On 11 March 2018, India, along with France, hosted the members of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), marking an important milestone in its efforts to take the alliance, which was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brainchild, and supported ably by France, forward.
- The key idea of the ISA is to “harmonise and aggregate demand for solar finance, solar technologies, innovation, research and development, and capacity building”.
- The ISA aims to mobilise $1 trillion low-cost financing for massive deployment of solar energy by 2030 and bring together 121 countries that lie between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn that receive plenty of sunshine and are mostly developing nations.
- Most of the countries that are part of the ISA are from Asia, Africa, South America and the Pacific, are hydrocarbon-deficit with high energy demand and are grappling with issues ranging from lack of infrastructure, lack of manufacturing capacity and high energy tariffs. Therefore, it is increasingly important for these countries to get access to renewable energy (RE) at affordable prices.
The key objectives of the ISA can be summed up as the following –
- Mobilising more than $1 trillion of investments by 2030 for massive deployment of solar energy;
- Global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity;
- Making solar energy available at affordable rates, create solar grids and establish solar credit mechanism;
- Reducing the cost of finance and cost of technology;
- Enhancing energy security and sustainable development;
- Addressing common as well as specific obstacles that lie in the way of rapid and massive scaling up of solar energy in these countries;
- Act as a broader platform for deep diplomatic engagement on crucial developmental issues.
Since 2016, the ISA has launched five programmes of action — rural and decentralised application; access to affordable finance; mini grids; solar e-mobility; and rooftop installations.
Opportunities for India –
The Summit has significant geopolitical implications. In addition to hosting this foundational summit that will shape the structure and course of the ISA, the Permanent Secretariat of ISA will also be located in India at Gurugram, the first time that an inter-governmental treaty-based alliance will have its headquarters in India. This will allow India the opportunity to position itself in a key global leadership role in the arena of climate change, RE and sustainable development.
The short-term priorities that have been identified as action points for the ISA are as follows:
- Assisting member countries in drafting solar policies;
- e-Portal to offer 24/7 real time suggestions for solar projects;
- Creating expert groups for development of common standards, test, monitoring and verification protocols;
- Working with ISA member countries to strive for universal access to solar lighting;
- Preparing Detailed Project Reports and sharing of best-practices and successful case studies;
- Exchanging best practices and work with member countries in designing financing instruments to mitigate risk and catalyse partnerships to boost investment;
- Sharing perspectives on developing electricity systems;
- Developing standards, specifications and test protocols for solar energy systems;
- Generating and diffusing key learning on new technologies;
- Encourage collaboration in solar resource mapping in member countries and in deployment of suitable technologies;
- Facilitating preparation of plans for solar energy development and deployment;
- Encouraging industry cooperation among ISA member countries;
- Forging cooperative linkages on development of Centre of Excellence for R&D in ISA member countries; and
- Designing training programs for students/engineers/ policy makers, etc. and organising workshops, focused meetings and conferences.
- One of the important challenges for the ISA therefore is to attract investments to fund the projects. Though funding is expected to come from individual countries, international organisations, non-governmental organisations and multilateral development banks, securing adequate financing will continue to remain a challenge.
- Similarly, another challenge for the ISA is to undertake joint efforts to reduce the cost of finance and technology, besides mobilising more than $ 1 trillion worth of investments needed by 2030 for the deployment of solar energy.
There is great optimism that the solar alliance would help in pushing ‘power for all’ into a more realistic realm. Furthermore, the ISA could be greatly beneficial in boosting technology transfer and emphasising the need for greater storage technologies. ISA member countries could also cooperate in developing an integrated electronic mobility ecosystem that is fuelled by solar energy.