International Solar Alliance

Context

Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) has been selected by the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to facilitate implementation of 5,00,000 Solar Water Pumping Systems.

Background

  • The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was jointly launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France in 2015 at UNFCCC CoP 21 Paris, France.
  • In March 2018, the first meet of International Solar Alliance was held in New Delhi, India

What is International Solar Alliance (ISA)?

  • ISA is partnership of solar resource rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate on development of solar energy resource
  • It is an intergovernmental body registered with the United Nations under Article 102 of the UN Charter.
  • The ISA is open to 121 countries, most of them located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. However, ISA is now considering to open the membership to all countries.
  • 68 countries have joined the alliance and 44 countries have ratified the framework agreement.

Need for the Alliance

  • There had been no specific body in place to address the specific solar technology deployment needs of the solar resource rich countries located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn
  • Most of the solar rich countries have been relatively underexploited, and represents a large market for solar technology.
  • Many countries face gaps in the potential solar energy manufacturing eco-system.
  • Further, these countries despite having large potential of solar energy suffer from lack of universal energy access, energy equity and affordability
  • A coalition of these countries for solar energy development and solar technology applications would help in addressing the special energy needs of these countries, and in the long run, reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Aim:

To create a collaborative platform for increased deployment of solar energy technologies to enhance energy security & sustainable development and ensure equitable access to energy

Objectives:

  1. Promote solar technologies and investment in the solar sector to enhance income generation for the poor and global environment
  2. Formulate projects and programmes to promote solar applications
  3. Develop innovative Financial Mechanisms to reduce cost of capital
  4. Build a common Knowledge e-Portal for sharing of policy development experiences and best practices in member countries
  5. Facilitate capacity building for promotion and absorption of solar technologies and R&D among member countries

Target:

  • The ISA has set a target of 1 TW of solar energy by 2030, which would require $1 trillion to achieve.
  • India has set a target of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, which includes 100 GW of solar energy

Focus Areas:

  • Grid connected solar power: Solar parks, solar thermal projects, Rooftop solar projects, Canal top projects, Solar on water bodies
  • Off-grid and decentralised applications: Village electrification and mini-grids, Solar lanterns, Mobile chargers, Solar powered telecom towers, Milk chilling centres, street lights, Solar pumps etc

Programmes launched:

  1. Scaling solar applications for agricultural use: It intends to employ common procedures for solar applications in the agricultural and rural areas such as installing solar water pumps instead of diesel pumps for irrigation to benefit both farmers and the environment. The coalition has planned to roll-out a global tender for 500,000 solar pumps for farmers. India plans to set up 100,000 pumps, Bangladesh 50,000 pumps, and Uganda 30,000 pumps.
  2. Affordable Finance at Scale: It aims to adopt finest practices required for setting up common credit enhancement mechanisms. Additionally, it also intends to facilitate ties with the International financial institutions like World Bank for financial aid and to help de-risk investments.
  3. Scaling Solar Mini Grids: This programme was launched for large-scale decentralized solar deployments through mini, micro and nano-grids focusing significantly in the least developed and small island countries.
  4. Common Risk Mitigation Mechanism: It is a multilateral market platform designed to leverage billions of impact capital to catalyse $1 trillion of domestic and international private institutional capital for achieving the target of 1TW of solar power generation capacity by 2030 in low and middle-income countries. The mechanism has been developed by a taskforce comprising the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, Terawatt Initiative, The Currency Exchange Fund (TCX), the World Bank and the Confederation of Indian Industry

International solar alliance and India

  • The ISA has given India the opportunity to position itself in a key global leadership role in the arena of climate change (Under the Paris Agreement, —India stated its proposed commitments to address climate change as part of its Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which was submitted for 2015–30), renewable energy (RE) and sustainable development
  • The ISA is not only expected to increase innovation in the renewable energy sector but also help make India a technological hub with independent manufacturing capabilities of RE equipment like solar panels through initiatives like ‘Make in India’
  • Further, the establishment of ISA headquarters in Gurugram has diplomatic significance for India
  • India has a special responsibility in ensuring the success of ISA and its success would help India present acollaborative, equitable, practical, and sustainable model of development

Government Initiative

Issues and Challenges with ISA

  1. Many critics are of the opinion that the alliance is more a platform for some countries to showcase their technologies and programmes.
  2. Many of the member countries of ISA have poor technical capabilities, therefore they do not know how best to leverage the platform
  3. The cost of solar installations remains high in many of the ISA countries. Most African countries have a high most favoured nation (MFN) tariffs for photo voltaic (PV) cells, modules and semi-conductor devices. This is aggravated by their lack of manufacturing capacities and high tariffs. The Pacific island countries have the highest MFN applied rates for solar products. High tariffs are detrimental to cost-effective solar development
  4. Capital cost is the biggest obstacle to solar deployment. An important challenge for ISA is attracting investments
  5. There has also been perception that the International Solar Alliance has not become a global institution. Further, there’s a lack of clarity on what exactly the ISA does and what its role in the future would be.

Way forward

  1. There should be greater clarity and better communication so as to convey the purpose of the alliance
  2. ISA should focus on its core goals—aggregating demand, technical collaborations, financial assistance for achieving its target of TW of solar energy by 2030. There should be dedicated focus with deadlines and milestones in order to measure progress
  3. ISA should create awareness among the masses with regard to the use and benefits of solar energy. It further needs to ensure that solar benefits are clear and tangible to users.
  4. ISA should demonstrate business models that are viable for users, suppliers and financiers. Further, the alliance should support member countries in implementing policies to fasten adoption of these business models
  5. ISA should open its membership to all countries across the geography. The inclusion of new members, like US and China, would help member countries have access to more advance technology and finances.
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