After witnessing floods and drastic climate change in their respective hometowns in India, Prasanta Sarkar and Rochan Sinha came to a conclusion that efforts to reverse climate change needs to be put in now and not ten years later. But what could they do? Many start-ups were already working to impact the climate change. And Sarkar and Sinha wanted to come up with a new and long-lasting solution to climate change. They wanted to build a technology that could not only help reverse climate change but also impact the lives of people, energy and ensure a sustainable future.
In an exclusive interview with Climapreneur, Prasanta Srakar talked about the common aim that the duo had in mind. “Until we build the next source of energy or green technology that can keep us on the path of development with sustainability, the issue of climate change cannot be addressed,” Sarkar claimed.
The duo noticed the harmful emissions during the production of Hydrogen. Hydrogen as a fuel is necessary for creating electricity, mobility and industrial work. However, the production of Hydrogen is where the problem lies. Mostly, hydrogen is produced through coal which is a primary source of carbon emission in the world. According to a report by International Energy Agency, production of Hydrogen from coal or natural gas leads to the emission of 900 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide more than 100000 ppm can severely impact the climate and human beings. Then you can imagine how much could 900 million metric tonnes (around 99 million ppm) affect us.
Adding further, Sarkar said,“Close to 100 million tons of hydrogen is being produced using natural gas and coal. Moving away from this fossil fuel-based hydrogen towards the greener hydrogen would enable us to offset billion tons of CO2 and also the hydrogen would come out as a fuel for mobility, steel, cement and other industries which are hard to decarbonize.”
He said that after studying the energy spectrum, the team realised that most of the focus of start-ups was on “electrification of the mobility sector with EVs. The primary source of global emissions is industrial usage and energy production while emissions from mobility and transport could be secondary. Green Hydrogen as a solution had a larger impact in terms of decarbonization.”
Thats when Sarkar and Sinha thought about decarbonisation of Hydrogen through the production of Green Hydrogen by building affordable and simplified electrolysers. They named their start-up as NewTrace.
Starting in 2020, Newtrace is on a mission to enable cost effective and reliable access to green hydrogen through their massively scalable electrolyzer technology in order to accelerate decarbonisation of mobility, industrial, energy and chemical sectors.
While the idea of decarbonisation worked well, there was a roadblock. Green Hydrogen is produced using electrolysis which is a very old process. The use of metals and electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen makes it a complicated process. However, NewTrace came up with a solution by scaling up the technology of electrolysis (using affordable electrolyzers).
“We built a noble technology that simplifies it to scale it faster than typical technology can do without the dependence on rare materials and metals that would have curtailed the growth of green hydrogen across sectors. Technology helps in increasing the production of green hydrogen and caters to various sectors and decarbonise their processes.”
At NewTrace, one can get reliable and cost-effective access to green hydrogen. One can get green hydrogen at $1/kg, produced through electrolyzers which are five times cheaper than those around the world.
What further helped NewTrace to spread their idea to people and industries was the policy support from Government. On the 75th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the National Hydrogen Mission with an aim of making India a hub for the production and export of green hydrogen. Countries are slowly recognizing the importance of green fuels and are aiming at encouraging the replacement of fossil-fuel-based ecosystems with the green source of energy. Sarkar said, “All the policy support that we are seeing in India and other European countries is very encouraging for us. It is helping in leveraging industrial interest in trying new technologies and solutions for the decarbonization of hydrogen. It is helping in encouraging the industry to begin the transition now rather than waiting for 10 years.”
However, the journey was not easy. Every entrepreneurial journey has many challenges and roadblocks in the initial phase. Some struggles are successfully defeated while others stay with the entrepreneurs for a longer time. What was the major struggle that NewTrace faced? “We left our jobs. We struggled a little bit in the beginning. Because we were not completely from India so we lacked contacts to research labs where we could create our prototype or get funding. We had to use our own funding to create the prototype and pay our living until we could set up the pace of the company.”
Adding further in a positive tone, Sarkar exclaimed, “But that’s the fun part of it! We were really focused on executing it because the cost of not doing it would be hard for every one of us.”
Advising the young minds who want to work in climate-tech start-ups, Sarker says that there is a need to focus on the harder problems first because this will help us achieve long-term goals and will stay with us for a longer time in terms of growth.
Although reversing climate change is a much longer process, we can try to minimize the impact by reducing the usage of fossil fuels. Focussing on this idea, Sarkar concluded, “You can not shut down electricity, industries or growth because you have a huge population to feed. We can move these activities away from a fossil fuel-based ecosystem and try to bring a balance. We also have to balance our demand and keep on decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. The goal would be that whatever we are using should come from the source of energy that is sustainable and slow down the change in the climate”