India: how the world’s most populous country will use renewable hydrogen

22 March, 2024

India is now officially the world’s most populous country. In 2023, it reached 1.428 billion people, surpassing China (1.425 billion). A giant that, by 2030, could become the third largest economy on the planet, behind China and the United States. In addition to its growth targets, it has also set itself the goal of leading the way in the production of renewable hydrogen and become a global benchmark in this energy vector. 

Currently, most of the fossil fuels consumed in this country are imported. Therefore, seeking alternatives to diversify and secure their energy supply chains is a vital aspect, both for the sustainability of its economy and to meet the decarbonisation targets (India is one of the world’s largest emitters of CO2).

India aims to produce 80% green hydrogen by 2050

Although this nation ranks third in the world in hydrogen consumption, most of it is grey hydrogen, which is produced by reforming natural gas without capturing CO2. This hydrogen is mainly used in fertiliser plants and refineries.

What is India’s plan regarding renewable hydrogen?

In order to decarbonise its economy, India has been working on a major challenge in recent years:to make 80% of the hydrogen it produces green by 2050. And by 2070 it aims to achieve carbon neutrality. The development of the green hydrogen industry would enable it to significantly reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports.

A major challenge that has already begun to take shape. India has committed record investment in renewable energy, with an increase of 83%, or up to USD 16.5 billion.

This has resulted in a significant addition of 25 gigawatts (GW) of renewable installed capacity. The country has also identified three major ports (Deendayal, Paradip and Chidambaranar) to be developed as hydrogen hubs.

With a projected installed renewable power capacity – excluding large-scale hydro – of around 170 GW by March 2025, over 16 GW of projects tendered so far and another 17 GW in the pipeline through central agencies, India is poised to take a leading position in the global energy transition over the next few years.

In addition, the country’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA) estimates that by 2030 there will be 292 GW of installed solar PV capacity and 100 GW of installed wind power capacity in India. Moreover, India aims to export 70% of its green hydrogen production within six years, and is therefore forging international alliances with countries such as Germany and Japan.

What is India’s National Green Hydrogen Mission?

The National Green Hydrogen Mission, launched in 2023 with an investment of 2.2 billion euros, is an initiative to make India one of the world’s major powers in the production, use and export of this energy vector. It aims to achieve energy independence and meet decarbonisation targets. 

The 2030 target is to produce up to 5 million metric tonnes of renewable hydrogen annually through ambitious investment policies and technological breakthroughs, especially in the areas of renewable energy and battery storage. Another challenge is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 million metric tonnes per year, also by 2030.

India aims to produce up to 5 million metric tonnes of renewable hydrogen annually by 2030

While the renewable hydrogen production industry is still at an early stage of development, with pilot plants and production costs and electrolysers still to be optimised, the main hubs for hydrogen project development have already been identified. The most important will be located in the regions of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.

Estimates suggest India’s demand for hydrogen could quadruple by 2050, from 6-8 million tonnes today to around 30 million metric tonnes. The main drivers of this growth would be the steel and heavy transport sectors.

The fact that a powerhouse of India’s size and economic scope is firmly committed to clean energies such as hydrogen is good news for the energy transition. It is also a fine example of how economic and demographic development is compatible with decarbonisation and environmental goals.