Headquartered in India, ISA has 86 signatories, 67 member countries, and 48 partners. It plans to facilitate more than $1,000-billion investment in solar energy by 2030. Upendra Tripathy, Founding Director General, ISA, and former secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, spoke to P.B. Jayakumar about the alliance's future plans. Edited excerpts.
The ISA was launched as the first international treaty-based body in India. Global solar powers such as the US and China are yet to be part of the ISA. How soon will all countries join?
The Secretariat of the ISA got legal personality on June 6, 2018, after the ISA and India signed the host country agreement, the basis for establishment of headquarters of a treaty-based intergovernmental body. So far, we have 86 signatory countries. Among them, 42 countries are from Africa, 20 from Asia-Pacific, three countries from Europe and 21 countries from Latin America. The membership will be soon open to all UN member countries even outside the Tropics. We are waiting for countries like the US, China and Germany to become members. Germany has expressed interest to join, as soon as the amendment comes into force. We need ratification by three more countries to bring the first amendment into force.
How will the ISA make meaningful changes in energy security for member countries?
We are assisting countries and the solar business community in a number of ways. One is by bringing in corporate and other organisations as networking partners in a public-private partnership. We have a strong network of 48 partners, including private corporate partners such as SoftBank (Japan), CLP (Hong Kong) and India-based public corporate partners like IREDA, SECI, NTPC, PGCIL, REC, CIL, PFC, ITPO, SBI, NHPC, and EESL. We have partners in UN bodies like the UNDP, UNIDO, and UNEP, etc., and multilateral development banks such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank as powerful partners. The ISA is running six programmes in areas, including agriculture, rooftops, mini-grids, storage, electric vehicles, solar parks, solar cooling and heating (proposed), to create ecosystems in member countries. We have aggregated demand for 270,000 solar pumps, 10,000 MW solar mini-grids and 1,000 MW solar rooftops worth $5 billion in the initial phase. Plans for the year include demand aggregation for 47-million solar home systems, 250-million LED bulbs, 50,000 primary health centres, five-million solar cookstoves, 10,000 solar-powered HFC-free cold storage, 10,000 MW of solar parks and five-million solar powered street lights.
We are facilitating two "freedom solar parks" - 500 MW in Mali and 218 MW in Togo in West Africa, with NTPC acting as the consultant and arranging grid connectivity, low-cost loans and securing 25-year power purchase agreements on a transparent and competitive basis. Another 10 countries have been identified to set up such parks.
Covid-19 is redefining the sector. India investments were only $970 million, a 66 per cent drop in the first quarter of 2020. Global solar capacity addition is predicted to go down by 20 per cent in 2020. How do you assess the situation?
Bad times indeed, but economies will overcome this downturn in the medium-term. The ISA has launched an initiative called ISA-CARE to solarise primary health centres in member countries, which require cold storage for vaccines and medicines. We plan to launch a project, during our World Solar Technology Summit this year, for solarisation of hospitals in the 46 SIDS/LDC member countries. ISA wants to have all un-electrified Primary Health Centres and hospitals solarised in every district of member countries.