Interview (Upendra Tripathy)

Upendra Tripathy,
Director General at International Solar Alliance
 

“How do you define the role of International Solar Alliance?”

The role of International Solar Alliance is to collectively address key common challenges to the scaling up of solar energy and to provide a common platform for cooperation to Member countries. We are doing our best to enable the financial instruments and to strengthen the backward and forward linkages in the solar sector with the help of our partner organizations. Simultaneously, we are also engaging in outcome oriented dialogue WRT ramping up massive deployment of solar energy with the actors, financial institutions, academia and governments of the Member countries of the ISA at various international forums. With this multidimensional approach, ISA becomes an enabler for the deployment of appropriate benchmarks, facilitator of resources and their assessments, supporter of research and development in solar sector, eventually playing a vital role in encouraging innovative and affordable applications of solar technologies world over.

“What is the current reach of ISA, in terms of number of partners/countries”

51 countries have ratified, and 73 countries have signed the Framework Agreement of the ISA. Out of these, 28 countries are in Africa, 14 are in Asia and Pacific, 1 is in Europe, and 7 are in Latin America and Caribbean. According to the Framework Agreement, the Membership is open to those solar resource rich states which lie fully or partially between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn and are members of the United Nations. The First Assembly considered and adopted the proposal made by India for an amendment to the Framework Agreement to expand the scope of membership of the ISA to all countries that are members of United Nations. This has not yet entered into force though. Apart from this, we have partnership agreement with over 28 multilateral institutions who are providing support to our efforts.

“What success has ISA seen in the initial few years?”

ISA has brought the true essence of multilateralism to forefront in this short span. I have already spoken about the numbers WRT our partner organizations and Member countries.

On an operational level, we have made a considerable progress in identifying bankable projects in Member countries, the work of aggregating demand for each of the five programmes is in progress, ISA has so far received demand for 2,72,579 Solar Pumps, 73.12 MW Capacity of Solar Mini grids, and 1041.56 MW Capacity of Solar Rooftops from 27 ISA Countries. Apart from this, the ISA has implemented a strong and ambitious capacity building programme (i STAR-C). Under this programme, we are creating a network of Solar Technology and Application Resource Centers in ISA Member countries. Foundations like Schneider Electric, Tata and Philips are supporting this initiative, which will provide training, R&D, standardization and quality control parameters on solar energy. We plan to announce the launch of 50 i STAR Cs during upcoming One Planet Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. To supplement this, under the ITEC training course for Master Trainers supported by Government of India, 133 master trainers have already been trained from 25 ISA Member countries. Furthermore, the ISA Solar Fellowship for Midcareer Professionals is institutionalized. This scheme will enrich expertise of the Midcareer Professionals on solar energy at the policymaker’s level and set up an expanding pool of national experts on solar energy in all dimensions i.e. (technology, economics, management, policies etc.). Such a development of a global network of ISA Solar Fellows will create new channels of co-operation between member states. Knowledge building is always an integral part in making any initiative successful. Infopedia, the online knowledge platform for our Member countries is now at the brink of completion. The six task forces and other working groups are on the job to strengthen all these verticals.

“How can solar play a role in economic development in emerging markets?”

Well, the core strength of solar lies in being effective in enabling energy access which can change the landscape of development, making a direct impact on the overall market. Reduced cost of power can automatically help markets grow. Actually government policies have played a critical role in reducing this technology’s costs which helped grow markets around the world. Policies stimulating market growth globally included measures such as solar portfolio standards, feed-in tariffs, and a variety of subsidies. As emission reduction policies are implemented, technologies improve, and the low-carbon technology markets grow; this is a virtuous cycle. Another key, and striking benefit of investing in solar can be its impact on trade. For fossil fuel importers, the switch to a greater share of renewables has potentially favorable trade implications. Reducing fuel imports can improve trade balance and improve GDP. Last but not the least, the societal costs (health related) that are the byproducts of use of conventional sources of energy would be lowered- that would also have an impact on the economic development of emerging markets.

“Recently at Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2019, you spoke about micro finance institutions. How do you see micro finance institutions supporting the growth of solar energy?”

A poor household doesn’t have the required sizeable chunk of cash for accessing a grid connection or solar home system (SHS), so the potential of micro-credit for financing solar systems is pretty much clear. Micro credit allows these households to spread the investment out over time, making the payment possible in smaller increments. There are success stories of solar home system loans from MFIs in emerging markets like India (SELCO), Bangladesh (IDCOL) and Srilanka (RERED). In these countries, the micro-finance institutions (MFIs) have successfully partnered in the past with solar home service companies to bundle home solar systems with MF loans and have achieved success. But now, the introduction of pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) and improved mobile payments technology has drastically reduced the barriers. These facilities are turning out to be quicker options than Micro Finance Institutions.

Interview 01/04/2019 by Moulin
 
 
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