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One Sun One World One Grid: A journey of ironies?
Electricity can be generated round the clock from the sun as it sets in one part of the world but rises in another part. In fact, the Sun never sets for the entire Earth.
To reap this advantage and ensure availability of electricity across the globe, the mantra of ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ was given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2018 while addressing the inaugural function of the 2nd Global RE-Invest meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the first assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
What is ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ (OSOWOG) Project?
OSOWOG is India’s initiative to build a global ecosystem of interconnected renewable energy resources. The blueprint for the OSOWOG will be developed under the World Bank’s technical assistance programme that is implemented to accelerate the deployment of grid connected rooftop solar installations.
OSOWOG is planned to be completed in three phases. The first phase will entail interconnectivity within the Asian continent; the second phase will add Africa and the third phase will globalise the whole project.
The responsibility for developing a long-term vision, implementation plan, road map and institutional framework for implementing ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ (OSOWOG) lies with the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
What is the need for ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ Project?
- Success of International Solar Alliance (ISA):As a pioneer country in fight against Climate Change, India mooted the idea of ISA in 2015. ISA aims at making solar energy available 24*7 at affordable cost to all. Heads of about 120 nations have affirmed their participation in ISA. OSOWOG will further promote investments and cooperation.
- 24*7 Electricity for All:Government aims to provide 24*7 electricity to all to ensure uniform economic development. OSOWOG will provide the platform to provide electricity in border and strategic areas like North Eastern State like Arunachal Pradesh, Western Himalayan states and Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
- Commitment to Multilateralism and Globalization: As a responsible member of UN, India aims to remove the economic and social disparities across the globe through promoting cooperation and coordination among solar energy rich nations and solar energy scarce nations. OSOWOG would also strengthen the alliance of Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).
- Case Study: Cyclone Amphan in Odisha and West Bengal.
Super-cyclone Amphan caused destruction worth USD 13 billion. It caused severe damage to power and communication infrastructure during COVID-19 Pandemic. It hindered the surveillance programmes of the state to contain the Pandemic.
- Achieving Sustainable Development Goals: According to UN, more than 781 million people in 2016, or 39% of the world’s population, do not have access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking. Goal 7 of the SDGs aims to correct this enormous imbalance by ensuring everyone has access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services by the year 2030. To expand energy access, it is crucial to enhance energy efficiency and to invest in renewable energy.
- Fulfilment of Commitment under Paris Agreement: Under its Intended National Determined Contributions (INDC), India aims to achieve 175GWof renewal energy target by 2022 and 20-25% reduction in Emission intensity of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.
- Strengthening Neighbourhood First Policy:Landlocked neighbours such as Nepal and Bhutan are rich in hydroelectric resources. OSOWOG will provide them the requisite platform to export their surplus electricity to electricity deficit nations. Government of India in association with Government of Nepal and Government of Bhutan is developing export-oriented hydro-electric projects such as Arun-III hydropower plant and Mangdechhu hydroelectric project respectively.
- Countering China’s Economic assertiveness:OSOWOG is seen as India’s counter to China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) that is primarily an economic diplomacy strategy to boost its domestic economy by improving connectivity and cooperation among the current 78 partner countries.
International Solar Alliance (ISA)
- The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was conceived as a coalition of solar-resource-rich countries (which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn) to address their special energy needs.
- The initiative was launched at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (CoP21) in Paris in alliance with Government of France.
- The primary objective of the alliance is to work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
- The alliance is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization.
- Presently, it has 122 member countries.
- It aims to mobilize investments more than worth USD 1000 billion by 2030.
- Countries that do not fall within the Tropics can join the alliance and enjoy all benefits as other members, with the exception of voting rights.
- After the United Nations, it is the largest grouping of states world-wide.
Initiatives under International Solar Alliance (ISA) which promotes the concept of OSOWOG Project
- Scaling Solar Mini Grids:The ISA secretariat in support with Deloitte, global advisory firm, is developing a robust implementation plan for the Mini-grids Programme. The ISA secretariat has also drafted and circulated a Model Mini-Grid Policy to National Focal Points
- Scaling Solar Rooftop:The ISA secretariat has been working with officials of Peru and Ghana to provide technical support for preparation of roof-top projects. The ISA Secretariat has proposed Embassies/ Missions in India for Rooftop solar under RESCO Model.
Issues with the ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ (OSOWOG) Project
- Geopolitics:Under COVID-19 uncertainties, the geopolitical implications of projects like OSOWOG are hard to decipher. Under the project, economies will be exposed to this common grid. Any disruption caused due to any bilateral/multilateral issues can potentially affect critical services in multiple continents and countries. Hence, not many countries may be willing to participate.
- Globalisation vs de-globalization: In this era of protectionism, trade-wars and a shift from multilaterism to bilateral and regional agreements, the idea of OSOWOG seems bleak. The coronavirus pandemic has further raised questions on the concept of globalisation. The major issue with renewable energy developers would be to deal with different governments and different market forces and thus different rules and regulations.
- Economic Benefit:Supply of energy through this integrated grid, in a time zone with a six-hour difference will require thousands of kilometres of transmission of the electricity. The transmission costs may thus outweigh the benefits of land and solar radiation.
- Centralised vs distributed generation: There is a difference in voltage, frequency and specifications of the grid in most regions. Maintaining grid stability with just renewable generation would be technically difficult. OSOWOG does not take into account the overlaps with the solar generation across regions where transmission lines are passing through. Thus, for the remote regions, distributed generation would be preferred over centralised generation.
Therefore, it is important for India to re-look its targets and to focus on developing long-term and complete solutions that can reach the masses.
- The global review undertaken on behalf of the World Bank suggests that the economic benefits of such cross border transmission lines are truly maximised when they are constructed within a political union formed around common objectives, such as the EU or Scandinavia, etc.
- Aggregate technical and commercial losses in countries like India, Nepal, Bangladesh, etc. are close to 20 per cent. Therefore, the distributed generation can be cheaper and directly serve the people in the hinterlands.
- India should collaborate with China as it has expertise in ultra-high voltage network construction. China has already launched a global transmission grid project under the aegis of the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization, dedicated to promote the sustainable development of energy worldwide.
1.Examine the importance and challenges therein in the concept of ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ (OSOWOG) in building a global ecosystem of interconnected renewable energy resources? (10 Marks)