New analysis from the University of Exeter-led EEIST project has found that grid-connected green hydrogen and ammonia can help India meet its growing energy demand and clean energy targets.

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Leading researchers from the University of Oxford are using pioneering economic modelling techniques to identify pathways for clean energy transitions in emerging economies. Their new paper – focused on India – finds that green hydrogen, and its product green ammonia, could make up roughly 25% of India’s electricity demand in 2050 by greening heavy industries such as steel, shipping, fertilisers, and oil refining. The model also predicts that a grid-connected green hydrogen system will result in a drastic reduction in costs for consumers: from $4-$5/kg for green hydrogen today to under $1/kg in 2050.

Currently in India, concerns regarding the reliability of energy supply and high connection charges deter industrial energy customers from connecting to the grid. If this continues, it will lead to ‘islanded’ green hydrogen and ammonia facilities that are not connected to the grid. Compared to the ‘island infrastructure’ option, a grid connection is better in terms of:

  • Security of supply; reducing the needs for imported energy and the amount of investment needed.
  • Affordability of electricity; reducing the need for high tariffs on industry energy users to pay for subsidies for residential and agricultural customers, giving industry a further boost.
  • System resilience; improved storage can increase the use of renewables, as energy can be produced and store to respond to changes in the weather.

Lead author of the report Zac Cesaro, University of Oxford, Department of Engineering Science, said:

“The unexpected findings of this study are the sheer magnitude of electrolysis and ammonia capacity needed in India, and the corresponding benefits which could be gained if these plants connect to the grid and operate dynamically. This opportunity will likely be missed unless there is policy intervention in the near term to steer towards this future configuration.”

Anupama Sen, Head of Policy Engagement for the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, said:

“Hydrogen can contribute to short-term grid balancing, and ammonia to long-term storage, helping to bring more solar and wind energy into the grid. By producing more green hydrogen and ammonia when there is lots of renewable energy and less when the supply is short, a grid-connected approach can take electricity from the grid flexibly. By burning hydrogen or ammonia in gas turbines when needed, it can also bring electricity back into the grid on demandalthough the usefulness of this seems limited.”

This research was produced using a Complexity-Extended Energy System Model. These models are more advanced than traditional energy models because of their ability to represent the interaction between different industries, how technology develops over time, and their use of more precise weather data. This kind of modelling can support governments around the world to make more detailed decisions about the transition to clean energy.

Research also published today by the EEIST Project uses a similarly cutting-edge approach to explore the effect of China’s energy transition on jobs and taxes linked to the thermal coal industry. Using asset-level data, the analysis finds that the transition away from coal could be net-positive for China’s public finances, even without accounting for climate change. Also, under current policies, employment in the coal sector will continue to decline due to improving productivity. Coal jobs will disappear even more rapidly under stronger energy and climate targets.