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International Solar Alliance Meet-2018

By Ibu Sanjee Garg

Beating the Rhetoric

In 2015, during a speech in the Wembley Stadium the Honb’le Prime Minister of India proposed an international solar alliance for the first time. Once the mention was made, countries across the world began working together to make this idea a reality. In 2016 the grouping International Solar Alliance (ISA) formally took shape in the form of a treaty based international governmental organisation. The ISA has 121 member countries, which lie completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. Most of these are sunshine countries, or countries which receive a lot of sunshine during the year. Those countries which do not fall between the Tropics too can become part of the alliance; however they do not have voting rights.

The ISA was formally founded in France after a treaty was signed in Morocco, while it is headquartered in Gwal Pahari, Gurugram,Haryana India. In 2016, during the visit of French President Francois Hollande to India the foundation stone of the headquarters of the ISA was laid down by the French President and the Indian Prime Minister. The interim secretariat of the ISA is in the campus of National Institute of Solar Energy in Gwalpahari, Haryana. The government of India sanctioned 5 acres of land for ISA and also released 1.75 billion to the fund of ISA in order to build the ISA campus and also for expenditure for the first five years.

The focus of this initiative is to capitalise on solar energy. In the last two decades the world has woken up to the dangers of climate change. Governments across the world have realised how the dependence on conventional source of energy has threatened the environment and damaged it. In response to that most Governments across the world have shifted their focus  into renewable energy sources like solar energy. And this is where the role of ISA becomes important. ISA seeks to provide a dedicated platform for solar rich countries across the world to act together to help achieve the common goals of harnessing solar energy and reducing the dangers of climate change in our planet.

Till the ISA was formed there was no specific body that looked into the dynamics of solar energy including providing a global common standard for the same. There was an absence of universal energy access; energy equity and affordability are issues common to most of the solar resource rich countries.

It is in this response precisely that the ISA has been conceived as a coalition of solar resource rich countries to address their special energy needs while providing a platform to collaborate on addressing the identified gaps through a common, agreed approach. The ISA will not seek to duplicate or replicate the efforts that others (like International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP),etc and the projects that they are engaged in. It will rather seek to fulfil the role of a global facilitator by supporting these initiatives and creating global network to establish a common minimum global support program and standards.

India has been at the forefront of renewable energy in the last few years. The focus on solar energy, wind energy and policies like giving impetus to Electronic Vehicles (EV’s) leaves no doubt in one’s mind that India is serious about its commitment to combating climate change. India has made a pledge of generating 100GW of solar energy by 2022 and reducing its emission intensity by 30-35% by 2030. During the Paris climate summit India also pledged to bring its electricity produced by conventional sources to 60% while hiking the share of renewables to 40%. These targets give a clear idea of India’s thrust and seriousness towards combating climate change and it comes as no surprise that it was India which is one of the prime movers for the formation of the ISA. India primarily looks at four kinds of solar -powered projects — off-grid power supply hubs, street lighting, irrigation, green buildings, in addition to everyday products like solar cookers etc. There are reports that of late there have been a growing number of requests from African and island countries to share these technologies. India has often obliged and sent teams of experts to these countries to prepare the projects and work out details. If these projects are given line of credit and Indian companies and equipments are chosen to do the bidding then this can also possibly give impetus to programs like Make in India as well.

India’s prominence in the ISA can be measured from the fact that the recently concluded ISA summit was a huge success. In a multilateral world it is to India’s credit that it has been instrumental in setting up of a global organisation. The ISA is indeed becoming a testimony of both India’s resolve to fighting climate change as well as its place in a fast changing multilateral global world.

( Views expressed by the author are personal)

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