India and France to partner in solar alliance, promise funds


Declaring that India wanted a solar revolution not just in the country but across the world and announcing the establishment of a “Solar Techn-ology Mission”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday announced the allocation of $1.4 billion as part of India’s Line of Credit (LoC) for 27 solar projects in 15 developing countries.

Prime Minister Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron co-chaired the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in the Capital that is being attended by over 20 heads and deputy heads of government, a majority of them African.

In his speech, PM Modi said, “We want a solar revolution not just in India but the world… India will begin the solar technology mission to bridge the gap in solar technology.”

Interestingly, 23 out of these 27 projects for which Mr Modi offered financial assistance are in African countries where observers point out that India has been trying its best to counter Chinese influence.

The remaining four projects are in India’s neighbourhood of which two each are in Bangladesh (worth a total of $180 million) and Sri Lanka ($100 million).

This is apart from 13 solar development projects — either completed or under implementation — under Indian LoC worth $143 million in African countries.

The proposed solar projects abroad are also expected to boost the Indian economy since 75 per cent of these have to be sourced from India as per the guidelines. The US$ 1.4 billion will be part of the US$ 2 billion under the Indian LoC that will be allocated and in turn part of the $10 billion for development projects abroad that have been “pledged” by New Delhi earlier.

The ministry of external affairs (MEA) later said India had “taken the lead internationally”. The solar projects pertain to energy for infrastructure such as health centres, high schools, hand-pump boreholes, power plants, street-lighting projects and drinking water-supply located in countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Seychelles and Rwanda A total of 32 countries have both signed and ratified the agreement while another 30 have just signed but not ratified it as yet.

Announcing financial assistance too, Mr Macron said that the French Development Agency will allocate 700 million euros in additional spending to its commitment to solar energy by 2022, taking the total commitment to 1 billion euros.

Taking a swipe at US President Donald Trump for backing out of Paris climate agreement, he referred to countries, without naming anyone, quitting the historic Paris climate agreement and said ISA nations came together to “deliver complete results”.

“They (ISA member nations) started to act and to deliver complete results. They didn’t wait, they didn’t stop because few countries decided to just leave the floor and the Paris agreement,” the French President said. “Because they decided it was good for them, their children and grandchildren and they decided to act and keep acting,” he added.

Later, he tweeted: “We make Delhi this weekend the world capital of the sun. Through our presence, we seal an alliance to make the energy of the sun accessible to everyone”, adding, “We did not come from all continents to deliver additional speeches that will soon be forgotten. We came to ask the topics on the table and give access to solar energy in the world.”

President Macron said that countries represented at ISA represent three-fourths of the world population. The joint goal is to have 1 TW of solar energy by 2020 for which “we need $1,000 billion,” he said.

“We know the hurdles… (there) are financial hurdles, regulations, capacity hurdles as well. We shall therefore lift every single one of them,” he added.

Mr Macron and PM Modi also praised “Solar Mamas” — a group of rural women solar engineers from Africa nations who have been trained under Indian Government-supported programmes to install, use, repair and maintain solar lanterns and household solar lighting systems in their villages — describing them as inspirational.

New Delhi also announced a Project Preparation Facility (PPF) (that) has been set up by India to assist its development partner countries towards preparation of viable projects that can be considered for concessional financing under LoC.

A Delhi Solar Agenda was unveiled under which ISA countries decided to “facilitate affordable finance, access to appropriate, clean and environment friendly technology and undertake capacity building, including forging mutually beneficial partnerships with reputable international institutions and reputable financial institutions for the benefit of developing countries”.

They also decided to facilitate joint research and development efforts among member states.

PM Modi also praised France, saying it had played an “important role” in the ISA. He referred to civilisations and cultures from “Japan to Peru, Greece to Rome and Egypt” that had given tremendous importance to the sun.  He said India had begun the world’s largest renewable energy programme wherein by 2022, 175 gigawatts of energy would be generated of which 100 gigawatt would be through solar energy.

Some of the solar projects that will be undertaken by India in other countries include setting up of Mollahat 100 MW Solar PV power plant worth $150.26 million in Bangladesh, electrification by photovoltaic solar system of 550 social community infrastructures (health centres, high schools and hand-pumped boreholes) worth $ 21 million in rural areas of Benin (Africa), Solar powered water stations for semi-urban water supply worth US$ 36.50 million in Burkina Faso (Africa), solar PV Renewable Micro-Utility (REMU) in six political zones in Nigeria (Africa) worth $8.36 million and 50 MW solar power plant in Bauchi State, again in Nigeria, worth $ 66.60 million and three projects in Seychelles with whom  India had inked an agreement in January this year for “the development, management, operation and maintenance of facilities” on the Assumption Island.

The ISA is a treaty-based intergovernmental organisation, the first of its kind to be based in India. One of the primary aims of the ISA is to raise around $1 trillion investment to be utilised by 2030 for promoting solar energy and reducing use of fossil fuels.