International Solar Alliance – Need, Objectives, Challenges, Benefits for India

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India recently held the second assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in October 2019. India is the current president of the ISA and France is the co-president.

International Solar Alliance represents India’s continuing efforts towards fighting Global warming and climate change. As the world still deliberates over the possible mechanisms to counter the impacts of climate change, The ISA is an action-oriented, sustainable model to balance the needs of developing countries and environmental efforts. It is the first organization working in the renewable energy sectors focusing solely on solar energy.

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What is the International Solar Alliance?

GENESIS-

  • The International Solar Alliance is an Indian initiative that was launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France on 30th November 2015 as an “alliance of sunshine countries”.
  • It was launched on the sidelines of the Conference of parties i.e. COP-21 of the UNFCC.

Members-

  • Countries lying fully or partially between the tropics and which receive sunshine for more than 300 days can be its members.
  • As on date, 82 countries of the 121 prospective member countries have signed the Framework Agreement of the ISA. Of these, 64 countries have ratified the same.
  • The countries lying fully beyond tropics can join the alliance as ‘Partner Counties’

Status-

The ISA treaty came into force on December 6, 2017 after 15 countries ratified the treaty.  Registered under Article 102 of the UN Charter, will work closely with the UN, unlike other organizations.

Structure-

  • It is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization headquartered in Gurugram, India.
  • Two-tiered structure-
  1. The Assembly-

-The highest decision-making body.

-All member countries are represented on the assembly.

-One member-one vote

-Meets annually.

  1. The secretariat-

A Director General (who is also a CEO) and other staff.

The director-general is responsible to the assembly.

  • Partner countries, observers, organizations, strategic partners can participate but they don’t have the right to vote.

What was the need to create ISA?

  • Need to create feasible alternatives to the existing well established and cost-effective energy resources.
  • The main challenge is the financial viability of sustainable energy solutions.
  • The development of solar projects cannot be done isolated and small pockets as the costs are very high.
  • Most of the tropical countries are poor and developing which cannot be expected to take up these costly projects neglecting their social demands.
  • There is no ecosystem to encourage investment and willingness to create sustainable solutions on large scale.
  • The absence of integrated renewable energy policy was another issue.

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What are the key objectives?

  • Mobilising over $1 trillion of investments by 2030 for massive deployment of solar energy.
  • 1,000GW of solar generation capacity deployment.
  • Making solar energy affordable, creating solar grids and a solar credit mechanism.
  • Reducing the finance and technology costs.
  • Enhancing energy security and sustainable development.
  • Addressing the obstacles lying in the way of massive scaling up of solar energy.
  • Act as a platform for diplomatic engagement.

How will it achieve the aims and objectives?

  • Established a political, contractual and regulatory environment that encourages investment in solar energy projects.
  • harmonization of public policies and the updating of regulations and contractual frameworks between countries to reduce the uncertainties.
  • Creation of a new online procurement platform for the facilitation and collection of solar project bids.
  • Financial instruments hedging to protect them against the financial risks inherent in renewable energy projects.

ISA programs and initiatives till now-

  • Programmes namely “Affordable finance at scale”, “Scaling up solar applications for agricultural use” and “Scaling up Solar Minigrids” have been launched.
  • The World Bank and the AFD in partnership with the ISA, launched the Solar Risk Mitigation Initiative (SRMI) at COP-24 in 2018.
  • Joint Declarations with World Bank, Climate Parliament, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the promotion and cooperation of solar energy.
  • Aggregation of demand from various countries on various solar projects to effect economy.
  • A Digital Infopedia is established to serve as a platform for the stakeholders to communicate and collaborate with one another.

What India has done in this regard?

  • 5 acres of land to the ISA within the campus of the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Gurugram.
  • has released a sum of Rs. 160 crore, for creation of a corpus fund, infrastructure and managing day to day recurring expenditure of the ISA.
  • Public Sector Enterprises have contributed US$ 8 million for augmenting ISA corpus fund.
  • US$ 2 Billion for solar projects in Africa out of Government of India’s US$10 Billion concessional Line of Credit (LOC) for Africa.
  • for Pacific Islands Developing States, allocation of US$ 12 million grant, and a concessional LOC of US$ 150 Million.

What are the advantages of the ISA?

  • It gives an action-oriented push in the direction of sustainable solutions to climate change which is facing challenges due to dragging negotiations under UNFCC.
  • It is a sound advocate of the investments in the solar energy projects as they are backed by the sovereign nations working to get, he projects done.
  • As discussed, it addresses the elephant in the room, i.e. the economics of sustainability.
  • One member one vote policy makes it democratic and creates potential for local need-based action plans.
  • The main focus area i.e. the tropics contains some of the poorest countries with low financial capacity and dire need of energy to develop. It tries to address this twin issue.
  • With a focus on the single area of solar energy, it has its task cut down.

How India benefit from ISA?

  • It reassures the world about India’s seriousness and commitment to the climate cause on the backdrop of criticism of contributing the most to the pollution and doing less to contain it.
  • Puts India as an energy leader in developing countries.
  • It is complementary to the National solar mission with the target of 100GW of solar power by 2022 and can improve its viability by coming up with financial solutions.
  • Huge push to the innovation industry in India to make low-cost energy solutions under the overall framework of the International Solar Alliance.
  • It can create job opportunities as the solar energy sector is the most labour intensive.
  • It can get the benefit of technology transfer and R&D and can equally contribute in this area among the poorer countries.

What are the challenges for ISA?

  • The burgeoning slowdown in the global economy, the financial contributions are hard to come right now.
  • The technology transfer is easier said than done as technology is the most lucrative business.
  • Energy storage technologies- Non-fuel minerals like cobalt are essential to energy storage technologies. The two countries Chile and Congo contain most of the world’s cobalt reserves. Though Congo has ratified the treaty, Chile is yet to do so.
  • Most African countries have high most favoured nation (MFN) tariffs for photovoltaic cells, modules and semiconductor devices. Along with their lack of manufacturing capacities, it raises costs
  • The litigations such as the WTO litigation over domestic content requirement does not encourage countries like India to move forward.

Way forward

  • It would be wise to not to lose focus as the global solar costs are falling.
  • Funding for the capacity building of the tropic countries to be taken on a priority basis.
  • Training programmes in member countries for solar technicians must be done to make sure that the skilled workforce is homegrown.
  • Energy bond markets must be strengthened by the use of Masala bonds and other similar bonds.
  • Funding for Research and development must be increased and more research institutes like the National Institute of Solar Energy.

Practise Question for mains

What is the International Solar Alliance? On the backdrop of the inability of countries to finance existing mechanisms of climate change action, critically examine its Utility. (250 words)

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