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Insights into Editorial: Building the International Solar Alliance

Insights into Editorial: Building the International Solar Alliance

19 January 2016

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India launched an International Solar Alliance (ISA) at the recently concluded CoP21 Climate Conference in Paris. The alliance brings together developed and developing countries, governments and industries, laboratories and institutions in a common enterprise.

  • While launching the alliance, PM Modi announced that the revolution in the field would bring power to all citizens, and create unlimited economic opportunity.

Aims of ISA: The main aims of ISA include reducing financial risk across a larger global market, encouraging cooperation on technology, building capacity, and increasing energy access.


  • All the countries, located fully or partly between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, have been invited to join the Alliance.
  • HQ: The new body will function from the National Institute of Solar Energy in India, Gurgaon.
  • The Union Government of India has announced that it will provide land and $30 million to form a secretariat for the Alliance, and also support it for five years.
  • Among the tasks that the Alliance would pursue are, cooperation in training, building institutions, regulatory issues, common standards, and investment including joint ventures.
  • To achieve its fixed objective, the Alliance needs between $1,000 and $1,200 billion over the next 15 years, of which 70% could be provided by the private sector. Public bodies are prepared to put up the balance. Both France and the Netherlands have also agreed to contribute, and other rich countries are set to follow suit.

Role of India:

  • India has a capacity of four gigawatts and has set a target of adding 100 GW of solar power by 2022. By the end of next year, India is also planning to add another 12 GW.
  • India has set the ambitious target of deploying non-fossil fuel electricity generating systems that supply 40% of the country’s cumulative installed capacity by 2030.
  • This new alliance is a sign of India’s leadership on the global stage. Under India’s leadership, the ISA could inspire and support several developed and developing countries to advance on a clean energy pathway by lowering financing costs, developing common standards, encouraging knowledge sharing and facilitating R&D collaborations and co-development of technologies to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) announced earlier this year.
  • This initiative has also demonstrated that India is not shy of playing to its strengths. Although other countries have more solar power deployed currently, India will be one of the largest markets and its domestic policy (to build 100 gigawatts) has sent signals to developers and financiers.

Road ahead for ISA:

However, International Solar Alliance is one among many multilateral and plurilateral initiatives, which have been launched in recent years. Other initiatives include the International Renewable Energy Agency, Renewable Energy Policy Network, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, Global Green Growth Institute, and so on. As the newest inter-governmental institution in the world, it is imperative that ISA carves a niche for itself and demonstrates genuine value to its members.

For the alliance to be successful, it is necessary to consider implementing the following steps:

Select a director general (DG) with a secretariat: A dynamic DG can draw attention to the alliance, build relationships with member states and other international institutions, interact with the media regularly, and develop a strategic plan. The appointment of a DG will take time and will require consensus among member states. But a good choice would make the difference between leadership that can articulate and execute a vision and one that fails to grasp ISA’s potential.

Create a core ISA coordination group: Since its launch, the ministries of new and renewable energy, external affairs and other agencies have been discussing informally and working together to keep the ISA wheels moving. However, since the world is looking at how this evolves, a dedicated inter-ministerial group will be needed to distribute the workload, allocate funds, maintain contact with member states, and prepare related documents.

Issue a white paper on ISA governance: ISA is an inclusive multilateral institution but there is as yet lack of clarity on its governance structure. A paper outlining alternative governance models would draw in ideas from member states and other stakeholders and inform deliberations in subsequent meetings.

Launch an ISA website: It should feature the ISA declaration, list of members and observers, minutes of meetings, proposed activities, a meeting calendar, governance structure, and, eventually, outcomes of ISA activities.

Issue monthly ISA briefings: Until a dedicated DG and secretariat are in place, regular press briefings and monthly updates to all ISA member countries would build support. The more ISA is in the news, the more its activities and potential will get attention.

Assess all proposals through a “value-add” lens: A number of ideas are beginning to come forward on what other institutions (private, public and inter-governmental) could do to shape ISA’s agenda, such as mobilising investments or deploying projects in member countries. It is important that ISA activities do not overlap unnecessarily with those of other organisations. A “value-add” perspective – and measuring each initiative against stated aims – would help ISA specify its unique proposition for the benefit of members and investors.

Kick-start bold initiatives: It would be useful to launch one or two bold initiatives, which could capture the imagination of ISA members. This could trigger interest from innovators, project developers, bankers and other investors.

Establish formal links with private sector platforms: many other renewable energy-focused organisations do not have strong links to the private sector. ISA can distinguish itself by giving private sector consortia observer or associate member status, encouraging them to design and implement ISA programmes, and build relationships for targeted investments.

Announce an ISA summit and expo: An annual or biennial summit and expo would draw further interest.

Build an ISA headquarters in New Delhi: ISA will need its recognisable location, branding and identity. The headquarters’ design should convey ISA’s vision, its open and inclusive governance, its emphasis on practical solutions and scale, and its purpose of delivering clean energy access to millions.


Today, when the energy sources and the excesses of our industrial age have put our planet in peril, the world must turn to Sun to power our future. Solar technology is evolving, costs are coming down and grid connectivity is improving. The dream of universal access to clean energy is becoming more real. And the launch of Solar Alliance will be the foundation of the new economy of the new century. And hence this initiative can be seen as a step in the right direction.