paves the way for entering into the green molecules business.

For green hydrogen, two basic raw materials are essential. One is renewable power, ideally round-the-clock power, which we believe we can offer at the lowest rates in the world. The second one is electrolysers. India lacks the second raw material. To address this, we have form­ed a joint venture with John Cockrell, a Bel­gian company, which is one of the largest electrolyser manufacturers in the world. Together, we are setting up a 2 GW factory in India, with the aim to start assembling electrolysers by the middle of next year and eventually establish the complete factory by the beginning of 2025.

Green hydrogen presents diverse opportunities that can be categorised separately. First, in terms of green hydrogen projects, we are looking at pure hydrogen projects in consumption centres such as refineries. We recently won In­dia’s first commercial-scale green hydrogen tender for the Numaligarh refinery in Assam. It is a 20 MW green hydrogen EPC project. Construction is under way and it is expected to be completed by mid-2025. Second, green hydrogen will also play a huge role in the mobility sector, both in terms of railways as well as land mobility vehicles.

Green ammonia is another focus area, primarily for exports to Europe and As­ia. We have signed offtake agreements, such as with Uniper, which has agreed to offtake 250,000 tonnes per annum of green ammonia starting early 2026. Similar ag­reements with several other European play­ers are in final stages. In Asia, we have signed MoUs with Keppel Infrastruc­tu­re and POSCO. We have 4 million ton­n­es of green ammonia projects in our pi­pe­line for the next five years or so. There are different pathways to achieving that. One could be simply converting brownfield projects, and another could be developing greenfield projects. At present, we are looking at existing primary port locations with established ammonia handling experience. We are also looking into the ex­pan­sion of the green hydrogen business beyond India’s borders. While this has not commenced yet, we do have plans in the pipeline.

Going forward, keeping the infrastructure risk on the infrastructure side and the commodity risk on the commodity side will be helpful. We are designing our architecture keeping this in mind. Nota­bly, we are also partnering with some of our earlier competitors. Today, competitors have become friends and I believe that is the way to go to address the challenges presented by this industry.

“Today, competitors have become friends and I believe that is the way to go to address the challenges presented by this industry.” Arnava Sinha