NEW DELHI: The International Solar Alliance (ISA) – India’s brainchild which was launched jointly with France in Paris on November 30, 2015 – will come into force on Wednesday. Its first chief, the interim director general Upendra Tripathy , in an interview to Vishwa Mohan explained how it’ll help in increasing global solar footprints, how India has planned to mark December 6 as ‘Universal Energy Access’ day and where do big ones like the USA, China and apan stand as far as its signing is concerned. Excerpts:
ISA will become a legal entity on December 6. What does this mean for India and the world?
It’ll come into force on that day and it means a lot for all member countries. It’s very special for India as it’s the first inter-governmental international organisation to be permanently headquartered in India. Having 121 countries, lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, as its potential members, the ISA will become a huge organisation one day. Being permanently located here, the body will attract a lot of talents to India. The world has, in fact, been looking at India for its new role. It, in fact, means a lot for the entire world as it’s the first and only specialised inter-governmental global body on solar energy. We have International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), but it’s for all renewable energy right from geothermal and wind to solar. The ISA will drive a lot of R&D activities exclusively on solar – right from electricity generation to storage capacity. Once we achieve creating cost-effective storage capacity, the solar is going to play the most important role in driving us towards universal energy access goal and reducing overall global carbon footprints.
ISA aims to mobilise more than $1000 bn of investments by 2030 for massive deployment of solar energy. How would it do that?
A. We are not a bank. So, we can’t lend money. But, we can always facilitate and create an ecosystem so that the money will flow in. We are doing a few things. We are having financial partners in World Bank, European Investment Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and others. We are planning partnership with Asian Development Bank and African Development Bank as well. Being partner with them, the idea is to persuade them to earmark at least 10% of their credit to the solar. We are also planning to create risk mitigation mechanism which is a sort of insurance scheme so that more and more money can come to the solar sector.
How would you the ISA celebrate the historical day?
December 6 will the ISA’s foundation day. We have urged all member countries to celebrate it as ‘Universal Energy Access’ day. We have also requested them to make people aware of the ISA’sexistence, its role and how would it play a key role in providing clean energy to everyone as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).
So far, 46 countries have signed it and 15, including France, have ratified it. What about China, Japan, USA and others?
India (chair) and France (co-chair) are putting up all their diplomatic might to see that more and more countries sign it. As we go along, more and more countries will find ISA very useful. China, at various level at COP23 last month and even otherwise, expressed interest because essentially we are talking about USD 1000 Billion investment by 2030 in the member countries on solar. It means China should be happy because a lot more solar photovoltaic cells will be used world over. (The country being the leading PV manufacturer will get benefited from it).
As far as Japan is concerned, they have expressed quite a bit of interest to join the ISA. Recently, they had quarries at ministerial level which have been replied to. The US, of course, will take more time. Though they had started a process of evaluating it for signing, we have of late not heard much from the country. I hope, they will take a conscious decision depending on their perception and national interest.
The US has announced to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and decided to keep on using fossil fuels. Do you think the US decision will affect the ISA’s target to create 1000 GW of solar capacity by 2030?
I don’t think so. It may at the most delay the singing of ISA framework agreement by the country. We still do get a number of agencies from the US who are quite eager to partner with us. Even provincial authorities, universities and R&D organisations are keen to join hands. They are all on climate paths. I may note here that the ISA does not have provision of membership fee. Had this been the case, the US would have been contributing a lot of money. Since we don’t have such provision, I don’t think the US withdrawal is going to affect the ISA much.
Will the ISA open its door even for the countries which do not fall fully or partially between Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn?
Countries like Germany, Nepal, Korea, Mongolia and others, who are outside the Tropics, have shown keen interest to join. The steering committee is open to all countries. The Committee with India as its chair and France as its co-chair have agreed to discuss it in the next meeting. Whether they’ll get the voting rights or not is something which will be decided by the steering committee.
What would be the next step for India as far as ISA is concerned?
India will sign MoU with ISA. Since people from all over the world come here to work, India will specify as to what kind of diplomatic status and immunity those people have. India has already contributed (around USD 27 million) for creating ISA corpus fund to meet cost of its secretariat (in Gurugram, Haryana) for first five years. The Prime Minister Office is expected to announce on Wednesday how the emergence of ISA would put the globe on clean energy path.