The three-day meeting of the global coalition to promote solar energy that begins today in India is expected to result in a work plan
The International Solar Alliance (ISA), a global coalition to promote solar energy in sunshine-abundant countries, is set to hold its first general assembly from today. The assembly will be held during October 2-5 and will be inaugurated by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who is currently on a visit to India, is scheduled to attend the event.
The assembly will coincide with two other global meetings on renewable energy — the second edition of RE-invest and a meeting of energy ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) countries that has 21 members.
ISA, a brainchild of Modi, was launched at the UN climate summit in Paris in 2015 jointly with the government of France. As many as 44 countries have ratified and 68 countries have signed the framework of the alliance. The goal of ISA is to install 1,000 GW of solar energy by 2030 and mobilise USD 1,000 billion to achieve the target. The purpose is not just reducing the global carbon footprint but to help the 121 member countries, mostly developing economies, with solar solutions, and provide modern energy access to everybody.
In the light of its first general assembly, ISA has some immediate goals. After getting legal recognition, the first goal that ISA wants to achieve is to get the work plan approved by the assembly.
“The first priority is to hold the assembly and then to get the work plan approved. This was the key thing, the work plan. This work plan that we are proposing is a biennial work plan applicable for 2019-20,” Upendra Tripathy, Interim Director General of ISA, told indiaclimatedialogue.net.
ISA has come up with five programmes to boost different sectors where solar technologies can be applied while reducing risks and addressing the financial challenges that developing and least developed countries face while adopting green power. The alliance has already launched four programmes, while the fifth is expected to be launched during the general assembly.
In February this year, ISA had asked for expressions of Interest for solar projects, which resulted in a list of 227 projects, out of which 119 have got funded. The ISA secretariat has suggested that a similar exercise be done for mini-grid and rooftop solar projects.
“We are asking for around five mini-grid projects from each member country that need it. If we can take 200 mini-grids, five from each country and somehow help them (countries) in making the projects and then combine the things and go for 200 mini-grids, that will be one good move,” Tripathy said. All the countries are to submit mini-grid and rooftop solar projects by October 2.
“We are now thinking that in the 34 countries that have ratified, 44,000 premises like engineering colleges, universities, jails, schools, public premises can be aggregated to increase demand and then to have a transparent bidding system through PPA (public-private partnership) route so that the countries don’t have to take loans. That will be a big step towards the solar mission,” he added.
ISA is expected to launch its fifth programme on scaling solar E-mobility and storage during the general assembly.
But to embark on such a big mission is not free of obstacles. “Our major challenge is how to put financial institutions together to reach the target of USD 1,000 billion by 2030,” Tripathy said.
“Our projections suggest that investments in solar sector is really ramped up but now it is reaching a kind of plateau,” Jagjit Sareen, Finance Director, ISA, told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “Countries that are going solar, and investment numbers are high for these ones, they are going to stay the course but there will be some moderation in the next 10 years which will still take us to the path we want but it may not be equitably distributed and may not address the energy access challenge.”
One of the biggest challenges is lack of bankable projects. “It is critical. One message we hear from all the investors is that there is dearth of bankable projects in member countries. Second is to reduce risk and lack of data reliability so that cost of due diligence of investors reduces,” said Sareen.
However, steps are being taken to bring investors together and address the financial hiccups.
“We are looking at PPA models so that countries don’t have to take loans. We are also pushing bilateral donor agencies to earmark their funding for solar projects. The government of India has committed USD 2 billion while France has pledged USD 1 billion,” added Sareen.
Tripathy concurred that investments are coming in for the sector. India is going to pay for running the secretariat that has its headquarters in Gurgaon (next to New Delhi) for the next five years and manage the corpus that is being set up, he said.
“The funds will also be used for cross-country activities, like we are sending experts from India and Bangladesh to Uganda to share their good practices and experiences on solar water pumps. ISA is setting up a corpus for such activities. The European Union, World Bank and other organisations are coming up with support. World Bank has come up with USD 500,000 for such outdoor activities and EU has come up with 300,000 Euros for an infopedia,” said Tripathy.
The meet will see several high-level ministerial meetings to achieve the common goal of clean and green growth. It will also be a platform where countries will share their best practices with one another. The state of Madhya Pradesh will be showcasing its recently concluded rooftop solar project bidding that has paved the way for effective implementation of RESCO solar models. ISA is promoting solar rooftop projects through PPA models where the countries or consumers are not required to make upfront payments, thus doing away with the need for loans.
ISA has also trained 30 people from nine countries who will play a crucial role in setting up Solar Technology Applications and Resource Centre (STAR-C). The plan is on to set up 121 of them.