Financing institutions and governments must step up efforts to finance, subsidize and remove bottle necks to the conversion of fossil fuel energy into clean, green energy. It will also help secure clean-energy and make it affordable for industry as well as individual consumers.
By Geeta Dash
Life is not possible without hydrogen. But this vital element was discovered not long ago, in the year 1766, by Henry Cavendish who named it as ‘Inflammable Air’ – a colourless, odourless, tasteless, non-toxic and highly combustible element. Although about 90 per cent of the universe is believed to be made up of Hydrogen, it’s availability is only about 10 per cent of all the elements in the earth.
Unlike nitrogen or oxygen that are found in the earth’s atmosphere, hydrogen is not available freely. It exists as a part of water or hydrocarbons among its other forms. The physical and chemical characteristics of hydrogen have made it a very good energy source in powering the internal combustion engines since past 200 years and has been extensively used mostly in oil refineries and fertilizer industries. It meets the present day demand for clean, pollution-free fuel for use in the transportation, construction and power generation sectors.
Green hydrogen is however not produced from fossil fuels; but by electrolysis of water using electricity from renewable sources like nuclear power, solar power, wind power, hydropower, tidal and geothermal powers. Water is split into hydrogen and oxygen, where oxygen is released to the atmosphere whereas green hydrogen is trapped to produce energy. When hydrogen is burnt, it produces water, which is not as harmless as the carbon-laden smoke that petrol or diesel consuming engines produce – which is why this is called green.
There has been extensive use of fossil fuels for power generation world-wide after the pre-industrial period (year 1850-1900) that pollutes the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses, leading to global warming and the consequential climate change; threatening the very existence of life on earth. Since power generation, storage, transportation and distribution from various renewable sources is very costly and needs high-investment, industries in today’s highly competitive market are dependent on fossil fuels. Governments across the world are subsidising over 85 per cent of the global power generated from fossil fuels.
Confining global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period demands changing the ongoing power generation from greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels to the clean power generation technologies from renewable energy sources. The UN, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) have recommended implementable action plans for ensuring a ‘Green Hydrogen Ecosystem’ by achieving ‘Net-Zero’ gas power generation between the years 2030 to 2050. Green Hydrogen, in particular, has a big role in helping the world attain net-zero by 2050.
SouthAsian countries have tremendous potential for producing renewable, clean, green energy by utilizing hydro resources, solar power, wind mills, tidal and geothermal power; which can substitute and gradually phase out the conventional fossil fuel based power generation. Because of the huge gap between the energy produced and the energy demands in the region, the IEA, IRENA, governments of the regional countries and financing institutions are working to discourage further installation of fossil-fuel based electricity production units, thus encouraging the production of green hydrogen which can be stored, transported and distributed to the industrial and individual consumers at large, even in remote and inaccessible areas.
The advantages in favour of Cross Border Energy Trade (CBET) in SouthAsia is that, except Maldives and Sri Lanka, all other countries have land-transportation facilities and cross border connections. Maldives and Sri Lanka are also not far away, in the sea. They can easily import and export electricity or green hydrogen at reasonable costs. India, which has already been generating about 20 per cent of world’s clean renewable energy can contribute to regional energy trade.
India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), National Hydro Electric Power Corporation (NHPC), North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) and many other power grid companies can take care of the present and future transmission. The SouthAsian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), USAID’s South Asia Regional Initiatives for Energy Integration (SARI / EI), The World Bank, Asian Development Bank, etc are financing and facilitating net-zero gas power generation.
Space for CSOs
The Indian government has already established big power grids and is working towards production of renewable clean energy by 2035, with substantial surplus energy for exporting across the border to other SouthAsian Countries and through pipeline or shipment to Sri Lanka and Maldives. There have already been bilateral agreements and further negotiations will continue with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh for cross-border export and import of renewable energy and green hydrogen.
But as renewable energy production projects are yet to come up in a big way and the cost of production of green hydrogen and its storage and distribution is almost four times more than that of the fossil based power, financing institutions and governments must step up efforts to finance, subsidize and remove the bottle necks to the conversion of fossil fuel energy into clean green energy. It will also help in securing clean-energy and also make it affordable for industry as well as individual consumers, requiring electricity for agriculture, cottage industry, transport, housing, etc.
Research and development structures across SouthAsia and NGOs working in the energy sector should help in identifying the specific energy starving areas as well as the areas having renewable energy potential. Green hydrogen production, storage, transportation and distribution facilities can be set up in such areas.
Civil society organisations working for carbon-free ecosystem and clean-energy sector have also a role to play to popularize the use of the alternative renewable energy, discarding the conventional fossil based energy and also to facilitate hassle free cross-border energy trade. This would help all the stake holders to enjoy economic benefit as well as a pollution free atmosphere for getting clean air to breathe.
Geeta Dash is a recipient of ‘Media Fellowship’ from NTPC School of Business, under the ‘Think-Tank Project’ funded by USAID for the SARI/EI project, currently being implemented by IRADe.
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