Thursday, June 20, 2024

International Solar Alliance and the Quest for Clean Energy

Washington, DC – Global Strat View hosted a panel discussion on the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the Quest for Clean Energy on February 4, 2022, at the National Press Club.

Moderated by Kostis Geropoulos, Energy Editor at New Europe, the panelists included Jagjeet Sareen, Assistant Director General of ISA; Llewellyn King, senior journalist and founder of the Energy Daily; and Neelima Jain, Deputy Director & Senior Fellow, Wadhwani Chair in U.S. India Policy Studies, CSIS.

Geropoulos led the discussion on how emerging economies like India are taking the lead in sustainable energy solutions. As an energy editor, he covered renewables quite extensively. “As Europe plans to reduce carbon emissions and become a zero-carbon economy by 2050, we’re going to have an increased role for renewables in solar, wind, hydro, green, hydrogen as well,” Geropoulos said.

In his opening remarks, Sareen provided a brief background of ISA, which was put together as a multilateral initiative led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and the then French President Hollande, who was also the President of the Climate Change Conference in 2015. He said that solar endowment is enormous in countries within the tropics, but their ability to leverage or utilize solar energy has not been sufficient to meet their other energy access, energy security, or energy transition needs. This idea was put forward as a more South-South multilateral platform that countries will come together, aggregate the demand for project finance and technology, and the Secretariat of this initiative would facilitate and finance technology capacity-building technical know-how so that countries could translate that ideas about small ISA now has 102 member countries. The United States joined ISA in Glasgow in November, and Israel and other countries are in the process of becoming members now. The membership for ISA is open to all UN member states, with Italy, Germany, and other countries joining soon. “All European member states will hopefully be part of this,” said Sareen. “If you add up all the net-zero commitments made by countries in Glasgow, solar technology applications provide more than 50 percent of the solution. And if you add hydrogen to it, if you add storage, heating, and cooling, the offering of solar as a solution goes about 65 percent. It’s well established among the top leaders, thinkers, modelers, industry people who are doing forecasting that we need to harness solar technology in a much bigger way to solve the energy transition problem if we are really serious about this, “said Sareen

Llewellyn King, who has been covering energy since 1970 and founded the Energy Daily in 1973, said “I grew up in Africa, central Africa, and that was very early, so it was black pipes on the roof to get hot water. And it worked. But that was the limit of solar,” said King. But in the 1970s, people started looking at solar differently, and the US government, through the National Laboratory System, got involved in looking at solar power. A big solar plant was built at Barstow in California, and a smaller one at Sandia National Lab in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Gradually, it became clear that photovoltaics were far superior and that you could use them in many places in many ways. And initially, they were deployed, probably for small usages like traffic lights in remote areas where you needed a little power in a remote area. And gradually, they have become a critical part of the electricity mix. But I think even that you have to make a differentiation between putting photovoltaic cells on the roof of a house with a battery to be more or less self-sufficient to utility-scale solar ,” said King. “Solar electricity from photovoltaic cells is cheap. We know how to make it. We know how to deploy it. We need to find out how to move it around quickly and cheaply and how to store it,” he added.

Geropoulos spoke of Maroš Šefčovič, the Vice-President of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations, who is part of the European Energy Battery Alliance, who spoke about the need for storage and also for Europe to develop its own storage facilities and not rely so much on batteries from China or other countries as well, but build its own.

“India has been punching above its weight as part of the additional renewable energy capacity system, despite continuing to balance the development and social needs of a large and complex developing nation. The installed capacity of renewable energy overall has increased to about 220 plus percent in the last four years, and solar power capacity alone has increased more than 11 fold in the last five years,” said Neelima Jain. She added that India’s clean energy got more than coal for the third year in a row. The falling costs of renewable energy sources are already undercutting that of new and some of the existing coal-fired power plants. “There has been powerful policy support by the Indian government, which has been a driving force behind the adoption and addition of clean energy sources. The country has done remarkably well,” said Jain.

India and France founded the ISA to mobilize efforts against climate change through deployment of solar energy solutions. It was conceptualized on the sidelines of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in 2015. India hosted the Founding Conference of the ISA in 2018, and the ISA Secretariat was established in New Delhi. 40 % of India’s total installed electricity capacity today is non-fossil based.

Author profile
Pia Sherman

Pia Sherman is a freelance writer. Views expressed are solely of the author.

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