The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is an alliance of more than 121 countries, most of them being sunshine countries, which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The primary objective of the alliance is to work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. This initiative was first proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech in November 2015 at Wembley Stadium, in which he referred to sunshine countries as Suryaputra (“Sons of the Sun”).
The alliance is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization. Countries that do not fall within the Tropics can join the ISA and enjoy all benefits as other members, with the exception of voting rights.
The initiative was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the India Africa Summit and a meeting of member countries ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015. The Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance opened for signatures in Marrakech, Morocco in November 2016, and 121 countries have joined.
A SINGLE PLATFORM
At its core, the alliance is a way to bring together countries that have high solar resources, which have been relatively underexploited, and represents a large market for solar technology. The idea is that larger markets and bigger volumes will lead to lower costs making it possible to spur demand. It brings countries located in the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, overwhelmingly developing countries, on a single platform.
These countries typically have high solar resources, some with as many as 300 days of sunshine. At the same time, many of these countries have high levels of energy poverty.
The International Solar Alliance is a partnership among countries, the majority of which face challenges resulting from the low rates of energy access. It is a platform where countries can share their experiences, work together to close technological gaps, finding solutions that could be scaled up by the aggregating demand that would lead to lower costs. At the same time, the solar alliance is more than just about energy.
It is about social welfare, improving the lives of women and children, particularly young girls, who spend substantial parts of their day collecting fuel to meet their family’s energy demands for cooking, lighting a lamp or warmth. It is also about spurring economic activity. The increased deployment of solar energy will open up employment opportunities in direct and indirect ways.
“The International Solar Alliance is India’s institutional contribution to enable the Global South to move to a low-carbon development path,” said Ajay Mathur, director general of the Delhi-based think tank and research organisation The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).