The first summit of the International Solar Alliance held in New Delhi jointly by India and France has announced a slew of projects and measures to accelerate the use of solar energy across the globe

French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the International Solar Alliance summit in New Delhi (Photo by Government of India)

A strong signal was sent out on Sunday by the Founding Conference of the International Solar Alliance that the first treaty based global coalition to emerge after the Paris Climate Summit is serious about mitigating the effects of climate change by proactively promoting the use of solar energy across the world.

The first summit of the alliance is being held in the President’s palace in New Delhi and is co-chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid and dignitaries from 47 nations are also attending the summit.

Modi presented a 10-point action plan that included making affordable solar technology available to all countries, raising the share of solar power in the global energy mix, framing suitable regulations and standards, providing support to bankable solar energy projects and creating a network of centres for excellence.

“The Veda’s consider the sun as the soul of the world. It has been considered as a life nurturer,” Modi said at the summit. “Today, for combating climate change, we need to look at this ancient idea to find a way.”

“This is a huge platform to mobilise available financial funds,” Macron said in his inaugural speech. “We had allocated euro 300 million (USD 370 million) for solar projects and this commitment has been met.” The French President also announced a plan for 100 centres of excellence to train 10,000 technicians in member countries on solar technologies. The French National Institute for Solar Energy would contribute in providing easier access to solar technologies and technology transfers, he said.

Solar Mamas

The event on Sunday began with speeches and a glimpse into the lives of Solar Mamas — women from 14 countries including from Africa and Pacific who have been trained as solar engineers by the Barefoot College in Rajasthan in India to improve their energy access and finances.

Modi, who had jointly launched the global alliance with the then French President Francois Hollande at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015, has been encouraging energy efficiency to slow down global warming. “In India, we have distributed 28 crore (280 million) LED bulbs in last three years. By this, we have not only saved energy worth 2 billion dollars but also saved 4GW of electricity. This also cut carbon emissions by 30 billion tonnes,” Modi said. “We want solar revolution globally too.”

“We will provide 500 training slots for member countries every year. We will also provide project preparation facility to help member countries prepare bankable projects,” the Indian Prime Minister said. “We will provide consultancy support for the partner members.” Lack of bankable projects has often been cited by the ISA secretariat as one of the main challenges.

Officials and experts are hoping that the ISA summit will give the required political push for the implementation of respective solar roadmaps to deploy solar energy in member countries.

“The ISA summit aims to bring together the member countries with a strong partnership to mobilise more than USD 1000 billion dollars by 2030. ISA aims to generate a global solar market of trillion dollars. Apart from this, ISA summit will generate political support for solar roadmaps of member countries in areas of demand aggregation, innovation, standards, quality control, R&D and capacity building,” Upendra Tripathy, Interim Director General of ISA, told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

See: Solar summit expected to hasten pace of renewable deployment

ISA was conceptualised to deploy large-scale solar power (1000 GW by 2030) in 121 sunshine-rich countries that lie between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Most of these countries are small, developing or underdeveloped, and lack visibility when it comes to garnering financial assistance. ISA hopes to bridge that gap and help in greater accessibility to energy for the poor.

See: India hits back at critics with solar alliance

After subsequent ratification by almost 30 countries (15 was the minimum number required for it to gain a legal status) and with 61 countries having signed the framework agreement, it became a legal entity. It is the first treaty-based international body to be headquartered in India. Many countries that lie outside tropics like Mongolia, Nepal and Germany, which is a solar leader itself, have expressed interest to join the multilateral platform.

“The steering committee has met six times and it was discussed in the last meeting. There was a consensus that every country that is a UN member should be able to join. But it is not steering committee’s mandate to re-examine it. It has to be decided by the UN general assembly,” Tripathy said on national television just ahead of the summit.

Many projects

As many as 121 solar projects were also to be rolled out around the ISA summit, out of which 70 projects have been finalised so far. “One hundred and twenty one represents the number equal to ISA prospective member countries. We have got 70 projects from various countries with a call of Expression of Interest,” Tripathy told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “In addition to this, India as host country has mobilised solar projects from 20 countries in Africa with a total estimated cost of USD 700 million.”

“There are challenges like how to mobilise USD 1000 billion and bring down the cost of capital, how to develop bankable and sustainable solar projects and how to aggregate demand and address issues of Quality Control, innovation, standards and capacity building,” said Tripathy.

ISA officials are hopeful that with the booming solar industry and the interest this coalition has generated globally, especially after becoming a legal entity, would help overcome the barriers.

To help in rolling out the finances, five multilateral financial institutions — the African Development Bank (AfDb), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Green climate fund (GCF), and the New Development Bank (NDB) — signed joint financial partnership declarations with ISA on March 10 in the presence of India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

On the occasion, R.K. Singh, Minister of New and Renewable Energy, said, “ISA has potential to have a huge impact on future of planet. We are in a happy situation where renewable energy has become viable,”

The previous three partnerships were signed by ISA with the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is to sign a Joint Partnership Declaration on March 11, taking the tally to eight partnerships with multilateral financial institutions.

Two new programmes — on scaling solar E-mobility and storage, and on rooftop solar — will be launched soon though the main focus of the summit is on signing of joint declarations with the global banks.

The coalition has already launched three programmes. The first one, called scaling solar applications for agricultural use, aims to promote solar water pumps instead of diesel pumps for irrigation to benefit both farmers and the environment. The second programme focuses on scaling up affordable financing for solar while the third aims to promote solar mini-grids, especially in the least developed and small island countries.

See: International Solar Alliance plans major irrigation initiative

While ISA has been able to mobilise a demand of 464,000 out of 500,000 solar water pumps under the first programme to help farmers, the solar mini-grid initiative is yet to pick up the pace.

 

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