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Green Hydrogen - The Ultimate Solution Or A Risky Bet?

What is Green Hydrogen?


Hydrogen is gaining focus for being a clean fuel i.e. it does not create non-usable byproducts while burning as coal and petroleum do. Earlier it was reserved as a fuel only for rockets because of its massive energy but now it is being considered for domestic use as well. In January this year, Mukesh Ambani pledged a massive $ 80 billion investment in renewables, hydrogen and related sectors. Similarly Gautam Adani deliberated on investing $70 billion on renewables. Ambani announced an an ambitious scheme of hydrogen plants that would reduce the price of Green hydrogen from $3/kilo to just $1/kilo. Hydrogen colour is decided by the mode of manufacturing, hydrogen produced by steam reforming is grey, through gasification and carbon capture is called blue, through pyrolysis of methane is called turquoise and the most favourable is green hydrogen made through renewable electrolysis. Green hydrogen was discussed in the COP26 and most people are convinced that it is the best source of energy. This can be stored and later burned to produce high-intensity energy for steel smelting, cement making, shipping and airlines. It is being promoted as the fuel for the future and the World Economic Forum has launched the Accelerating Green Hydrogen Initiative to spread awareness about it. The main advantages of Green Hydrogen are -


It is environmentally healthy as it is renewable and the initial raw material is also easily available.


This Green hydrogen can be converted into both heat and electricity and used flexibly on a domestic scale.


It has no carbon production and hence fights the greenhouse effect and climate change.


History of Hydrogen Usage


A hundred years ago, heavier than air aircraft was invented by the Wright brothers for two costly and fuel consumption to be viable and had a low passenger capacity. Since hydrogen was less dense than air, companies built huge hydrogen-filled steel airships requiring l energy for propulsion. These airships could carry about 100 people over a long distance but the fact that hydrogen is highly inflammatory was forgotten, even a slight spark could mean disaster. In 1937, the Hindenburg airship caught fire killing 36 people. Gory photos spread the message that these ships were unsafe and the industry collapsed never to revive. No matter how attractive green hydrogen is today, it is also dangerous and carries the risk of a total collapse.


 


The Green Hydrogen may just be a wave, like the nuclear energy was before the Fukushima power station tragedy in Japan. An earthquake in 2011 let the sea flood in, causing nuclear meltdowns, hydrogen explosions and large-scale radioactive leakage. Earthquake proofing has now made nuclear power two to three times as costly as fossil fuel-based power. Once projected as the greenest solution for decarbonization, nuclear power is now a niche solution. Technology changes so often and swiftly that no country can choose winners in advance. The classic story of the US President Obama's loan guarantee of $535 million Solyndra can prove it. The company came up with a new technology based on copper indium gallium selenide rather than conventional Silicon. The company promised to create thousands of jobs but alas the price of conventional silicon solar cells made in China plummeted making the Solyndra technology uneconomic and the company died.


Learning from these examples the governments should treat Green Hydrogen as an industrialist venture and refrain from over subsidising it. Conventional methods of saving the planet can be used by the government while simultaneously observing the status of these nascent ideas. If Green Hydrogen proves to be successful, only then should the government invest the taxpayers' hard-earned bucks in it.


 


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