Global Alliance backs India’s solar ambition

India-based International Solar Alliance brings together 121 nations that are keen on sharing and augmenting resources to strengthen the future of solar

November 2, 2017

ISA aims to achieve universal energy access and security for future generations

It is the first international and intergovernmental organisation headquartered in India

ISA and the World Bank aim to partner to support project investment of US$1 trillion

ISA has partnered with the European Investment Bank to support its ventures

An agreement signed between the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on November 2 2017 marked a new chapter in the creation of energy groupings and geopolitical blocs. The ISA’s expanding footprint and alliances reveal a growing coalition of stakeholders that are willing to stitch together a sustainable future for the planet and its people. The ISA lies at the confluence of geopolitics and geoeconomics and uniquely represents a multitude of overlapping sets. The Alliance’s Solar Summit Meet in New Delhi in April 2018 will help formalise many of these intersecting forces.

Universal energy access and energy security

The concept of ISA was first discussed at the India Africa Summit 2015 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his inaugural address, outlined his vision of introducing clean, affordable and accessible energy for all nations and thereby providing a platform for a sustainable future. The vision has a critical adjunct: creating a framework for achieving universal energy access and energy security for future generations. The Alliance was formally launched at the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Paris on November 30, 2015, by Prime Minister Modi and former French President Francois Hollande. The launch was made in the presence of Ban Ki Moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN).

ISA is the first international and intergovernmental organisation headquartered in India; of the 44 countries that have signed the Framework Agreement of the ISA, 15 countries have already submitted a formal instrument of ratification of the Framework Agreement. This now allows ISA to attain legal status as a treaty based intergovernmental international organisation, recognised officially by the UN.

ISA has been designed as a common platform for cooperation among countries rich in solar resources and lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Traditionally, this geographic cohort has been called the Global South, or the Developing Nations. The stage for cooperation between these countries was set at the Bandung Conference of 1955, in what was called South-South Cooperation. Success has been inconsistent however, especially on trade and economic cooperation, primarily because of the dependence on Western aid and inordinate economic reliance on commodities movement. However, over the past decade, especially post the Trans-Atlantic financial crisis, there has been greater cohesion and coordination. Two examples stand out: The New Development Bank or the BRICS Bank, and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. Both do not seek to replace the existing multilateral financial institutions but are mandated with drafting an alternative and sustainable narrative that recognises the unique problems of developing nations.

ISA to create structures and frameworks for undertaking research and development that will assist in production of solar power equipment within developing countries

The ISA seeks to provide greater consistency to this movement. Here is how.

  • First, by creating a multilateral platform for solar power generation, ISA makes a clear departure from earlier groupings that were based exclusively on either geography or shared geopolitical/geo-economic concerns. ISA unites nations from a common geography with a common economic concern – jointly exploring an alternative energy source to address concerns of development.

 

  • Second, ISA allows the developing world to demonstrate its commitment to climate change concerns. A significant percentage of the developing world’s population is dependent on agriculture for sustenance and income and it is well documented that the agriculture sector will be hit hardest by climate change. ISA thus provides a platform for safeguarding the future of a large percentage of the world’s population.

 

  • Third, ISA will create structures and frameworks for undertaking research and development that will assist in production of solar power equipment within developing countries. This will then help developing nations access cheaper substitutes compared with the higher priced equipment from the developed world.

 

  • Fourth, by uniting, the Alliance has a better chance of meeting its committed investment target of $1 trillion. This will also help reduce solar power costs, so that it becomes affordable for remote and inaccessible communities. The Alliance has already entered into an understanding with the World Bank to help mobilise financing for the committed investment of $1 trillion. ISA has also signed an agreement with the European Investment Bank to help mobilise international climate finance and improve sharing of technical expertise. The latest agreement with EBRD imparts ISA with additional momentum towards meetings its goals.

ISA sets the template for all future instruments of cooperation and coordination will look: united by a common geography, mutual economic concerns and a shared vision for a sustainable future.