Solar Alliance meet: India seeks place in the Sun

NEW DELHI: India is looking for significant gains from the International Solar Alliance (ISA) summit to be held here this weekend which will be attended by not less than 25 heads of government and state.

With 28 countries who have ratified the ISA treaty in attendance, the meet has snowballed from an initially modest event to a big ticket one which will see an eclectic mix of geographies lying between the two tropics.

While French President Emmanuel Macron will be a star presence, other countries to be represented by high level delegations include Australia, UAE, Niger, Gabon, Seychelles, Ghana, Rwanda, Fiji, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The event, which will be held in the Rashtrapati Bhavan Convention Centre is close to the scale of the India-Africa summit a few years ago. The ministry of external affairs (MEA) has summoned some of its brightest officials from distant countries to handle the protocol and diplomatic details.

For India, which floated the ISA in 2015 during COP-21, it will be the first time an international treaty body will have its secretariat in this country. The Modi government, according to sources, is pushing for several outcomes from the summit and wants to ensure that ISA becomes a platform for deepening diplomatic engagement with a range of countries on crucial development issues. In addition, the forum is expected to spur innovation in the renewable energy space, and help make India a technological hub in the sector and not just remain a re-exporter of Chinese photovoltaic cells.

Since a bulk of the countries who are part of the ISA are from Africa, India has decided to use about $2 billion of the $10 billion line of credit promised to Africa for renewable energy projects in these countries. India is currently identifying a list of projects in the signatory countries — a number of these projects have been asked for by the countries themselves. So MEA will be involved in marrying Indian tech and finance capabilities with specific projects around the world. Among the countries that have requested for projects are Tanzania, Togo, Benin, Congo, Chad and Seychelles. The summit will kick off 24 projects in about 14 countries.

At the moment, India is looking at four types of solar-powered projects — off-grid power supply hubs, street lighting, irrigation, green buildings, in addition to everyday products like solar cookers etc. Officials said they had had a growing number of requests from African and island countries. Teams of experts are being sent to these countries to prepare the projects and work out details. By putting many of these solar projects under lines of credit, the government hopes to attract the private sector which in turn will push Make in India.