“Prime Minister, while speaking at the 3rd RE-Invest Conference in November 2020, had announced plans to launch a comprehensive National Hydrogen Energy Mission. It is now proposed to launch a Hydrogen Energy Mission in 2021-22 for generating hydrogen from green power sources.” 
– Nirmala Sitharaman,
Finance Minister India,
Budget speech 2021-22
Since early 2020, the world had to concentrate all its resources towards fighting a war with a global pandemic caused by the novel Coronavirus. This virus shocked the world, especially when it was in a major transition phase of shifting from non-renewable resources of energy to renewable and climate friendly sources. Economies had just started to thoroughly focus and heavily invest in developing nature-friendly ways to fulfil their energy demands, in the midst of which this epidemic caused a major economic meltdown, across the globe; thereby causing a hiatus on all such projects. Nonetheless, in the second year of this global crisis, the world is struggling to come to terms with the economic slow-down and sincere efforts are being made to allow the economies to continue their efforts towards addressing climate change.
Climate change is a serious threat to mankind and needs to be addressed at war footing; after all, it is an established fact that “many of the root causes of climate change also increase the risk of pandemics” . In order to prevent further deterioration of the environment, we need to adopt sustainable practices. Hydrogen has recently emerged as a promisable solution to address the climate change woes of the energy sector because of its high energy density and versatility. Hydrogen economy is one such solution which could help us develop a cleaner and greener economy. Thus, Hydrogen has been termed as “the fuel of the future”. Therefore, this blog is taken as an opportunity to highlight the status quo regarding climate change in India, Compliance towards pro-environment policies, and strategies adopted by India and various other countries towards development of an eco-friendly economy, wherein hydrogen plays an immensely important role.
Global warming and the resultant climate change are amongst the major and most persistent issues faced by the international community. The phenomenon of Global Warming was observed around late 1960s, with the increasing sea levels  and garnered the attention of countries across the world. These economies shared common concerns on the subject and came together to address it, eventually resulting into several conventions, treaties and agreements on ‘climate change’. The callous misuse of non-renewable sources of energy like coal and fossil fuel, came to be internationally accepted as one of the major sources of climate change, especially as it causes immense amounts of “notorious emissions” which contribute significantly in raising the Earth’s temperature ; thereby raising a collective demand for their replacement with renewable and climate friendly sources of energy.
In 1991, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed,  which recognised “Energy Sector” as a “major player in carbon emissions” and aimed at developing a mechanism “to curb these carbon emissions.” Following the internationally hailed solutions for reducing carbon emissions, countries around the world have successively made legislations to encourage the development and utilization of renewable energy,  like solar, wind, hydropower, natural gas, nuclear energy and so on. It was in this background and sequence of events that around 30 years ago, scientists proposed the use of Hydrogen energy as a solution to global energy and environmental problems.  Researchers observed that combustion of hydrogen only produces water,  and therefore Hydrogen came to be seen as an appreciable solution for both climate change as well as our ‘energy’ concerns.
Recently, in the Annual Budget speech of 2021-2022, Government of India proposed a Comprehensive National Hydrogen Energy Mission 2021-22 wherein the government aims to draw a road map for using ‘Hydrogen’, which is one of the most abundant elements on earth, as a ‘green’ energy source.
Coronavirus and Climate Change
Harvard research has established that “people who live in places with poor air quality are more likely to die from COVID-19 even when accounting for other factors that may influence risk of death such as pre-existing medical conditions, socio-economic status, and access to healthcare” . This and similar other studies have established a direct link between death rates from COVID-19 and other diseases; with “long-term exposure to fine particulate matter” . The only articulate conclusion from such researches is – the world is standing on a ticking time bomb of ‘Climate Change’. ‘Climate Change’ has emerged as one of the most dreadful consequence of what was termed as “development”, arguably, by the first world. The need to restore the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere and climate, to the best extent possible, can no more be treated as a ‘dream we dare to achieve’; it is now the only option in case our civilization wishes to survive on the planet. Climate Change has to be addressed at a war footing which stands at par with the war footing with which countries are fighting COVID-19. Going further in the blog, we shall see the steps India has taken until now, to address the impugned concern.
India and Climate change
India owing to her location and primarily being an agricultural state, is amongst one of the countries more susceptible to the harmful effects of climate change. She has been facing the ill effects of climate change since the 1980s- the most crucial one being air pollution. In order to address this problem, the government has introduced the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) that aims to monitor and enforce rules adopted to combat air pollution.  So far, the results have not been satisfactory and the deadline for stringent enforcement of the rules has been pushed to 2022, but looking at ongoing Covid crisis, it seems that this deadline would be pushed further.
Our country is a major player at various international fora working to fight climate change. We have set out targets as per the Paris Agreement, known as “Nationally Determined Contribution,” aimed at reducing the emission intensity of the Indian economy, as a whole; encouraging the usage of non-fossil fuels for power generation, while also developing additional carbon sinks by afforestation. According to the analysis of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the country over the period between years 2000-2018, has taken such significant steps in the area of energy efficiency that it has been able to avoid an additional 15% of the annual energy demand as well as 300 million tonnes of CO2. 
It is imperative to understand that as a developing nation, India continuously oscillates between the constant need for development and that for maintaining low standards of emission. This mandates substantive studies with focus on empirical data, at the R&D phase, in order to understand the need of the hour to ensure an effective action plan, and its implementation with maximum efficiency.
Even though, as discussed above, by 1991 (by the UNFCCC), there was enough evidence to conclude that the ‘energy sector’ was the highest contributor of the notorious carbon emissions internationally; empirical studies were also undertaken for India, which affirmed that the same stood true in Indian context as well. Parikh and Gokaran , who are credited with one of the earliest empirical researches on “emissions” in India, established that, “direct emissions of CO2 are highest in the electricity sector followed by iron and steel, road and air transport, and coal tar.” Such conclusions emphasised that India needed to make commendable changes in her energy sector; and India has been undertaking various steps in the direction of increasing the usage of climate-friendly energy resources.
India is also a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol  and has even ratified the second commitment of the Protocol in 2017 . In furtherance to her ratification, she has enacted various domestic laws to fulfil her obligations under both, the international covenants as well as her domestic directives. As a measure of being conscious about the environment whilst carrying on the development activities, she has done various experiments some of which like CSR, LPG, and even Solar Energy, amongst others, have been successful. India has made significant strides in meeting the goals set out by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals viz.- SDG 7 which aims to provide affordable and clean energy. Even though the total CO2 emissions continue to rise, the emission intensities in India have decreased by more than 20% over the last 10 years. It has been observed that India’s per capita emission today is 1.6 tonnes of CO2, which is well below the global average of 4.4 tonnes. 
It is estimated that by 2040, India’s energy demand could be doubled owing to increased use of electric appliances and cooling devices. It is crucial therefore, that we raise the bar on our energy efficiency ambition. By doing so, we could be saving USD 190 billion a year in energy imports. It is also remarkable to see the progress our country is making towards its target of 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. The target is to reach 450 GW of renewable energy which can be done once we strive to improve the auctions, location system value and aim towards grid expansion. 
Towards an ‘Atmanirbhar’ Power Sector
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Atmanirbhar Bharat Project in early 2020 and the energy sector has been at focus for this scheme of self-reliance. Many of the earlier ongoing policies and projects have been appropriately modified in accordance with the plan of self-reliance. Experts like Rajinder Kaura suggest that, “As India moves towards a new paradigm of ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat, our energy security is a key component of this new resolve.”  To effectively pursue the aim of self-reliance, India needs effective policy decisions, adequate funds and correct implementation of the policies. The national initiative on climate change i.e. the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC or National Action Plan), has been prepared by the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change in 2008 with focus on the principle of sustainable development. Government of India has undertaken various Missions, following the principles laid down under NAPCC, for example, the National Solar Mission, which sets out expansion of solar energy as a key mission to reduce emissions ; the National Mission for a Green India, which is broader and seeks to increase forest cover and support the promotion of climate-conscious efforts. Wind energy is declared to be the largest source of renewable energy in India. 
As India prepares to become self-reliant and a world-leader in the renewable sector, she faces major budgetary concerns. The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as introduced by the Companies Act, 2013, comes to a great assistance. An organisation named “Samhita” with support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) released a report stating that Indian companies spend only 6% of their CSR fund on clean energy.  It also highlights that CSR activities in the education, sanitation, livelihood sectors has seen a boom since 2013, but the participation in clean energy and energy access remains marginal. Priya Naik, founder and CEO of Samhita states: “Energy is a catalyst for all other kinds of development. All livelihood opportunities seize when there is lack of access to clean and efficient energy.”  However, companies have now started to diversify their CSR funds into renewable energy, based on the concept of “right to clean energy.” For example, Sasken, a Singapore-based company, with the help of inverter-less solar DC technology, powered the village of Belagavadi in Karnataka; HAL has also provided solar streetlights and solar water heaters in certain villages of South India as part of their CSR activities. 
In order for India to reach its target of adding 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 as well as its long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, it needs to tap into CSR funds for the purpose of building a robust, clean energy ecosystem and fight against climate change. Recently, in the annual budget for 2021-2022, the Ministry of Finance, in line with the Atmanirbhar Bharat project, to encourage domestic production, announced a raise of custom duty on imports of solar inverters and lanterns from 5% each to 20% and 15% respectively. Tripathi and Gupta , however, argue that “While the increase in customs duties may help to bring about Aatmanirbhar Bharat [the self-sufficient India project], it may also cause substantial cost overruns in ongoing project”. The argument holds merit, nonetheless, given the market space that might be created because of this raised custom duty, we can hope and expect the domestic producers, to be able to give an alternative at the earliest.
The Ministry has said that, “the country’s renewable power installed capacity has already reached over 70 Gigawatt (GW) and over 40 GW of renewable capacity is under construction or has been tendered.  The country is poised to achieve 225 GW renewable energy capacity addition by March 2022, as against the current target of 175 GW. There are plans to double wind power generation capacity up to 60 GW by 2022.  Also, India plans to raise the solar power generation capacity to 100 GW by 2022. This is about five times the present solar power generation capacity.”  It is clear that the government is focusing on establishing a comprehensive energy policy which can meet the demands of our ambitious economy whilst also meeting the demands of the globe about reducing emissions and using environment-friendly technology. On these lines of trying to continuously progress with sustainable and renewable energy, India has recently announced its plans to proceed with “National Hydrogen Mission”.
National Hydrogen Mission: Stepping Stones to a Hydrogen Economy?
Renewable, clean, efficient and non-toxic – hydrogen power seems to be the perfect form of sustainable energy.
In the Annual Budget Speech for 2021-2022, the Finance Minister of India – Nirmala Sitharaman introduced the National Hydrogen Mission, aimed at generating green hydrogen-based energy thereby facilitating the Ministry of Power’s commitment of “retiring the coal-fired thermal power plants” and replacing them for renewable power generation. Hydrogen being an abundant element in nature, can be placed at a pedestal similar to that of solar and wind energy, in matters of abundance as well as in matter of non-production of “notorious emissions” when combusted. So far, we know that combustion of Hydrogen will only produce water , thereby making it one of the safest (especially with respect to environment) resources available to mankind. The proposed National Hydrogen Energy Mission aims to lay down a strategic plan so as to facilitate the initiation of research and development which would further pave the way for actual implementation of usage of Hydrogen as an energy resource. The aforementioned proposed mission would essentially consist of the Government’s ‘vision, intent, and direction’ to approach hydrogen as a form of energy alongside suggesting the necessary schemes and strategies for the realisation of this goal. This shall be done in the form of short-term (four years) and long-term goals (ten years and above) where, in the former, the mission would put forth explicit strategies, and in the latter, the mission would lay down broad strokes principles.  It has also been specified that the Government of India will “facilitate demand creation in identified segments. Possible areas include suitable mandates for use of green hydrogen in the industry such as fertiliser, steel, petrochemicals, etc. Major activities envisaged under the Mission include creating volumes and infrastructure; demonstrations in niche applications (including for transport, industry); goal-oriented Research & Development; facilitative policy support; and putting in place a robust framework for standards and regulations for hydrogen technologies“. 
Further, it has been intimated that the Government shall assist in creating demand in specific and probable realms, such as the development of ‘suitable mandates’ to employ renewable hydrogen in the sector. In finality, the mission has envisaged certain ‘prime activities’ –– the creation of ‘volumes and infrastructures;’ ‘demonstrations in niche applications (includes transport, industry);’ changing the approach of R&D by making it into goal-oriented; ‘facilitative policy support;’ and placement of sturdy framework for the development of ‘standards and regulations’ for technologies that shall be employing hydrogen.  This mission shall be utilised for the purpose of the generation of hydrogen from renewable sources of power. Nonetheless, usage of Hydrogen as a resource has some concerns for e.g. it is important to note that Hydrogen, though copiously available, is an element that is not easily accessible and must first be extracted, to be able to be used for power generation. However, as on date, there is a shortage of available technology to further the extraction process.  It was intimated by the Finance Ministry that the concerned “draft mission document” has already undergone the requisite process of consultation, due to which, finalisation of the same is expected soon. After this finalisation, this document shall be put through the consultation and approval process of the inter-ministries and the Cabinet, respectively.  Though we might expect some slowing down of the R&D and the procedure thereafter owing to deadly Coronavirus, a considerable and constant progress seems on the charts.
Experiments with Hydrogen Energy around the Globe
Whilst undertaking a new project and understanding its scope and limitations, it is advisable to study similar experiments which have been conducted in the past so as to get some familiarity with the workings of the project. On these lines, we must screen the ways in which hydrogen has been utilised across the global landscape.
In the present times, various States such as U.K., Germany, and Japan are attempting to observe whether greenhouse and other harmful emissions can be reduced through hydrogen energy employment.
(i) U.S.A. is a prominent advocate of hydrogen energy and states that, in coalition with “major oil & gas, power, automotive, fuel cell, and hydrogen companies” , it has come up with a “Road Map to a US Hydrogen Economy.” NASA claims to have begun using liquid hydrogen as a rocket fuel, since the 1950s. US has already taken a lead in manufacturing and using hydrogen as a fuel, as well as hydrogen fuel cells and is not facing a “refuelling challenge” whereby it is trying to build refuelling stations for “hydrogen-fuelled vehicles” . US actively promotes the development, growth, and progress of hydrogen energy,  however, it is yet to, to shift from a ‘fossil energy economy’ to a ‘hydrogen energy economy’. It has nonetheless, launched “large–scale scientific research programs.” 
(ii) China is said to “lead the world in hydrogen production” which is nearly one-third of the global productions and fulfils one-tenth of its energy needs . It safe for us to infer that it would be an essential player to accelerate the development and industrial application of Hydrogen Energy as this energy has already been made a part of its 2016-2030 Plan on ‘Energy Technology Revolution and Innovation Action’. 
(iii) Japan– According to the International Energy Agency, “Japan is the country with highest goals for fuel cars” and the government has announced a “zero emissions goal” for 2050.  In 2014, Japan released a ‘Strategic Roadmap for Hydrogen Energy and Fuel Cells’ that essentially illuminated that the Government shall be utilising Hydrogen energy in its three-step phase on development goals for 2025, 2030 and 2040;  and in 2017, it released a document called the ‘Hydrogen Energy Basic Strategy’ that essentially elucidated the particular and fixed development goals for supply and utilisation of Hydrogen energy alongside the plans of the Government to wholly popularise vehicles powered by fuel cell by 2050. 
(iv) European Union– EU has aimed to boost the proportion of this energy in its energy structure from twelve percent to fourteen percent by 2050 alongside a massive investment of 180-470 billion euros. Further, it has also launched an alliance called the ‘European Clean Hydrogen Alliance’ as a component of its latest industrial strategy.  Cost-effectiveness is a major research question with the EU as it accelerates the research on “clean hydrogen produced with renewable electricity” which cause zero-emissions; versus “hydrogen produced from natural gas” .
(v) France– The ‘French Future Energy Plan’, aims to prioritise the promotion of this energy’s supply in the economy to lay a robust foundation for boosting its demand  wherein, by 2030, it also seeks to attain the “production capacity of 6,00,000 tons” of renewable hydrogen.  Germany – Germany has notified the ‘National Hydrogen Energy Strategy Plan’  intending to have capital investments worth nine billion euros in this energy sector by 2030. 
(vi) Spain– Spanish Government has developed “Hydrogen Roadmap: A commitment to Renewable Hydrogen” which aims to achieve 100% renewable electricity system by 2030 and aiming to ensure the contribution of hydrogen to country’s climate neutrality goals 2050, by 2050. Iberdrola, a Spanish MNC, plans to soon commence with building Europe’s largest industrial green hydrogen plant in Madrid – through electrolysis for converting renewable energy into hydrogen fuel. 
There seems to be an international consensus towards focusing on hydrogen as the next super-source of renewable energy. However, there seems to be a divide with respect to the procedure that must be used for its extraction – electrolysis (causes zero-emissions) or natural gas (cost effective). Since the aim of countries is to fight the climate change, it seems more viable to choose an option which serves the purpose to the extent possible.
Conclusion: Rising Efficiencies
The world is fighting a pandemic which is said to be comparable, and to some extent, even a cause of the problem of climate change. In the present times, all citizens of our planet, are witnesses to the horrors caused by climate change. It is of utmost importance, that climate change be stopped and due importance be given to the usage of only renewable resources which can help reduce pollution, cut down on the animal migration caused by activities like deforestation, and continue the development activities without causing emissions harmful to the environment. Countries now should, and do, aim at becoming “Green economies” so as to ensure human sustenance on the planet. Resources like sun and wind, which have been used as Solar energy and Wind energy respectively, have solidified the hope from renewable resources of energy and policies are been made to find and appropriately use more and more renewable resources. Hydrogen is the latest addition to the list of renewable energy resources of the world and Hydrogen Energy is one of the most recently evolving and rising stars of the green energy movement.  Modern technology relating to hydrogen has continued to grow by leaps and bounds in recent times- the year 2019 we saw a record-breaking growth in the development of electrolysis capacity.  Experts all around the world concur that for the establishment of a hydrogen economy, the onus lies on the government to make investments in green projects and technologies.  It is pertinent that we invest in hydrogen production and distribution infrastructure apart from renewable power projects. Public sector company Indian Oil Corporation has taken a welcome step in this direction wherein it plans to sell hydrogen-producing units at its plants to private sector entities.  The Indian government has also started an initiative towards a green and clean economy-the National Hydrogen Mission which initially aims at research and development for setting up of this technology. Although the NHM is at a very nascent stage in India, it seems to be a great initiative which can ease State’s continuous oscillations between being climate–conscious and undertaking development activities, simultaneously. We can also learn from the experiences of various other countries in this particular sector and make this planet greener and cleaner.
India is working continuously towards shifting its energy resources to the renewable ones and would certainly gain a place as world leader in its research and usage, however, we still have a long distance to go before we can declare ourselves as a green economy.
About the Author
Gauraan Bhardwaj is a Lawyer at the Supreme Court of India and an alumnus of UCL.
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Preferred Method of Citation
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