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Upendra Tripathy, a former secretary of the renewable energy ministry, has been appointed interim director general of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which brings together countries with abundant sunshine with the aim of lowering solar energy costs.
India has taken a lead role in setting up the ISA—an alliance of 121 sunshine countries situated between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The first treaty-based international government organisation which is headquartered in India, ISA, was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015.
The idea of a solar alliance of countries that receive sunshine for around 300 days in a year was mooted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Other prominent intergovernmental organisations in the energy sector include the Vienna-headquartered Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA).
Confirming his appointment, Tripathy said, “We will be involving all the stakeholders in finding out how the programs can be implemented to mobilise more finances to the solar sector globally and how to help the farmers across the member countries to go for affordable solar pumps so that farmer’s income gets enhanced. It is also equally important that other solar applications address the issue of roti, kapdaa and makaan.”
In January last year, Prime Minister Modi and French President Francois Hollande laid the foundation stone of the ISA at Gurgaon. Besides, the World Bank last year signed an agreement with the ISA to mobilize $1 trillion in investments by 2030.
One of the ways that the ISA is exploring to reduce costs is to aggregate the demand from member nations and then call for tenders. To start with, this approach is being explored for bringing down the cost of solar powered agricultural pumps.
Tripathy, a former Indian Administrative Service officer from the Karnataka cadre, has been closely involved in solar power development in the country. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government raised the target for solar power production in India to 100 gigawatt (GW) by 2022 from 20,000 megawatts (MW) earlier.
Experts welcomed Tripathy’s appointment. “Bringing Upendra Tripathy is a good step as he was deeply involved when ISA was envisaged. But then the hurdle of finance for activities of ISA is still there. There is a lot of scope for ISA but let’s see as there is a still a long way to go,” said Rakesh Kamal, a consultant with The Climate Reality Project, an independent organisation working on climate change related issues.
“However, India should be proud of hosting ISA. It is a big step for India as ISA is a first of a kind body on a world scale. It also shows our commitment to the world,” he added.
The ISA framework agreement was opened for signing up at the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) at Marrakesh in November last year and 25 countries including France, Bangladesh, Brazil and Tanzania have joined it. The assembly will meet after 15 of these signatories ratify the ISA.
ISA will have an assembly, a council and a secretariat. The Indian government will support the secretariat for five years, after which would have to generate its own resources. The secretariat has been set up at the National Institute of Solar Energy in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi.
Queries emailed late on Monday to a spokesperson at the ministry of new and renewable energy remained unanswered till the time of publishing.
ISA will also collaborate with other multilateral bodies such as the IEA, International Renewable Energy Agency and the United Nations.
Tripathy’s appointment comes in the backdrop of record low Indian solar power tariffs that have raised viability concerns. Solar power project developers placed a record low bid of Rs2.97 per kWh to win contracts for a 750 MW project at Rewa in Madhya Pradesh. A so-called levelized tariff—the value financially equivalent to different annual tariffs over the period of the power purchase agreement (PPA)—of around Rs3.30 per unit will be charged.
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