Energy is the key to human survival

Siddharth R Mayur, CEO and Founder of H2E Power Systems, shares the inspiring story behind his mission to bring energy independence to rural India. He discusses H2E’s frugal approach to clean energy technology, emphasizing affordability without compromising quality.

Mr. Mayur also talked about breakthroughs in clean energy solutions and H2E’s pivotal role in reducing India’s carbon footprint. Furthermore, he unveils the company’s visionary Urja Udhyami Programme, aiming to empower 100 million Indians with clean energy solutions by 2047. 

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IBT: What motivated you to establish the H2E Power System? 

Siddharth Mayur: My motivation and inspiration took an unconventional turn, almost like a plot from a Bollywood film. It was in 2009, and I hailed from the small city of Jalgaon in Maharashtra. My ancestral village, Chopda, lies about 60 kilometers away. Following the Diwali Puja, I called my grandmother to exchange greetings. To my surprise, she lamented the lack of electricity, recounting how they had to conduct the puja by candlelight. While such power shortages were common in those days, even persisting to some extent today, something stirred within me that evening. I couldn’t reconcile the fact that while we enjoyed air-conditioned comfort, just 60 kilometers away, our families endured energy poverty. This marked a turning point in my life, reshaping my perspective. I had no prior connections to electricity, clean energy, or hydrogen – my focus was elsewhere. But that night, as I gazed at the stars and the moon, I resolved that action was needed. I realized we couldn’t solely rely on the government, burdened with its own challenges. Instead, it was time for individuals like us to step up and assist the government in helping our communities. And so began my journey into what I now call ‘good energy solutions.

IBT: How does your company manage to offer affordable, clean energy technologies to a wider audience while maintaining a focus on innovation as well as advancement? 

Siddharth Mayur: I often grapple with the term “affordable.” It’s not that I dismiss the idea of affordability, but whenever something new comes up, the expectation is that it should be cheaper than what’s currently available. To those who ask whether our technology is expensive or cheap, I have a standard response: the cost of electricity is far less than the price we pay for darkness. With minimal resources from the outset, our company had to embrace frugal innovation. We never compromised on quality, but we relentlessly sought ways to reduce costs. We hired young talents, often straight out of college or from smaller towns, and invested heavily in their training. This culture of frugality permeated our DNA from day one. We believed that every aspect of our product, down to the smallest component, needed to be developed in-house.

For instance, we ventured into fuel cell and electrolyzer development and production. This commitment to self-sufficiency extends to material innovation. If a material wasn’t readily available in India, we worked closely with Indian institutions to identify local alternatives. Our goal was clear: to localize production as much as possible. By 2025 or early 2026, nearly 100% of our components will be manufactured in India, not just assembled here. Our mission is deeply rooted in self-reliance, as symbolized by the phrase “Swadeshi Urja, Swavalambi Bharat.” I coined this phrase back in 2009. It underscores the idea that until India can produce its own energy and develop a self-sustaining supply chain, true self-reliance remains elusive.

Energy is pivotal to human survival, and our nation imports around $200 billion worth of energy. Thus, we’ve meticulously crafted an ecosystem that enables us to offer products at a genuinely affordable price point. We’ve made substantial investments in research and development, and these investments are paying off by driving down costs. Our focus extends beyond product development; we’re exploring various industry segments. My roots in a farming family keep rural India close to my heart. I firmly believe that we owe our existence to farmers whose toil puts food on our tables. Empowering them with energy independence has remained a core objective of our work.

It is the investment in research and investment into the end solution where we take the customer as the focus point and not technology as the focus point, and build solutions which are not only affordable but which are sustainable. See, end of the day,  you cannot be pennywise and pound foolish. You cannot say that it is very cheap. Therefore, I always use the word inexpensive. I never want to build a product that is cheap. We want to build an inexpensive product. 

IBT: Could you share a recent instance where H2E emphasized on innovation and research and development which led to a notable breakthrough in clean energy solutions?

Siddharth Mayur: Let me take you into the component side first. On the component side, there’s a critical component that goes into fuel cells and electrolyzers, and there are fewer than two global suppliers for it. Typically, there’s a lead time of 30 to 40 weeks to obtain this component. However, we’ve achieved a breakthrough by developing this component in-house. Moreover, we’re working on altering the material itself, and by next year, we aim to reduce the cost of this component to one-tenth in dollar terms. Considering currency fluctuations, this translates to an even greater reduction in rupee terms. What’s more, we’re building an ecosystem around this component to ensure it’s available with just a six-day notice period instead of the usual 40 weeks. This achievement will significantly reduce the cost of our final product and enhance our operational efficiencies.

Shifting to solutions, we’ve developed two noteworthy ones. First, there’s the “power trailer,” which we’ve named Vijay Urja(?). This innovation is a hybrid power generator designed for individual farms and farmers. It combines a fuel cell with a battery, offering a hybrid solution that leverages biogas. Its purpose is to alleviate the challenges faced by farmers and transform a farm into a mini manufacturing unit, essentially turning farmers into micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Considering that India has around 180 million cultivators, if we empower them with energy independence, we can envision a transformative India.

The second solution addresses decentralized charging for electric vehicles (EVs). While EVs are often viewed as environmentally friendly, drawing power from the grid can still involve carbon emissions. To counter this, we’ve designed an independent infrastructure that not only avoids burdening the grid but also operates sustainably. This innovative system combines a fuel cell and battery hybrid with solar energy and utilizes biogas. The ultimate goal is for a city’s waste to power its vehicles, ushering in a disruptive approach and reducing the overall cost of energy ownership.

These examples showcase our dedication to improving both components and solutions, ultimately driving down equipment costs.

IBT: The green hydrogen and alternative fuel segment is gaining a lot of prominence these days. How does your company navigate the challenges and opportunities in these areas to deliver practical solutions? 

Siddharth Mayur: As I mentioned earlier, our import bill is staggering, close to $200 billion, with the majority going toward fuel imports. To give you some perspective, over 75% to 80% of our crude oil is imported, and nearly 56% of our gas is sourced from abroad. This presents an immense opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs and innovators, a $200 billion opportunity to be precise. If we can redirect those funds internally, it could be a game-changer.

Now, here’s where our technologies come into play, particularly our advanced electrolyzer technology and our focus on waste as a resource. With these, we have the potential to create various hydrocarbons. While electrolyzers allow us to produce hydrogen, we can also harness carbon capture technology to generate synthetic gas, which essentially mimics the crude oil we currently import. From synthetic gas, a wide array of hydrocarbons can be produced.

Our company is actively working on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), which is poised to become the go-to fuel for the aviation industry in the future. Although the aviation sector may take some time to transition fully to hydrogen or battery electric power, they can still significantly reduce their carbon footprint by using SAF in the interim. Additionally, we’re exploring E-methanol production and researching other value-added hydrocarbons that find applications in industries like polymers and cosmetics.

When we talk about energy independence, it’s not limited to just generating electricity independently. It extends to producing our own fuels as well. Imagine a scenario where, right in the basement of your office building in Delhi, there’s a fuel cell and an electrolyzer quietly working away. These devices produce enough hydrogen or fuel to power all the vehicles commuting to the office and supply electricity to meet all the building’s energy needs. This vision of a perfect world is no longer a fantasy; it’s rapidly becoming a reality.

IBT: How does H2E contribute to broader environmental and societal goals through collaboration or through initiatives in the world of clean energy?

Siddharth Mayur: I want to emphasize that what you’ve mentioned isn’t a secondary endeavour for us; it’s at the core of our mission. From the very beginning, we’ve been committed to sustainability. In fact, our manufacturing plant in India is being designed to be 100% carbon-neutral right from day one. This ethos extends beyond our own operations; we’re actively collaborating with our partners, vendors, and supply chain developers to help them achieve carbon neutrality as well. So, from the production process to our extended network, we’re working diligently to reduce our carbon footprint.

Our focus on developing products for rural India, particularly those geared toward alternative fuels for farmers, is a significant step toward mitigating the climate crisis. I often draw a parallel between the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic and our current climate situation. While COVID-19 prompted swift worldwide action due to its impact on human lives, the climate crisis claims around 4.5 million lives every year, and we haven’t witnessed a fraction of the same level of urgency. It’s our moral responsibility to address this climate pandemic by collectively developing a climate change “vaccine.” H2E is fully committed to making a substantial contribution to this vital cause.

In addition to our environmental commitment, we’re also engaged in a compelling program called the Urja Udhyami Programme, or Energy Entrepreneur Programme. Through this initiative, we’re equipping individuals, irrespective of gender, with the skills to become energy entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will take on the critical role of ensuring last-mile connectivity for companies like ours and other clean tech firms. They’ll venture into every nook and cranny, from villages and towns to urban sectors, and work tirelessly to make their regions net-zero in terms of energy consumption. Our motto here is “each one, make one.”

Looking ahead, our vision is audacious yet sincere. By the end of this decade, we aim to train and empower at least 100,000 Urja Udyamis. By 2047, in line with the honourable Prime Minister’s vision of India becoming energy independent, we aspire to enable at least 100 million Indians to achieve energy independence and net-zero status. It’s not just about setting goals on paper for us; it’s about getting our hands dirty and putting in the hard work. When I speak of 100 million people, I envision at least 100,000 to 200,000 Indian villages achieving energy independence. These 100,000 Urja Udyamis will ideally create 100,000 to half a million green jobs, fostering a thriving community dedicated to the net-zero ecosystem. This is our unwavering commitment to the climate, our beloved Earth, and the people of our nation.

IBT: What advice would you want to give to the policymakers to further uplift this sector, especially when it comes to green hydrogen and alternative fuels?

Siddharth MayurI hold policymakers in high regard; they are individuals with considerable knowledge and distinction. Therefore, it wouldn’t be appropriate for someone like me to provide advice to them. However, what I can assure policymakers is that if they create a conducive environment for the growth of Indian startups, especially those emerging from the grassroots, we will spare no effort. We’re dedicated to this cause, not only for ourselves but for the nation and its people.

When I engage with policymakers, I convey a simple message: support us. Avoid crafting policies that pose obstacles or favour outsiders over local entrepreneurs. I want to make it clear that I don’t harbour any ill feelings towards individuals or technologies coming from abroad; they bring valuable investments into the country. However, it’s crucial to recognize that external technologies can synergize effectively with our startup ecosystem. With the right policies in place, we can work harmoniously towards realizing the ambitious vision our honourable Prime Minister continually inspires us with. I believe that this sentiment resonates among all the startup entrepreneurs I know and collaborate with. We share an equal passion and commitment to advancing this entire ecosystem.


Siddharth R. Mayur is a Social Entrepreneur with over 23 years of experience in International ventures in Clean energy, real estate & agriculture, credited with forming the Vision, Foundation and core strategy of h2e.

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