The formation of The International Solar Alliance is a first in many aspects. It is the foremost international body of its kind to have its headquarters in India. With Solar energy being the most abundant and omnipresent form of energy, this is a potential game changer in the renewable energy industry.
For generations, people have had a propensity for using exhaustible sources of energy. And why not? They provide optimal efficiency – energy provided by fossil fuels is greater than any other energy resource – and with advanced technology and equipment these resources are easy to locate and mine. But once abundant in nature, their reservoirs have been depleted over the centuries due to over-consumption. Formation of these fuels takes millions of years which led us to look towards other non-conventional sources of energy. The best one is the ultimate source of energy for all life on Earth.
What is the International Solar Alliance?
The Sunshine Countries are the ones that lie between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The former being the northern circle of latitude where the sun is directly overhead during the Summer Solstice and the latter being the circle of latitude where the sun is directly overhead during the Winter Solstice. All the countries that lie between them in Prime Minister Modi’s words are Suryaputra (“Sons of the Sun”); countries which are geographically located for the optimal harnessing of solar energy. Renewable energy being the need of the hour as the signs of climate change get more drastic by the year, solar energy is a ray of hope as in it is inexhaustible, affordable and clean. All steps need to be taken to make sure everything is being done to make the most of it. One such step taken by the Prime Minister is the formation of The International Solar Alliance (ISA) – an organization started by India and France to provide a dedicated platform for cooperation among all the solar resource rich countries where every stakeholder ranging from corporates, bilateral and multilateral organizations, small and large scale industries and the entire global community can dedicate themselves to achieve a common goal of making solar energy more affordable and equitable for all in a safe and convenient way. There already exist international organizations dedicated to increasing the use of renewable energy like International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEP), International energy Agency (IEA) as well as numerous United Nations bodies. The ISA’s aim is not to duplicate their efforts but to ‘develop synergies with them’ and together focus on one common goal – the maximum utilization of renewable sources of energy.
What does it do?
The main objectives of the ISA are to mobilize more than 1000 billion US Dollars of investments which are needed by 2030 for large scale deployment of solar energy as well as to pave the way for future technologies adapted to the same needs. A massive upgrade and scaling-up of the existing solar technologies will start the ball rolling for other new technologies to come up. The final aim – to make solar energy the primary and most affordable source of energy. The ISA framework agreement was opened for signature on 15th November 2016 and up to 122 countries have signed up or ratified till date.
The ISA plans to invest about $1 trillion for solar projects that will provide 1 TW of solar energy globally. And Prime Minister Modi has said, “India will produce 175 GW electricity from renewable sources by 2022 and 100 GW will be from solar energy. India will also provide 500 training slots for ISA member-countries and start a solar tech mission to lead R&D.” One of its aims is also to assist member countries in the drafting of solar related policies. In late 2018, Prime Minister Modi also extended an invitation to the Chinese president Xi Jhinping to join the alliance. If this is carried out, it will be a game changer as China is the global leader when it comes to the utilization of solar energy. Having China be a part of the organization will give a morale boost to carry out all the related activities with more vigour and will also provide access to newer technology and increased finances.
What is India’s Role?
This initiative taken by the Prime Minister of India has the potential to radically live up to the objective of ‘Make in India’. During his first term, he announced a 2.45 times increase in the budget allocated to solar thus sending out the message that India is focused on the goal of maximizing utilization of solar. Given that the ISA was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, India has shown what it takes to be taken seriously in this field on the top level. With optimal efforts to get China into the fold, India is leaving no stone unturned to ensure every big player in the game is working together towards the same ideal. By 2022, the aim is for solar energy to achieve grid-parity in India, meaning it would cost the same as other sources of electricity. India’s role in the formation and leadership of the ISA re-instills global confidence in India’s capacity.
What has the ISA been up to?
Currently, there are five programmes undertaken by the ISA which include Scaling Solar Applications for Agricultural Use, Affordable Finance at Scale, Scaling Solar Mini Grids, Scaling Rooftop Solar, Scaling Solar e-mobility & Storage. As the names suggest each programme is directed at carrying out a step-by-step analysis across the country to determine what steps can be taken to upgrade the varied types of solar applications. The programmes are designed to promote, assess potential, harmonize demand and pool resources for the required scaling up. Monthly ‘SunMeets’ are carried out with member countries – the latest one being held in February’19 – where all common problems or acknowledgments are discussed. Private players and think tanks also attend these meets in order to gauge where they can make their contributions. Private companies like KPMG and PWC have made presentations discussing approaches to the sustainable deployment of solar pumps as well as information asymmetry
Renewable energy is the future and if the ISA achieves all its goals, it could drastically transform the way we power our world.
The sunshine club has a massive responsibility on its shoulders.