Jamaica, India and the International Solar Alliance

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Jamaica, India and the International Solar Alliance

Prathit Charan Misra

Sunday, July 26, 2020

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Jamaica and India became partners in their common mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and taking affordable energy to every household, when Jamaica decided to ratify the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Framework Agreement in 2019 and become a full-fledged member of this inter-governmental organisation.

The ISA is an action-oriented, member-driven, collaborative platform of solar-resource-rich countries for increased deployment of solar energy technologies to enhance energy security and sustainable development.

Boasting of 67 member countries and 86 signatories in total, the ISA provides a dedicated platform through which the global community, including governments, bilateral and multilateral organisations, corporates, industry, and other stakeholders, are contributing to help achieve the common goal of increasing the use and quality of solar energy in meeting energy needs in a safe, convenient, affordable, equitable, and sustainable manner.

The ISA is also an effective instrument in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which seek to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Although all the 17 goals of SDGs are inter-related, the goals of affordable and clean energy, climate action, and sustainable cities and communities are most relevant to the ISA.

On the launch of ISA during the 2015 India-Africa Summit by Indian Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, the PM had referred to the countries falling either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn as the “Sons of the Sun”.

With its headquarters in Gurugram (India), the ISA seeks to mobilise investments of more than US$1 trillion by 2030 to reduce the cost of finance for solar-related investments by promoting innovative financial mechanisms, facilitating collaborative R&D in solar energy technologies and promoting a common cyber platform for networking, cooperation and exchange of ideas among member countries.

ISA is also establishing networks and developing synergies with United Nations organisations and other institutions that are engaged in promoting and deploying solar power.

The ISA has also partnered with the World Bank to launch the Global Solar Atlas which is a free online tool that displays annual average solar power potential at any location in the world and thus identifies potential sites for solar power generation.

ISA is also working to develop the regulatory aspects and standards which will speed up the adoption and development of solar solutions. The World Bank has, last week, also operationalised the Solar Risk Mitigation Initiative (SRMI) with US$333 million in 22 African countries to reduce the cost of capital through credit enhancement mechanisms.

India and solar power

India has multiplied its solar-installed capacity by more than 200 times since 2010, and at around 40GW, solar power is 10 per cent of India's total installed power capacity. Modi recently launched the 750MW Rewa solar plant, which will single-handedly reduce India's emissions by an amount equivalent to 15 hundred thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually.

India also boasts of the 2,245MW Bhadla Solar Park in Rajasthan and the 2,050 MW Pavagada Solar Park in Karnataka, which have led to drastic cuts in India's CO2 emissions. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), India is the lowest cost producer of solar power globally at US$0.085 per kilowatt hour (kWh).

ISA is an integral component of India's strategy towards achieving its 2015 Paris Agreement pledge of 100 GW solar power (175GW renewable power) by 2022 and reduction in emission intensity by 33-35 per cent util 2030.

India wants the solar revolution, not only in India, but also in the entire world and ISA has become the most effective means for doing so. I had the honour of attending the first ISA Summit held in Delhi in March 2018 and hosted by the Indian president and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Attended by over 50 countries, including many heads of state and government, India had proposed a 10-point action plan, including making affordable solar technology available to all nations, raising share of electricity generated from photovoltaic cells, and creating a network of centres for excellence. India is providing hundreds of training slots in solar energy to the ISA members every year.

Apart from India's contribution to the ISA Corpus Fund, it is also offering more than US$1 billion in assistance to two dozen solar projects in many developing countries.

India has also completed or is implementing at least 13 other solar projects worth US$143 million worldwide.

The Project Preparation Facility set-up by India also provides consultancy support to partner countries to design bankable solar projects. India is also working on a Solar Technology Mission, with an international focus to fill technology gaps and enhance the Research and Development (R&D) efforts by combining the resources of the government, technical, and educational institutions.

At the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) held in Abu Dhabi in January 2018, India had also announced the establishment of a $350-million solar development fund to enable financing of solar projects. India's Social Work and Research Centre, widely known as the Barefoot College, has trained hundreds of women, called Solar Mamas, from all across the world, in skills such as installing, building, and repairing solar lamps and solar water pumps.

Jamaica and the ISA

Jamaica's entry into the ISA will enrich this inter-governmental organisation and will also help Jamaica in exploiting its geographical solar potential to achieve the climate change mitigation goals of the landmark 2015 Paris environmental accord.

Energy security and efficiency are critical to Jamaica's sustainable transformation to developed country status and Jamaica still has one of the highest energy intensities in the Latin American and Caribbean region and is also heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels.

Under the Paris Agreement, Jamaica has committed to a 7.8 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, to be achieved primarily through actions in the energy sector. With a 2030 target of 20 per cent renewables in the total energy mix and 30 per cent electricity generation from renewable resources, the ISA could provide an impetus to Jamaica's solar programme for exploiting available solar resources.

Other ISA members will also learn from Jamaica's Vision 2030 and its National Energy Policy (NEP) 2009-2030 which affirm Jamaica's vision of a modern, efficient, diversified and sustainable energy sector. The NEP Framework has been awarded the best government infrastructure strategy in the Caribbean region for 2016 by the International Monetary Fund. In addition, Jamaica's facilitation of renewable energy generation under the Renewable Energy Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA), the Energy Security and Efficiency Enhancement Project (ESEEP), and the Innovation Lab under the Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre can also inspire other partner countries and institutions in the ISA to undertake similar programmes.

Scope for solar cooperation with the Caribbean

The first India-Caricom Summit in New York in September 2019 was unique in the sense that PM Modi had announced a US$150-million line of credit for solar, renewable energy, and climate change-related projects for the region. Another US$ 14 million grant for community development projects in Caricom was also announced and many countries have submitted proposals with a solar component. The proposals are presently under consideration. There are many training courses related to solar power available under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme which can be availed by the participants of the Caricom region. Besides Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Grenada, Dominica, and Haiti have also joined the ISA from the Caribbean, thus increasing the overall participation of the region in the inter-governmental body.

ISA provides us a united platform for addressing our common challenge of climate change that is increasingly having destructive and irreversible impacts on the whole world. In doing so, the ISA is only reinvigorating the power of the sun that has been central to our lives since time immemorial. The sun has been lighting up and animating civilisation much before life opened up its eyes on the Earth.

From Japan to Peru, Greece or Rome, Egypt, Inca, and East Maya traditions, every civilisation has given the sun its respect and importance. In India, the Vedas have considered the sun as the soul of the world and the feeder of life since thousands of years. Our future depends on what we can do together with this power of the sun.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: ''The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems.”

Prathit Misra is in-charge of the Economic and Commercial Division at the High Commission of India, Kingston. Any feedback may be sent to cons.kingston@mea.gov.in


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