The current demand for power puts our exhaustible and non-renewable energy sources under excessive stress, leaving us the option to explore more into alternative sources of energy. The idea of usage of renewable sources of energy may seem alluring but they also come with their own set of hurdles, the most prominent being a large capital investment for initial implementation and ongoing research and development. This is where a collective of nations decided to form an International Solar Alliance to harness solar energy.
With Climate change being a real threat in the current scenario, can the International Solar Alliance come to our rescue? Read on to know.
How did it begin?
While energy from the sun has been utilised since ancient times, in the late 1800s was the period when harnessing this energy came into a narrower spectrum. Frank Shuman’s solar engine became a turning point for harvesting energy from solar radiations. Currently, even megacorps like Apple, Google, Target, and Walmart are investing resources in strategies to accommodate solar power into their organisation.
Countries that lie entirely or partly in the solar belt, that is, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, have the ability to tap maximum sunshine and convert it into usable energy. Coincidentally, it also covers countries that are largely developing in nature, solar energy possesses a great potential to fulfill the energy deficit faced by such nations.
What is India's stance?
Since 2010, India has been attempting to create an environment to inculcate the practice of solar energy production and consumption. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission set a number of ambitious goals to not only generate Solar Energy but also to reduce the cost of this energy produced such that it may be implemented even at a domestic level. Taking the same approach on a larger platform, the current Prime Minister proposed a similar enterprise on a global scale ahead of the COP21 meeting scheduled in Paris. During the Conference, the Indian Prime Minister and the Prime Minster of France launched the initiative and the alliance was opened for signatures. 121 countries joined the alliance to make the collective effort to promote and endorse the clean energy alternative.
Vision & Mission
According to the UNFCCC report, The International Solar Alliance will attempt to mobilise 1 Trillion USD towards development and production of Solar Energy. The Alliance would also act as a common platform to help reduce the cost of the technology and information sharing between the participating countries. The aim of the alliance is to encourage affordable and innovative applications of solar technology. They will also focus on setting benchmarks, developing innovative financial mechanisms to reduce the cost of capital, formulation of projects and programmes to promote solar applications, invest in the solar sector, and the creation of a common knowledge e-Portal, to name a few. This alliance will play a major role in bridging the gaps between countries have high solar input with countries that have sufficient research and development achievements, it will act as a global buyers’ market for solar energy, thus increasing the solar power capacity.
India committed to financial support worth Rs. 400 crore for the International Solar Alliance and also laid the foundation stone of the ISA headquarters in Gurugram on 26th January 2016.India also launched a tool called IESS 2047, which attempts to explore the future energy conditions of India. She had also set a target of generating over 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by the year 2022, out of this 100 GW energy creation would be through solar sources. In the current year, we shall also be entering the 3rd Phase of the JNNSM. An aggressive capacity ramp-up in solar energy generation is envisaged on centralised and decentralised levels. India’s association with ISA and also the parallel implementation of JNNSM will give rise to a thriving solar market. Solar energy will be on the rise and apart from that the R&D for the same will also experience a massive boost on collaboration with other countries that have rich and developed resources. The government has always been promoting the usage of solar energy through incentives, subsidies, and allowances for the adoption on a small-scale basis. On the other hand, the ISA will aid the execution of the project on even a larger scale or shall at least help in bringing down the cost of the technology.
Despite the promising stance of the ISA, major critics point out the flaws in the system being that it may cause a competition for ownership and rights amongst the member countries and in the process distorting their priorities. This contest may lead to the collapse of the entire organisation wherein procedures will trump over practical implementation. Another concern is the absence of checks and balances so that the progress and financial deployment can be monitored effectively. In the long term vision, it is also imperative for the member nations to periodically discuss their goals so that the interest in the ISA remains triggered. Apart from that, the nations are subjected to immense pressure to come through so as to keep the market attractive for other countries and international corporates such that it does not turn into a mere bureaucratic document. Also, this alliance does not clearly set out the activities in a binding manner, and hence countries act as volunteers towards the common goal.
On a larger front, the future prospects of solar energy appear to be bright. It seems like our favourable geographic conditions may finally be well-exploited to connect the remotest of villages using the power of the sun.