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International Solar Alliance Agreement

By: Ramesh Vaidyanathan and Neil Lopez

India had recently ratified the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Framework Agreement. The ISA Agreement seeks to create a global alliance between nations to promote solar energy by formulation of various policies and programmes. 

The ISA aims to bring at least 120 solar rich nations situated in the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, known as sunshine countries, on a common platform to facilitate research and development of efficient solar technologies. Apart from countries such as Brazil and France, it has international organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank as members. Even non-sunshine countries such as the USA and UK have expressed interest in joining the ISA.

The initiative was first proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and was officially launched jointly by Mr Modi and the French President Francois Hollande on 30th November last year in Paris at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The ISA will be a treaty-based inter-governmental organization and is considered as the first inter-governmental organization mooted by India.

Objectives of the ISA

The ISA’s proposed governance structure would consist of an Assembly and a Secretariat. The headquarters will be located in India with its Interim Secretariat being setup at the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) premises in Gurugram, Haryana.

The ISA seeks to coordinate programmes and activities for innovation, research and development of solar technologies.  It also aims to establish mutually beneficial relationships with relevant organizations, public and private stakeholders and with non-member countries.

Each member will designate a national focal point for the ISA in order to establish a permanent network of correspondents of the ISA in member countries. These correspondents shall interact with one another and also with relevant stakeholders to identify areas of common interest and make recommendations to the Secretariat regarding the implementation of the objectives of the ISA.

The ISA is expected to focus on reducing the cost of finance for solar energy projects and develop new, cost-efficient and reliable solar technologies and applications.

Significance and hurdles

The ISA will put India in the forefront of the solar initiative as it dons the role of a leader in climate and renewable energy issues. India has also promised to contribute around 15 million US dollars for creating an ISA corpus fund and has also offered training support for ISA member countries at the NISE. The World Bank has also agreed to mobilize 1 trillion US dollars in investments by 2030 and will also lend more than 1 billion US dollars to support India’s initiatives to expand solar energy generation.

Having said that, raising such a huge amount is going to be quite a formidable task. Although there are commitments coming from all corners of the globe, history has proven time and time again that developed countries are hesitant to fund renewable energy projects in developing countries. France has pledged around 300 million Euros over the next five years but there has been no sign of any amount till date. Moreover, such an ambitious sum of a trillion dollars cannot be raised from governments alone and other options have to be explored including private finance.  

Conclusion

Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world and in less than a decade it is likely to be the lowest-cost option globally. The drop in solar power prices will help India reduce its dependency on coal and focus on renewable energy. India has taken plenty of initiatives to transition to a more environment friendly energy generation. Some examples of India’s commitment in this regard are the building of the largest solar power plant in the world in the town of Kamuthi in Tamil Nadu and operating the world’s first fully solar-powered airport in Cochin, Kerala.

Although one of the world’s largest users of electricity, India still faces serious energy shortages.  The country’s energy requirements cannot be met by renewable sources at present and new coal plants are being built to provide for this growing need. In order to bridge the demand supply gap, the government has revised its target of renewable energy capacity addition substantially and provided several opportunities for investors.  This has clearly found traction with investors as is evident from the fact that nearly 1.7 billion US dollars were received in this sector through foreign direct investment, during the period April 2014 to September 2016.

By making decisive moves to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels, the ISA aims to provide a bigger market and effectively reduce costs of solar innovation and technology.  The Alliance seeks to achieve the objective of the Paris Agreement and is committed to providing a platform that will bring global nations together for the promotion of solar energy and help build a greener society. Sunny days are definitely ahead!

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