25 November 2015 14:00:03 IST

Modi’s Maha Gathbandhan and solar diplomacy

The ISA initiative will reinforce India’s position as emerging global leader in solar sector

What is common in all the countries that lie between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn? Yes, you guessed it right — they’re all ‘tropical’ countries. In other words: sunny.

And bringing them all together and leading them into a ‘sunny’ future is India.

How, you ask?

Well, India has taken the initiative to form an ‘International Solar Alliance’ (believed to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s idea). ISA is to be headquartered in India — the government has set aside ₹175 crore for this, a chunk of which will go into building a nice, swanky Secretariat in Gurgaon. The government expects 121 tropical countries to become members of this ‘maha ghatbandhan’ or grand alliance.

Global leader

India’s ISA initiative, lauded by many countries, will reinforce India’s position as an emerging global leader in the solar sector, and indeed, India’s stature the world over.

As has been mentioned in this column earlier, India has set itself a target of building 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022.

Today, we have 4 GW, and may end the year with double that number. This means that over the next eight years, we would need to build 92 GW of solar capacity, or 12 GW a year; a very, very tall order and a huge challenge. If India pulls off an annual installation run-rate of anywhere close to the 12 GW target, then it would be on par with China, leaving others behind.

But truth be told, few believe India can do 12 GW a year. But if there’s one thing everyone’s sure of, it is that whatever India has by 2022 will be a very respectable number. Thus, whether the 100 GW target is met or not, India is, without doubt, leading the global solar movement from the front. The ISA initiative will consolidate this position.

Collaboration, not competition

But ISA was not conceived to be a national ego-booster. The way the government sees it, it will be an active organisation that will help sharing technology and skills and aid countries with funding and exchanging best practices — a true partnership for a common cause.

To paraphrase the government, ISA will be instrumental in providing enhanced understanding of the role that solar energy could play in providing energy services; particularly for the rural poor in countries with great solar resource endowments which currently lack the means to tap this potential energy source and convert it into an opportunity to transform rural areas.

More importantly, ISA is expected to help facilitate a number of things, “without unduly heavy investments”. Of course, a major plank of cooperation is joint research and development. Here, India has stated clearly that it will not compete but collaborate, with established bodies such as the International Renewable Energy Agency or the International Energy Agency. Furthermore, “ISA will act as a voice for raising common issues for development and deployment of solar energy at international fora,” a government document said.

Sharp minds such as yours will not fail to notice the undercurrents beneath the ISA — today, the world is terrified of the effects of climate change. In a week’s time, a major all-country negotiation process will get underway in Paris to discuss that. Now is the time to show leadership, raise a voice under the high-and-mighty developed countries, that are increasingly being mean and stingy. Now is the time for solar diplomacy.

Hence, ISA.