India, France Establish International Solar Alliance

Akash Vashishtha
160126-IN-solar-620 French President Francois Hollande (left) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi travel by subway to launch the International Solar Alliance in Gurgaon, Jan. 25, 2016.

The International Solar Alliance whose cornerstone was laid Monday by India and France has the potential to address the issue of climate change if all 122 nations envisaged in the plan find common ground, analysts said.

The alliance is loaded with the potential of acting as a strategic coalition for nations most affected that have the least means to mitigate and adapt to climate change, they said.

An extension of December’s Paris Climate Conference, the global strategic alliance would also create new avenues of cooperation between developed and developing countries, they said.

The headquarters of the alliance is to be set up at Gurgaon, a satellite town of New Delhi. Its foundation stone was laid by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande prior to India’s Republic Day.

Breaking security protocols amid heightened terror threats, the two leaders arrived at the venue, bordering the national capital’s boundary, via subway. Hollande was the chief guest of this year’s Republic Day on Tuesday.

Modi, whose government had announced an ambitious target of 190,000 megawatts of electricity from renewable sources with 100,000 megawatts from solar power alone, proposed the global solar alliance to Hollande during the Indian leader’s state visit to France last April.

Abundant sunlight

According to the plan, the alliance would include 122 countries between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, which have abundant sunlight available for more than 300 days in a year.

The alliance is supported by more than 100 nations including Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Cameroon, China, New Zealand, Cuba, Egypt, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mauritius, Paraguay, Philippines, Senegal, South Sudan, United Arab Emirates, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

The alliance aims to promote joint research, sharing of information, knowledge and technology, joint ventures and to establish financial mechanisms to bring down costs of solar energy.

The member countries are expected to sign a formal accord during the signing of the Paris Agreement on April 22 in New York.

“There are many kinds of associations working in the world. OPEC countries have an alliance. There are G20, G4 and SAARC alliances. India placed an idea before with world that if petroleum producing countries could unite, African countries can become one, European countries can become one, then why not to erect an alliance in the world of countries which receive sunlight for over 300 days in a year,” Modi said.

“Just like the UN is in America but it is for the world, like WHO, which is for the world, in the same way, the headquarters of this International Solar Alliance is a heritage of the world and would function independently,” he said.

Holland pledges funding

Hollande pledged 300 million euros ($325 million USD) on behalf of the French Development Agency to finance the initial projects for next five years.

“The challenge is to raise, at a global level, the Euros 1,200 billion in investment required to develop this energy by 2030. The aim is for 1,000 gigawatts to be installed over the next 10 years,” Hollande said.

The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and Solar Energy Corp. of India each contributed $1 million USD to the alliance.

Expressing optimism on the future of the solar coalition, Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, said, “The plan could be a good platform for South-South cooperation in the exchange of technology and development to reduce costs. It is now up (member nations) to put together money and technology.”

“The alliance is, however, not the only solution. It is equally essential to bring down the consumption and emissions from the transport and industry sector,” Bhushan said.

Believing that scaling is necessary to establish costs, Amit Kumar, an energy expert and dean of the distance and short-term courses in TERI University, said, “The 5,000 megawatts of installed capacity is only one-20th of the target set of 100 gigawatts. There is scope of improvement and much more needs to be done.”

Cautioning against the bureaucratic mechanism, he said, “It is important that the alliance becomes more of operational framework than a forum of policy advocacy and studies.”


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