Net Zero Ambitions: Kerala launches scheme for green hydrogen hubs

In line with India’s ambitious goal of attaining net zero by 2070, Kerala has been taking active measures to become carbon-neutral by 2050. Green hydrogen, in particular, has attracted the state’s fo­cus. In February 2023, the state presented its budget for the year, which incorporated several green initiatives to reduce the sta­te’s dependency on fossil fuels by 2040. The state budget announced a two-year roadmap for establishing green hydrogen hubs in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, with a budget outlay of Rs 2 billion.

The India Hydrogen Alliance (IH2A) and the Kerala government had jointly evaluated a proposal for building the Kochi green hydrogen hub in November 2022. At the time, the potential capital expenditure disclosed was around $575 million. Accor­d­ing to the official press release, the Kochi plant will have a capacity of 60 tonnes per day with a 150 MW electrolyser, storage and infrastructure hub, and could achieve GW-scale capacity. The plan was shared by IH2A and the Kerala government after a consultation meeting between the government, industry and funding agencies.

Another significant announcement made during the budget session was the establishment of an industrial park for electric vehicles (EVs). It will receive support from the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board. The EV consortium project inclu­d­es Travancore Titanium Products Limit­ed, the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, and Trivandrum Engineering Science and Technology (TrEST). It has been allocated Rs 250 million. In addition, a lab for testing EV drive trains will be built in the TrEST park in Kerala, and is expected to be op­e­rational by July 2023.

Recent plans and developments

Even before the launch of the scheme for green hydrogen hubs, the Kerala government was proactive in the green hydrogen space. At Kochi and Trivandrum, hydrogen fuelling stations have been planned by Indian Oil Corporation Limited and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL). Also, BPCL and Air Products are exploring low-carbon hydrogen production at their integrated renewable energy project located in Kochi. Further, fuel cell trains across the state are being planned. In Kerala, Travancore Cochin Chemicals is looking to produce hydrogen from its internal chemical processes to support local demand. In addition, Kerala is contemplating the development of floating solar and wind-to-hydrogen projects on a decentralised basis. Meanwhile, Cochin Shipyard Limited is working on ammonia projects, while Ashok Leyland, Bosch and IIT Madras are working on using methanol as an alternative to diesel, which will be helpful for the broader decarbonisation goals of the state.

Future outlook

According to the report “Kerala State Action Plan on Climate Change 2023 to 2030”, published by the Department of Environment, Kerala, in 2022, generating electricity from renewable sources and improving thermal power plant efficiency are the key indicators of the state government’s decarbonisation strategies. At present, the key implementation and nodal agencies, such as Kerala State Electricity Board Limited, the Agency for New and Renewable Energy Research and Techno­logy, the Energy Management Centre, NTPC and central ministerial departments monitor these indicators as part of their existing policies and programmes. How­ever, the majority of data required to evaluate the progress of climate change mitigation actions at the state level is not available from a single source. The disbursement of funds for power sector mitigation pro­jects also needs to be documented regularly.

Going forward, generating reports on the progress of the climate change action plans undertaken by each implementation agency needs to be made mandatory. Also, resource potential assessments and primary feasibility analysis for roof­top photovoltaics in all cities, floating so­lar at major irrigation canals, agrovol­tai­cs, and micro- or pico-hydro projects ne­ed to be initiated soon. Based on the re­por­ted data regarding renewables-based electricity generation, transmission and distribution losses, and the energy efficiency of thermal power plants, the actual degree of emission mitigation can be estimated.

The Ministry of New and Renewable En­e­rgy recently released a detailed document regarding its National Green Hydro­gen Mi­ss­ion. The overarching objective of the mi­ss­ion is to make India a global hub for the production, use and export of green hydrogen and its derivatives. The mission aims to build capabilities to produce at least 5 million metric tonnes (mmt) of green hydrogen per annum by 2030, with the potential to reach 10 mmt per annum with the growth of export markets. With the launch of the scheme for green hydrogen hubs, the Kerala government is poised to become a frontrunner state in India with respect to green hydrogen and its derivatives.

By Nikita Choubey