Modi to launch solar alliance on first day of Paris climate summit

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to launch his ambitious International Solar Alliance on Monday, the first day of the Paris climate summit.The move is being seen by analysts as a strategic step for the country on the global stage.Experts say that the alliance, which would include around 50 African countries, would be a huge business opportunity for Indian companies. It is also likely to give the country a leadership role in solar power-generation capacities. The first official announcement of the alliance was made by Modi at the India-Africa Summit held in New Delhi on 26-30 October, though the plan had been in the works for sometime. It received support from nearly all the African nations besides countries such as Australia and France. India has also invited China to be part of the solar alliance.

  • The name of the proposed alliance is International Agency for Solar Policy and Application (INSPA) and it aims to include almost 110 tropical countries called ‘sunshine nations’ as they receive abundant sunshine throughout the year. Along with French President Francois Hollande, Modi will announce the launch of INSPA on the first day of the Conference of Parties (CoP) 21 starting in Le Bourget, a suburb of Paris, where more than 190 countries will negotiate a new global climate regime under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). “In efforts to tackle climate change, India has already come up with the solar alliance idea and that has been enthusiastically accepted by many, including the French president,” said former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.

  • “We need to control climate change and if the world leaders don’t agree on common action, it is going to be very difficult. India is ready to join global leaders. In the past 12 months, climate change has featured in nearly all of Modi’s foreign engagements,” Mansingh said. Under Modi, India has scaled up its renewable energy target from 30GW by 2016-17 to 175GW by 2021-22, which is expected to result in the abatement of 326.22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. Of this 175GW, the highest share would be of solar power. The government increased its target of achieving 20,000MW by 2022 to 100,000MW. This would require an investment of around Rs.6.5 trillion over the next five years.

  • This is expected to be scaled up further and by 2030, India aims at around 250GW of renewable power. By then, India aims to make solar power account for around 18% of its power mix compared to the current 1%. According to the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by India, which will form the basis of the Paris climate negotiations, the country’s target is to achieve 40% installed power capacity from renewable energy. For India, the possible additional spin-off from the alliance is the stregthening of its ties with major African countries, said Ruchita Berry, who heads the Africa and Latin America programmes at the government-funded Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses think tank based in New Delhi.

  • “It will definitely increase goodwill for India in the African countries because we will be seen as implementing the promise we made to them in partnering with them” in this initiative, Berry said. India is already training batches of African women—homemakers from countries as diverse as South Africa, Namibia and Burkina Faso—in household solar electrification techniques. The facility in Tilonia in Rajasthan—known as Barefoot College set up by activist Bunker Roy about 44 years ago—teaches the women how to assemble solar panels and lanterns.

  • The women—called Barefoot Mamas—are made to go through a six-month training programme which is supported by the Indian foreign ministry. On their return to their respective countries, the women will help electrify villages, repair any faults with installed lighting panels as well as train other women, according to foreign ministry officials. The institute has so far trained 780 women from 72 countries, of which a little more than 300 are from 36 countries in Africa.

  • “Africa is energy rich but large sections of population in many African countries still don’t have electricity. India’s solar alliance initiative is expected to fill that gap. It will also provide opportunities for Indian solar equipment-manufacturing firms who will be implementing any project under this scheme which has been agreed upon by the Indian and African partner country’s governments,” Berry said.

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