India’s trying to do an OPEC in solar energy, screamed some headlines in Indian newspapers after the founding ceremony of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) was held here recently, witnessed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.
It was during former French President Francois Hollande’s visit to India in January 2016 that Hollande and Modi laid the foundation stone for the ISA headquarters in Gurugram district in northern India, adjacent to the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE).
For the uninitiated, the ISA is a treaty-based alliance of over 120 countries, most of them being “sunshine countries,” which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Its primary objective is to work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
In addition to land, India has also contributed U.S. $27 million to build the ISA campus and has committed to meeting the operational expenditure of this body for the first five years.
Now comes the news that the French government will be committing €700 million in investment to this alliance.
The aim of ISA is to mobilize U.S. $1 trillion in funds for future solar generation, storage, and technology across the world. The Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) and Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) also announced contributions of $1 million each to the ISA corpus fund at this launch event.
Incidentally, during his India visit, Marcon also visited the state of Uttar Pradesh where he inaugurated a 75 MW solar power plant. Another solar power plant, which was built nearby and is the largest in Utter Pradesh, has also been constructed with the help of French solar power giant Engie Solar program.
Earlier this week, the United States applauded India for its efforts in initiating and inaugurating the ISA.
For some time now, India has been a votary of solar power. Its stipulated aim is for renewable energy to make up 40% of installed power capacity by 2030, compared with 18.2% at the end of 2017. Modi set a target of raising India’s solar power generation to 100 gigawatt (GW) by 2022, or five times current levels.
A report by clean energy consultant Mercom released last week said India’s solar industry had more than doubled its fundraising to U.S. $10 billion in 2017, but warned that activity was likely to slow this year as New Delhi planned to slap high tariffs on imports. The Indian government said it will need to raise at least U.S. $125 billion to reach its goal of generating 175 GW of energy from all renewable sources in five years.
Mercom said the lower forecast reflected “a smaller pipeline of projects scheduled for commissioning in 2018.” It said a proposal by India’s safety watchdog to impose a 70% duty on imports of solar equipment from China and some other countries to protect domestic manufacturers was an “unexpected and aggressive recommendation that has brought the industry to a standstill.”
Meanwhile, the local government of the southern province of Karnataka late last week inaugurated the first phase of a 2,000-MW solar park, about 180 kilometers from India’s IT capital of Bengaluru.
The first phase will generate 600 MW, while the balance of 1,400MW is expected to be commissioned by the end of this year. The solar project is touted as the largest in the world, and is spread over 13,000 acres, covering five villages.