ISA Holds Curtain Raiser For 1st World Solar Technology Summit

The ISA today held a curtain raiser for the first World Solar Technology Summit on September 8. The curtain raiser was a virtual interaction with ISA office bearers. For the Gurugram headquartered ISA, the first Solar Technology Summit is a key event in its mission to make solar the bedrock of future energy generation, and make energy access cheaper for its member countries. With 67 countries having signed and ratified its framework agreement (86 have signed the agreement), the ISA is certainly a global force today.

ISA and World Solar Technology Summit

For Director General Upendra Tripathy, the summit is a big opportunity to bring together global sustainability experts and discuss the future of solar, and the ISA itself, with a focus on technology that could influence the movement profoundly.

The curtain raiser also had Mr Jagjeet Sareen, Director Finance, ISA, showcase the many initiatives of the organisation, including the almost $5.5 billion pipeline of solar projects they have created.

He was followed by Mr Phillipe Malbranche, Director Programmes, ISA. Mr Malbranche showcased the summit agenda in some detail, highlighting the progress made in cost of solar,  the spread of distributed solar, and the increasing role of solar in energy intensive sectors like steel, cement and fertilisers, all of which would be taken up at the summit. Mrs Dana Purcarescu, Charge d’Affaires at the embassy of France stepped in with the wishes and strong support of the ISA’s other founding member, hoping to see an ever widening role of the ISA in taking solar to newer regions and fulfilling  energy needs.

Mr R.K.Singh, Union Power, MNRE, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship , and also President of the ISA Assembly, stepped in with a strong endorsement of the work done by the ISA so far, highlighting some of the many initiatives taken to train, support and build sustainable projects across member countries so far.

In an event that would normally have been held in any of the major member countries, with all the pomp and glitter of a global event, the virtual event is leaving no stone unturned to make it count.That, when it finally happens will be yet another huge achievement, considering what the ISA is up against, ie, the complete absence of China.

China, which supplies close to 65 percent of the world’s solar equipment, and has existing capacity for over 100 percent if required. China, which has been by far the biggest factor in making the very idea of ISA possible one could argue, by helping drive down solar costs to levels that practically no one predicted a decade back. China, which by virtue of the two reasons above, is one country that has both the capacity and the track record, to pump in billions of dollars to any initiative as closely aligned to its own goals as the ISA is.

But China is not even a signatory, forget ratifying the ISA charter agreement. That could be down to its inability to carry along partners on an equal footing as well as India possibly, as well as the increasing wariness among many countries  about their dependence on China for solar. India being right at the top. By basing the strength of the organisation in the sheer buying power it can aggregate, the ISA is clearly walking a completely different path.

Clearly, the hope is that with solar power becoming a part of more and more energy consumption opportunities, going well beyond grid supply and micro grids, the role of fresh technology innovations will become more and more relevant., rather than the brute manufacturing chops of China.

The ISA’s latest large tender is for Solar Home Systems. Handled by EESL, another government of India entity that won the rights to handle ISA tenders, the tender is for over 9.3 million solar home systems across ISA member countries, with a deadline of October 1.

Earlier, in an order valued potentially at $2.7 billion, the EESL had claimed that its tender for 2,72,000 solar water pumps had led to a drop in prices by almost 50 percent,  from Rs 100,000 per horsepower (hp) across categories from ₹1 lakh per hp at the time.

One could argue that even the shift towards solar water pumps, and now, solar home systems, is an effort to keep away from utility scale solar, an area where Chinese dominance is simply impossible to ignore, especially if low prices is your main brief.

China for now seems happy with its dominance of the Beijing headquartered Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank,  (AIIB), an initiative which counts Germany, France and the UK, besides India as key members. Japan and the US have notably stayed out of the bank too, as they have from the ISA also. The AIIB, for the record, claims to have approved financing worth almost $19.2 billion on 90 approved projects so far. And coincidentally, is launching its own Climate Change Investment Framework on September 9, a day after the ISA Summit.

One can’t help but wonder, how different things could have been on the ground, if the ISA and the AIIB were to find more ways to work together.

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