An important event at the recent Marrakech climate conference, which is of special significance to India, was the signing of a framework agreement on the International Solar Alliance (ISA) by over 120 countries. It will soon become an international treaty under the auspices of the UN after the rules are formulated, and is dovetailed with the Marrakech process. It is an ambitious project to build a “common platform for cooperation among sun-rich countries lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricon.” The entire project grew out of an idea India had presented at some international fora and at the Paris climate change conference last year. As a country which has the maximum potential to produce solar energy, India did well to put forward the proposal for a solar alliance among nations. India’s role in mooting and pushing the proposal has been recognised by other countries and the secretariat of the ISA will be located in Gurugram. India will also host the annual solar assembly.
The ISA plans to increase solar energy output by making joint efforts in the areas of technological research and development and financial investment and support and by adopting innovative policies and programmes. It also wants to work across markets, evolve common standards and to make solar energy accessible to the largest numbers. Big investments in human and financial resources are needed to develop cost-efficient solar technologies. The ISA wants to raise $1 trillion for funding its solar energy projects. Ways and means have to be found for raising such resources. There are other international bodies working in the area of renewable energy and the ISA may need to coordinate with them. Many member countries are pursuing national solar energy projects. China is a pioneer. There is scope for cooperation and avoidance of duplication of work.India has a large programme to generate 100 gigawatt (GW) of solar energy by 2022. This is very ambitious because the present output is less than 6 GW. Even the world output is about 200 GW. The cost of solar power has come down drastically in the last few years but it is still higher than that of coal-based thermal power. There are distribution and storage problems which are specific to solar power. These challenges will have to be addressed urgently. The ISA will have a major role in those efforts. India can be proud of its role in its creation and in promoting its activities if it succeeds in making solar energy a major part of the world’s energy basket.