While India is well set to achieve its renewable energy target of 450 GW by 2030, there is still a consensus that more needs to be done to truly achieve energy security and still meet carbon goals. The Indian solar and wind markets have already matured, and the focus has now shifted to green hydrogen. This green fuel is produced through electrolysis of water using renewable power, and is expected to play a huge role in the next phase of the clean energy transition. With the Indian government offering its support to promote hydrogen-based technologies, Reliance Industries has announced plans to lead the push towards a hydrogen economy in the country. The company has partnered with US-based Chart Industries to form the India H2 Alliance, to take the hydrogen technology agenda forward. Speaking at the International Climate Summit 2021, Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director, Reliance Industries Limited, shared his views on the importance of investing in alternative fuels in light of the climate crisis. Renewable Watch presents an extract from his address….
Climate change and the transition to clean energy
In the address given by the Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 75th Independence Day, he launched the Green Hydrogen Mission for India. The fact that he chose this day to make this announcement sent a powerful message to both Indians and the rest of the world. In my view, the message is twofold; firstly, India is determined to achieve freedom from dependence on fossil energy and become atmanirbhar in new and renewable energy; and secondly, India will make its fullest contribution to the global effort in achieving the goals and target of climate action.
Climate change is undoubtedly the most daunting challenge facing human civilisation today. The world is witnessing the disastrous effects of global warming with alarming frequency. Glaciers are retreating, the mean sea level is rising, extreme and unpredictable weather changes are becoming regular, and ecological damage is becoming stark. Indeed, climate change, if uncontrolled, can threaten the very existence of life on our planet. Therefore, it may not be enough to make our economies carbon-neutral. The world needs to achieve an absolute reduction in emissions as soon as possible. We have only one option now – a rapid transition to a new era of green, clean, renewable energy. Climate change is a global problem, and the clean energy transition calls for the widest possible cooperation in global technology development, investments and fair market access.
While this clean energy transition is a global imperative, it is important to India for another reason. Most of our present energy demand is met by fossil fuels, costing us $160 billion every year. Although India’s per capita energy consumption and emissions are less than half the global average, the country is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Further, India’s energy needs will increase exponentially as our economic growth accelerates to fulfil the aspirations of a good quality of life for 1.38 billion people.
Both India and the world are facing an unprecedented challenge: how to increase our energy production while drastically reducing our carbon emission content? However, every challenge in human history has come with an opportunity to move to the next level of progress. Climate change is an opportunity for human civilisation to renew itself in the 21st century, and an opportunity to create a healthier, happier, and more secure and resilient future for humans.
The opportunity for civilisational renewal will be realised by new and renewable energy. If old energy created the problem of climate change, new energy will provide a reliable solution for climate mitigation. A new green revolution has already begun in India; the old green revolution made India self-reliant in food production, and the new one will make India self-reliant in energy production. It is a matter of great pride for all of us that India has now achieved the major milestone of 100 GW of installed renewable energy and consequently is one of the top three most attractive destinations for renewable energy.
The target of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by December 2022 is now well within sight. The entire world will applaud India’s singular achievement. Taking advantage of over 300 sunny days in a year, India can easily generate over 1,000 GW of solar energy with just 0.5 per cent of our land. Solar power is also perfectly suited to decentralise our energy production, which, in turn, can promote decentralised socio-economic development through investment in smart photovoltaic (PV) grids, microgrids, efficient storage solutions and smart meters. Through this, we can enable individuals, communities and neighbourhoods to become both consumers and producers of renewable energy. These installations can be located close to demand, have low maintenance requirements, and, most importantly, have little environmental impact and entail zero human displacement problems. The rapid fall in the cost of production has made solar energy highly competitive, attracting large-scale investments. This shall play a key role in ensuring similar growth trends in green hydrogen, the future replacer of fossil fuels.
Green hydrogen is a zero-carbon energy source. It is the best and cleanest source of energy and can play a fundamental role in the world’s decarbonisation plans. It is key to the evergreen, sustainable and prosperous future of everyone on the planet. Hydrogen also has a high gravimetric energy density and can be reconverted to electricity and heat with zero emissions. While the cost of generating hydrogen via electrolysis today is high, it is expected to fall significantly in the coming years. New technologies are also emerging for hydrogen storage and transportation, which will dramatically reduce the cost of distribution. Furthermore, the Government of India is planning to create an enabling green hydrogen ecosystem in the country. With these developments, green hydrogen will surely attract significant investments.
Vision of Reliance
Reliance Industries is fully committed to fuelling India’s green economy using clean energy. Last year, I announced our ambitious commitment to make Reliance a net zero company by 2025. This year I presented a strategy and road map for our new energy business, which will be the next big value creation engine for Reliance and India. We have started developing the Dhirubhai Ambani Green Energy Giga Complex over 5,000 acres in Jamnagar. It will be among the largest integrated renewable energy manufacturing facilities anywhere in the world. This complex will have four gigafactories, which will cover the entire spectrum of renewable energy. The first will be an integrated solar PV module factory, the second will be an advanced energy storage battery factory, the third will be an electrolysis factory for the production of green hydrogen, and the fourth will be a fuel cell factory for converting hydrogen into mobile and stationary power. Over the next three years, we will invest over Rs 750 billion in these initiatives. Reliance will thus create and offer a fully integrated end-to-end renewable energy ecosystem to India.
The prime minister has set a goal to reach 450 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030. Of this, Reliance will establish and enable at least 100 GW of solar energy by 2030. This will create a pan-India network of kW- and MW-scale solar energy producers who can produce green hydrogen for local consumption. This will bring enormous benefits and prosperity to rural India. Efforts are on, globally, to make green hydrogen the most affordable fuel by bringing down its cost to, initially, under $3 per kg. India and Reliance will aggressively pursue this target to achieve it well before the turn of this decade.
India has always achieved its more audacious and impossible goals. I am sure that India can set even more aggressive targets of achieving $1 per kg within a decade. This will make India the first country in the world to achieve $1 per kg of hydrogen in one decade – the 1-1-1 target for green hydrogen. India has achieved several goals that had seemed impossible earlier, and I am sure this 1-1-1 target for green hydrogen will also be achieved by talented young entrepreneurs, researchers and innovators. It will also give a big boost to green enterprises in India, which can proudly proclaim: made in India, by India, for India and the world. It will transform India from a large importer of fossil fuels to a large exporter of clean energy solutions. It will also bridge the green energy divide in India and the world.