Solar alliance rests on India’s leadership

GN Bureau | December 1, 2015




India and France on Monday launched an international alliance seeking to mobilise more than a trillion dollars by 2030 and deliver clean, solar energy to some of the planet's poorest.

The International Solar Alliance will hold its first steering group meeting today and aims to deliver clean and affordable energy to all, including India's 300 million people who have no access to energy.

It aspires to bring together well over 100 solar-rich countries in the tropics, with backing from industry and governments and to mobilise a trillion dollars of investment.

French President Francois Hollande, host of two weeks of UN talks, needs to win the support of nearly 200 nations if the summit is to forge a global deal to curb climate change.

Prime minister Narendra Modi on Monday said solar would allow India to combine protecting the environment with growth, setting a positive tone that delegates said boded well for the negotiations ahead.

"There is already a revolution in solar energy. Technology is evolving and costs are coming down," PM Modi said.

"We want to bring solar energy into lives and homes by making it cheaper, more reliable and easier to connect to the grid."

India has a huge interest in the mass roll-out of solar power.  It is seeking to reach capacity of 100 gigawatts by 2022. Modi also announced that India will host the initiative in the premises of the National Institute of Solar Energy in Gurgaon, Haryana.

He said that India will provide land and contribute about $30 million to build the Secretariat infrastructure.

"We will support operations for five years, and together we will raise long terms funds to achieve our goals," Modi said.

"This is an alliance that brings together developed and developing countries, governments and industries, laboratories and institutions in a common enterprise," he said at the launch of the International Solar Alliance.

"This day is the sunrise of new hope — not just for clean energy, but for villages and homes still in darkness; and for our mornings and evenings filled with a clear view of the glory of the sun," the Prime Minister said of the launch of the initiative supported by over 100 countries.

Modi said, "to my long cherished dream of International Solar Alliance, president Hollande responded with immediate support."

UN Secretary General also hailed Prime Minister Modi's initiative saying, "I welcome the initiative of PM Narendra Modi, the UN will work to make it a success."

To highlight the importance of solar energy, Modi said that in Indian tradition, sun is the source of all forms of energy.

"As Rig Veda says, Sun God is the Soul of all beings, moving and non-moving. Many in India begin their day with a prayer to the Sun," he said.

"Today, when the energy sources and excesses of our industrial age have put our planet in peril, the world must turn to Sun to power our future," he added.

Modi highlighted that India has a capacity of 4GW and has set a target of adding 100 GW of solar power by 2022. "By the end of next year, we would have added 12 GW."

The idea of solar alliance was mooted by Modi during the the India-Africa Forum Summit last month.

Noting that energy sources and "excesses" of industrial age have put the planet in peril, Modi said the world must turn to sun to power the future.

A book on quotations about nature whose preface is written jointly by Modi and Hollande was also released. The prime minister dedicated the new edition of his book Convenient Action to the French President.

"I am honoured to co-author the preface with him," Modi said, adding that, "since ancient times, different civilisations have given a special place to Sun."

Modi called on advanced countries to leave enough carbon space for developing countries to grow as he said this would mean a growth path with lighter carbon footprint.

"So, convergence between economy, ecology and energy should define our future. The vast majority of humanity is blessed with generous sunlight round the year. Yet, many are also without any source of power. This is why this alliance is so important," he said.

"We want to bring solar energy into our lives and homes, by making it cheaper, more reliable and easier to connect to grid. We will collaborate on research and innovation. We will share knowledge and exchange best practices," he added.

Modi said as part of the initiative, countries will cooperate on training, building institutions, discussing regulatory issues and promote common standards.

"We will attract investments in the solar sector, encourage joint ventures and develop innovative financing mechanisms. We will partner with other international initiatives on renewable energy," Modi said of the alliance.

"There is already a revolution in solar energy. Technology is evolving, costs are coming down and grid connectivity is improving. It is making the dream of universal access to clean energy has become more real," Modi said.

"I am delighted with the industry response. As you put clean energy within the reach of all, it will create unlimited economic opportunities that will be the foundation of the new economy of this century," he said.

Officials said that there are over 100 countries which are solar-rich, lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

These countries, all potential members of the ISA are united by a shared vision to bring clean, affordable and renewable solar energy within the reach of all, they said.

Solar energy also is a practical and efficient way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions.

With this in mind, countries have been invited by the objective of significantly augmenting solar power generation in their respective countries with a view to contributing to global, sustainable development.

Power Minister Piyush Goyal said that there will be an international steering committee which will deliberate on Wednesdays on the contours and framework of this alliance. There are around 15-16 countries which have expressed interest to part of the committee.

Meanwhile, experts say that the launch of international solar alliance shows India's leadership in clean energy.

"This unprecedented international solar collaboration sets an encouraging tone as country representatives gather today to reach a new global climate agreement. India's leading role in forming an International Solar Alliance anchors its own climate commitment to ramp up renewable energy," said said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The alliance also has the potential to propel international solar markets forward while fighting climate change, improving global health and boosting economies, Suh said.

"With the US and China joining India, along with over 100 other nations, to support this solar alliance on the first day of the UN climate negotiations, the majority of greenhouse gas emitters are demonstrating tremendous leadership to develop sustainably while curbing climate change," said Jing Jing Qian, China Programme Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Anjali Jaiswal, India Initiative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council said coupled with its comprehensive solar programme aiming to reach 100 gigawatts by 2022, India has once again positioned itself as a global leader in clean energy.

"Developing affordable solar technologies and attracting the considerable investment required to finance the envisioned solar transition are critical steps to support India and other countries to achieve their ambitious clean energy goals set as part of the Paris negotiations," she said.

Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water said, "India has emerged as the natural leader for this alliance, with its ambitious targets to install 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, and non-fossil fuel electricity generating systems accounting for 40 per cent of the cumulative installed capacity by 2030."

Manish Bapna, Managing Director, World Resources Institute says:

“This new alliance is a sign of India’s leadership on the global stage. The international alliance brings together developing and developed countries to expand energy access, accelerate solar power deployment, and stimulate economic development. Backed by $1 trillion in investment, the alliance should drive down the costs of solar power, making it affordable for a growing number of communities.

“Prime Minister Modi, who spearheaded this partnership with leaders of several African countries, continues to show strong commitment to expand renewable energy in India. The alliance will support India in building 100 gigawatts of solar energy by 2022.

“This alliance brings in many other countries with vast solar potential, including many from Africa. By facilitating international cooperation, the alliance will advance technology exchange, drive innovation and create new business opportunities in India and elsewhere.

“This new alliance is a shining example of how an ambitious climate agreement can stimulate public and private investments in the low-carbon economy."

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