GGI-OSOWOG project – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

Green Grids Initiative: One Sun One World One Grid (GGI – OSOWOG) was recently launched by India and UK at COP26 meeting at Glasgow.

It is an ambitious plan for the world’s first transnational network of interconnected solar power grids.

The Prime Ministers of the two countries also presented One Sun Declaration, endorsed by more than 80 countries, setting out GGI-OSOWOG’s aims.

Let’s take a deep dive into the topic.

What is the GGI-OSOWOG project?

The initiative will interconnect generators and demand centres across continents with an international power transportation grid.

The idea of a trans-national electricity grid supplying solar power across the globe is based on the concept that the sun never sets and it is possible that one part of the world uses night-time power that is being generated elsewhere in the day time.

Must Read: Green Grids Initiative – OSOWOG NorthWest Europe Cooperative Event

It includes smart grids connecting millions of solar panels and charging points for electric vehicles, and microgrids for rural communities and to ensure resilience during extreme weather events.

The project is being spearheaded by the governments of India and the UK in partnership with the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the World Bank Group.

Must Read: India, UK launch first transnational solar grid plan: On OSOWOG initiative

US has also backed the GGI-OSOWOG project and is part of the Steering Committee which comprises five members besides India and the UK – the US, Australia and France.

How the project will be implemented?

The OSOWOG project will be implemented in three phases based on geopolitical strategy:

– Phase 1: In the first phase, the Indian Grid will interconnect with the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia grids to share solar and other renewable energy resources for meeting electricity needs, including during peak demand.

Phase 2: It will then be interconnected with the African power pools in the second phase.

– Phase 3: The third phase would cover the global interconnection of the power transmission grid to achieve the OSOWOG’s vision

What is the rationale behind the project?

In countries with large-scale renewable energy capacity, variability and intermittency of renewable energy-based power generation is a major concern. Often this acts as a barrier for capacity expansion plans at the national level.

An important strategy for managing the variability of renewable energy is to spread the electricity supply over large areas by building regional and international grids.

Meanwhile, mini-grids can help communities to harness local energy resources, bringing electricity to off-grid villages and ensuring a more resilient supply during the heatwaves, storms, and floods that are now battering all parts of the planet.

Geopolitical reasons: Several countries, including China, have initiated infrastructure projects in other countries, a step seen as a sign of asserting supremacy. With ISA and OSOWOG India is planning to take a leadership position. It is also being seen as India’s counter to China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI).

What is the aim of the GGI-OSOWOG?

It aims to promote cross-border flow of green energy through an exclusive network of large generators, decentralised energy systems, storage, and transmission and distribution systems.

OSOWOG envisions building and scaling interregional energy grids to share solar energy across the globe, leveraging the differences in time zones, seasons, resources, and prices between countries and regions.

It will also help decarbonise energy production, which is today the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Ultimately, it will help in reducing the reliance on non-renewable energy such as coal by enabling the purchase of affordable solar power from other countries

India:

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.

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).

Is GGI-OSOWOG a unique project?

Regional grids are not a new idea.

China’s GEIDCO aims to link Asia, Europe, and Africa through an intercontinental grid by 2035

Nord Pool, already functional, connects Scandinavian countries.

But OSOWOG will be the first attempt at creating a global solar energy network.

What are the challenges/issues with the GGI-OSOWOG project?

Geopolitical implications: Under the project, economies will share a 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.

Era of protectionism: In this era of protectionism, trade-wars, and a shift from multilaterism to bilateral and regional agreements, GGI-OSOWOG may face difficulties. The COVID pandemic has further raised questions on the concept of globalisation. Dealing with different governments and different market forces and thus different rules and regulations will be a challenging task.

Transmission costs: The supply of energy through this integrated grid, will require thousands of kilometers of transmission of electricity. The transmission costs may thus outweigh the benefits of land and solar radiation.

Grid stability: 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. GGI-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.

Non-existence of Grid-level networks for green power in India: India currently has only localised transmission lines to carry renewable power from generation centres. The only pure green power lines are those where electricity is produced from renewable sources for captive use or for selling through distributed renewable energy (DREs) systems to nearby customers. Grid-level networks for green power currently do not exist in the country.

What is the way forward?

Institutional Financing: To build technological and business capabilities to have exclusive grids for green power within states and countries, significant deployment of resources exclusively for renewable power would be needed. But this may not be prudent for cash-strapped local and national governments. This is where institutional financing, both from philanthropists and multilateral agencies, can be crucial.

Battery storage infra: Addressing the intermittent nature of renewable power through battery storage and building in for the outages caused by unfavorable weather conditions will be essential. This nonetheless will add costs into the systems requiring an even larger scale of trading for a sustainable business model.

Transmission of energy across neighboring borders: The first step of OSWOG would be solar power transfer between neighboring countries. India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal already share transmission capacity for energy transfer across borders which can be expanded further and utilized for the transfer of solar power between these countries.

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