The 21st century is witnessing a considerableincrease in the efforts by countries to shift towards renewable sources of energy for their development needs.In recent times, by virtue of emphasising the importance of solar energy, India too has been playing a pioneering role in these transition efforts.Major strides in its own domestic policies and its founding role in the establishment of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in 2015 at the global level are illustrations of the same. Consequently, in the current geopolitical context, India has emerged as a key leading player in solar power generation and climate action.


Genesis of the ISA and its Initiatives


On the sidelines of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) in Paris, India with the support of France launched the ISA and has since been supporting financially the expansion of itsprogrammes. One of the main objectives of the ISA is to produce 1000 GW (1 TW) of solar power by 2030,one-tenth of which (100 GW) will be contributed by India. The permanent secretariat of the ISA is located in Gwal Pahari, Gurugram. The first such headquarters of atreaty-based international organisation to be established in the country, India has provided a corpus fund of ₹145 crores (USD 20 million) along with proposing to construct infrastructure and cover expenses for the initial five years. Apart from the 121 prospective member countries located between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, the ISA membership has expanded to include and is open for all countries that are part of the United Nations (UN). This was a resolution proposed by India and adopted in the first general assembly of the ISA. Currently, 85 countries have signed the framework agreement of the ISA. An indication of India’s soft power diplomacy, it includes a diverse spectrum of countries such as Australia, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Japan, Egypt, the Caribbean countries, the Pacific Island Countries and several African countries.


At its core,the ISA seeks to promote solar technologies, facilitate investment in research on solar applications, develop common e-portals for better co-ordination, and assist countries with draft solar policies to formulate standard solar missions and so on. Solar as a resource isabundantly available especiallyinall countries between the tropics. Although the intensity differs, it is a relatively affordable energy that can be accessed by all.Driving on such underlying traits, India utilises solar energy to advance issues such as climate justice and equity.  To that effect, the ISA launched programmes like ‘affordable finance at scale’ and work is underway to develop a ‘Common Risk Mitigating Mechanism’ (CRMM), which is aimed at de-risking and reducing the financial cost of solar projects for the ISA member nations. The ISA has made available a ‘Digital Info-pedia’and also released a ‘Global Solar Atlas’ in collaborationwith the World Bank, to support policy makers and investors in evaluating potential solar sites and feasible solar projects.


The ISA and India’s Solar Energy Strategy


In its push for countries to come together India underpins the narrative of potential enormous co-benefits solar energy presents not just for the international climate regime’s efforts but also for the respective country’s domestic energy needs. Solar energy has proved to be one of the best options for low-carbon development that ensures sustainability, without compromising on developmental imperatives of nations. In this regard, India deems the pursuit of solar energy to ultimately be a win-win situation for all. Such efforts add credibility to India’s image as a ‘responsible’ power and renderIndia’s solar strategy to be a practical and result-oriented approach. Moreover, the ISA, being a fresh initiative, has broken away from the lethargy of climate change negotiations. It is not a part of the UNFCCC (but contributes to it) and has thereby also been regarded as a mechanism to help achieve the objectives of Paris Agreement and 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Bringing together like-minded countries,the ISA particularly is a platform that enables solar resource-rich countries to collaborate and co-operate with nations that have the technological wherewithal to effectively utilise solar energy.


India has also been pushing for the idea of ‘green credit’ instead of ‘carbon credit’. While carbon credit is limited to efforts solely on reducing CO2 emissions, green credit is a wider ambit that includes clean energy efforts and could prove itself far more result-oriented and more importantly, acceptable to all. In order to augment energy generation, efficiency and conservation, green credit is a feasible mechanism that could be incentivised at the international level to aid efforts in combating climate change.


It is also evident that India’s efforts in solar energy help it achieve its goal of being energy independent and attain self-sufficiency to some extent, while simultaneouslyalso achieving its climate mitigation targets. Solar goals form an important component of India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). In its target of producing 175 GW of power from renewable sources of energy, 100 GW is planned to be from solar energy. As a part of its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), a goal of the National Solar Mission (NSM) is to generate 100 GW of solar power capacity by 2022. Thus, there seems to bea link between India’s climate goals at the international forum and its energy goals at the domestic level. Building on this model at the international level, the ISA is India’s contribution in enabling countries to align their domestic priorities with global sustainabilitycommitments. India believes that solar energy has the potential and can play a pivotal role in transforming the world’s energy scenario while at the same time yielding economic and social gains for the world’s population and enhancingclimate change mitigation efforts.


It would perhaps be important to note that in June 2019, India won a case against the US at the World Trade Organisation. India had said that in eight states of the US, favourable subsidies provided by the US administration were inconsistent with the global trade rules. It was offering incentives for renewable energy credits to purchase renewable systems manufactured in these states. India argued against it and won the trade dispute. This is in striking contrast to the case in 2014, when the US had similarly accused India that its incentives for domestically produced solar cells werenot aligned with the international trade rules. The US had won the case then. This shift in India’s potential and confidence, to now win a similar case against the US provides an insight into India’s growing efforts to overcome its trade barriers as well as is a demonstration of its leadership role among the developing nations.


India’s key role in the ISA has extensively strengthened its solar energy strategy. Primarily seeking to make tangible efforts towards climate change mitigation, India has efficiently utilised the solar energy narrative to widen its scope of influence. India’s solar energy strategy at the international level is a combination of bilateral engagements and institutional approaches. The ISA being largely successful so far and occupying a pivotal position in India’s solar energy strategy is a sign of India’s progress towards achieving a major power status.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal.