India is looking to accelerate its energy transition by signalling its intent to further collaborate with the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), including in green hydrogen.

Irena confirmed over the weekend that India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) signed a strategic partnership agreement to strengthen its collaboration with the international agency in the field of renewable energy.

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The deal will see Irena aid knowledge sharing with India on scaling-up renewable energy and clean-energy technologies.

Irena added the agreement would also see the agency support India’s efforts to advance “cost-effective decarbonisation” through the development of domestic green hydrogen.

The Indian government will work with Irena to assess the potential role green hydrogen can play in India’s transition to a lower-carbon future, as well as exploring the potential for India to export the fuel.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the nation’s national hydrogen mission, calling for India to become a global hub for green hydrogen production and exports.

Sunday’s agreement will also see Irena help facilitate long-term national energy planning to help India achieve long-term developmental targets in the housing sector, rural electrification, renewable energy, assured electricity supply and reduction in oil import dependence, among others.

“India’s commitment for the cause of renewables is very well known and our record speaks for itself,” MNRE Secretary Indu Shekhar Chaturvedi said after the signing.

“We hope to make full use of the strategic partnership agreement and draw fully upon the expertise of Irena in the area of renewable energy”.

Rise of renewables in India

In addition to pursuing green hydrogen, India claims to have the world’s largest renewables expansion programme, targeting 175 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by the end of this year.

Most of that capacity will come from about 100GW of solar panels, followed by 60GW of wind, about 10GW is targeted to come from biomass and the remaining 5GW is expected to come from hydropower stations.

India is hoping to reach 500GW of non-fossil fuel energy capacity by 2030 and fulfil half of its energy requirements via renewable energy by the same date as part of its strategy of reaching net zero emissions by 2070.

“India is a renewable energy powerhouse and a country whose energy transition actions speak louder than their words,” Irena director-general Francesco La Camera said.

“As a key global actor in the shift to renewables and a founding member of Irena, India has played a major role in international energy co-operation. This partnership represents a new chapter in an already strong relationship as the country looks to advance its transition and capitalise on emerging new technologies.”

India's offshore wind struggles

Irena noted that India was currently targeting a significant development of its offshore wind power generation capacity, however, it is yet to capitalise on its offshore potential.

An assessment carried out by India’s National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) estimated the nation’s wind energy potential at 302GW at a 100-metre hub height and 695.5GW at a 120 metres.

However, the NIWE also noted that the land required to develop onshore wind in India was becoming increasingly “constrained”, with offshore wind seen as playing an important role in continuing to grow the country’s renewable-power generation capacity.

The MNRE has set a target of offshore wind capacity reaching 5GW this year, with that figure to grow to 30GW by 2030.

However, India looks set to miss its near-term target, with it still yet to establish any operational offshore wind developments.

A 2019 report by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) estimated India to have the potential for 195GW of offshore wind, including 112GW of fixed foundation capacity and 83GW of floating wind.

ESMAP also found that India's best offshore wind resources are located on the southern tip of the country, in Tamil Nadu, which has a technical potential of 54GW.

It also identified and area in India's north-west, off Gujarat in the Gulf of Khambhat, that has a technical potential for 36GW of offshore wind.