International Solar Alliance

The COP-21 Climate Conference was held in Paris, France from 30 November to 12 December 2015. During this conference, India and France have launched the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which has been creating buzz in the international media. Here is a brief backgrounder on this new Indian initiative.

What is the Alliance?

On the first day of the COP-21 summit, the International Solar Alliance was launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande as a union of countries with abundant sunlight.

Under this alliance, 121 countries that fall within the tropics {i.e. between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn} have been invited to make collaborative efforts to harness solar energy to generate the electricity. Most of these countries fall within Asia, Africa and South America.

Objectives

There are three objectives behind the International Solar Alliance. Firstly, to force down prices by driving demand; secondly, to bring standardization in solar technologies and thirdly, to foster research and development.

Forcing down prices

Currently, the global installed capacity of solar power is around 180 GW at present. It has grown around tenfold in last one decade only. The prices of solar panels and other related equipments have gradually become very competitive, but still India and world are far from reaching the grid parity. {Grid Parity is when cost of per unit energy produced via solar or any other alternative method is equal to cost of purchasing the same from an existing electricity grid}. To achieve the grid parity, it is a prerequisite to bring down the cost of generation of solar power. The idea behind an international alliance is that the countries can come together to collaborate in installation of solar plants and thus can drive up the demand for solar technologies manifold. This would force down the prices around the world and will make generation of solar energy rather cheap.

Standardization

The second rationale of this alliance is to bring standardization in the manufacturing of the solar panels and other solar technologies, so that the prices can fall substantially. The countries can also come together in technological innovation also to bring down the prices.

Research and Development

One of the key objectives of ISA is to foster research and development in solar technologies. Currently, a technology breakthrough is awaited in the field of storage of energy. Currently, there is no way to store the electricity being produced by solar systems due to which it has not established itself as reliable energy source.

Important Facts

The Sunshine Countries {Suryaputra}

Our Prime Minister was the leading force behind this alliance. He coined the new term “Surya Putra” for all the nations which fall between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, and which have been invited to join the alliance. The other term used for these countries is “Sunshine Countries”.

International Agency for Solar Policy and Application (IASPA)

International Agency for Solar Policy and Application (IASPA) will be the formal name of International Solar Alliance. Its secretariat will be set up in India with an investment of initial funding of $30 million from India. It will raise around $400 million as fees from international agencies. Initially The ISA secretariat will be set up in National Institute of Solar Energy, New Delhi.

IESS 2047

IESS 2047 stands for India Energy Security Scenarios 2047 calculator which has been launched by India to explore the potential of future energy scenarios for India.

Points for Analysis

Firstly, ISA is a pragmatic and interesting initiative by India towards bringing affordable solar energy to all and towards global effort to fight climate change. If it’s successful, it will not only be helpful for India but also for many developing countries which could defend their people against ravages of climate change while giving them safe and clean energy.

Secondly, this alliance has diplomatic importance also. It is one of the India’s major global diplomatic initiatives since NAM days. It fosters South-South Cooperation.

Thirdly, if successful, it can be extended to other forms of renewable energy also, such as wind or biogas.

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