The Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, fondly named countries belonging to the Torrid Zone or the area between Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, Suryaputra or ‘Sons of the Sun’ leading to the advent of the International Solar Alliance. It is an alliance of more than 121 countries, most of them Sunshine countries, that lie partly or completely in the Torrid zone. This alliance was proposed by Mr. Modi in a speech on 15 November 2015 at Wembley Stadium. He took this initiative at the India-Africa Summit and the meeting of registered members has conducted ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015. The framework agreement of the ISA opened for signatures in Marrakech, Morroco in November 2016. This alliance is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization. Countries that do not fall in the tropics can join and experience all benefits as the other tropical region members with the exception of voting rights. This alliance is also called the ‘International Agency for Solar Power and Application’.
Objective of ISA
The main objective of this alliance is ultimate solar power utilization. To work for efficient exploitation of solar energy so as to reduce dependency on fossil fuels forms the primary agenda of ISA. The launching of this alliance at the Paris Conference had a convincing reason behind it. This timely launch showcases that the developing countries are ready to work against the use of fossil fuels and climate change as the developed nations and this alliance showcases their determination and willingness to work towards a better future. It is based on world-cooperation.
India has also pledged a target of installing 100 GW by 2022 so as to switch to a low carbon-emission growth plan. Also, the country is planning to reduce emission intensity by 30-35% by 2030 to let solar power reach the most ffar-flungvillages and communities. India also pledged to bring nearly 40% of its electricity generation capacity (not actual) from non-fossil sources, such as nuclear, large hydro and renewable, by 2030.
Energy, Resources, and Job Opportunities
With the support from developed countries like France, India has invited various nations to help support infrastructure for implementation of huge solar projects. The ISA has been committed $1 Trillion as an investment and is working for making solar power easily affordable to remote villages and inaccessible areas. This alliance also has the capability to endorse India in achieving its 2022 energy target in addition to providing 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. It is also seen as a joint effort on the part of developing countries to work together in unison and help in research work for the development of large-scale solar power projects. This alliance is built on trust within the developing world nations and aims to reach its targets within a desirable time frame.
June 30, 2016, marked an important date for this alliance as it entered into an understanding with the World Bank for increasing mobilization of finances for solar energy. To meet ISA’s goals of developing a massive project in affordable solar energy to all, the World Bank will have a major role in mobilizing more than the US $1000 billion in investments needed by 2030. 48 countries have signed and 26 countries have ratified the Framework Agreement of the ISA. With ratifications from 15 countries, the ISA will be recognized by the UN to become legally functioning. The government of India announced the establishment of a $350 million solar development fund to enable financing of solar projects at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi in January 2018. Such a large-scale project has the potential to generate millions of job opportunities across the developing as well as the developed worlds, thus creating economic prosperity in each participant nation.
Headquarters and Signatory Nations
The ISA is to be headquartered in India. With the foundation stone jointly laid by Indian PM, Mr. Narendra Modi and the French President, François Hollande and the inauguration of the interim Secretariat at the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) in Gwalpahari, Gurugram, India, the country remains the potential candidate for the establishment of ISA headquarters. To facilitate the same, the Indian government has dedicated 5 acres of land in the NISE campus for the future headquarters and a sum of $1.75 billion has been contributed to fund the building of a campus plus meeting the expenditures of the first 5 years.
The Framework Agreement had opened for signatures on the sidelines of the Marrakech Climate Change Conference, with 16 countries signing the agreement on its first day, followed by Guinea Bissau, Fiji, France, Vanuatu and Liberia joining the second day and afterward. Subsequently, an additional 107 countries joined the alliance, including all major countries lying between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.
Importance of ISA for India
The possible benefit for India, in addition to creating a safe, renewable and affordable energy resource, is that the country can strengthen its ties with major African and Tropical nations so as to create goodwill amongst them. This forms one of the reasons why the Indian PM is so fond of this alliance.
India has also started an ambitious KUSUM solar scheme (Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan) that is primarily aimed at farmers to enable them to shift towards solar farm water pumps and use barren land for generating solar power to have extra income. The total cost of the capacities under this scheme is expected to be Rs 1.4 lakh crore. Earlier, a subsidy of 30% was provided to farmers but under the KUSUM scheme, a subsidy of 60% will be provided to farmers.
Recent Developments in ISA
Nearly 50 solar projects are expected to be committed at the ‘Founding Conference’ of the ISA that will be held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi. In this conference, the Heads of States of most of the member countries will meet for the first time ever. It means that the industry will provide 50 commitment certificates to the International Solar Alliance and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
The Interim Director General, ISA, Upendra Tripathy, told BusinessLine (The Hindu) that the alliance plans to offer 12-18 months’ fellowship to officers whose ranks are equivalent to India’s Joint Secretaries’. The intention is that people from abroad can learn about solar energy resources in Indian universities. The idea is to offer 20 such fellowships. ISA has also decided to train a number of technicians to become ‘Master Solar Mechanics’, thus enhancing the availability of good job opportunities to the next level.
Another opinion floated was the aim of reusing degraded land by putting up solar plants on them, but the nature of collaboration with the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund (of United Nation’s Combat Desertification Campaign; the baby of UNCCD) is not clear yet. This is because the LDN Fund, which has a corpus of $300 million, is much less than what solar energy development needs for degraded land-solar reclamation.
The Alliance is also helping member countries develop their own solar policies and is due to hold a National Focal Point Conclave of representatives from member nations. The 2nd NFP Conclave held in Delhi on March 10, 2018, aimed to develop roadmaps for Solar Energy Programmes of individual ISA member countries.
The writer is pursuing M.Sc. In Environmental Sciences from Amity University, Noida.