India stands fourth globally, in terms of carbon emissions (2 Giga tons). This calls for a huge reduction in emissions and therefore, an increased footprint in terms of renewable energy generation is needed. India is emerging as the leader in promoting clean energy, which is quite evident from the initiatives taken by the Prime Minister. The target of 175 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2022 is an ambitious one, and would require strong policy mandates to be successful on the ground. A number of renewable energy options are being discussed, including solar, wind, waste to energy and hydro. One of the technologies that needs attention here is the Fuel Cell production. A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell which has hydrogen and oxygen at anode and cathode respectively, and an electrolyte in between. The by-product of the reaction after the electricity generation is water.
In Indian context, the technology comes into light intermittently. There have been a number of fuel cell applications at institutional level and prototype level in industries. What is missing, is the zeal to bring this technology to forefront and carry out research for its promotion. Unlike other renewable energy sources, hydrogen power is not intermittent and has much higher density (watt-hour/kilogram) than the storage sources (batteries). Though, there have been a number of initiatives promoting this technology, more needs to be done. At this time, when the cost of crude oil (Brent) in market is nearly USD 35 per barrel (USD 0.219 per litre), the gasoline and diesel prices have hit a low. Therefore, their consumption has increased. The cost of hydrogen production is still higher, but would eventually come down upon its acceptance as a fuel owing to economies of scale. The cost of hydrogen also depends upon the production method. Distribution and storage infrastructure for hydrogen is complex, which adds up to the cost. But the issue of bad air quality can be addressed through solutions like this.
The applications of fuel cells in automobiles is one way of reducing the mobile carbon footprint. Fuel cells are being used to power commercial buildings and telecom tower stations. They are also being used in power utilities and have been successful for cogeneration purposes. Private telecom companies in Inia have been more interested in experimenting with the fuel cell technology to reduce the diesel consumption and a constant power sources in off grid areas. In 2012, trials for few hydrogen powered auto rickshaws were performed in IIT Delhi campus. There is no denying to the fact that initiatives are good, but they have been happening in smaller fragments and over large intervals of time. Therefore, it calls for more investment into research and development into the fuel cell sector.