On the eve of the One Planet Summit, organized by the France, the United Nations and the World Bank in Paris on December 12th, and following the entry into force of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), Mrs Ségolène Royal, Special envoy for the implementation of the ISA and Mr Vinay Kwatra, Ambassador of India to France, will host a first meeting on the implementation of the Alliance, at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a joint initiative of France and India, launched during COP21 with the aim of making an unprecedented effort to promote solar energy. The goal of the ISA is to set the ground rules, norms and standards for solar energy, in order to obtain a rapid and massive deployment in countries that are rich in solar resources but where the risks are still seen as high. The ISA is putting in place concrete tools, capacity-building measures and innovative financial instruments. One example is the harmonization of public policies, regulations and prices between the countries, which reduces the uncertainties, strengthens the economic viability of solar projects and reassures the investors.
The ISA aims to facilitate the installation of more than 1,000 GW additional capacity by 2030, with estimated funding of $1,000 billion over the same period.
Important steps have been taken
The ISA’s founding summit, which was held on 11 March 2018 in India, was chaired by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Its first assembly was held on 3 October 2018.
The second assembly took place on 30 and 31 October 2019 and was co-chaired by Brune Poirson, Minister of State attached to the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, and her Indian counterpart.
How did the International Solar Alliance come about?
The initiative was launched by France and India during the Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015, with the aim of removing the obstacles standing in the way of solar energy and accelerating its deployment.
The ISA is the first intergovernmental organization to be based in India. Eighty-three States have signed its framework agreement (including Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Egypt, 31 African countries, seven Pacific States, nine countries from Latin America and the Caribbean and three from South Asia). The ISA will be open to all UN members following an amendment to its framework agreement, which is currently limited to 121 intertropical countries.
What are the Alliance’s aims?
The Alliance seeks to bring about a major decrease in the cost of solar energy so that its deployment can be scaled up in the solar-rich countries located between the two tropics.
It therefore has several goals:
• to bring about a major decrease in the cost of solar energy
• to meet the high energy demand in developing countries
• to contribute to the fight against climate change
How can these aims be achieved?
Establish a political, regulatory and contractual environment that encourages investment in solar energy
The harmonization of public policies and the updating of regulations and contractual frameworks between countries reduces the uncertainties, reinforces the business models of solar projects and reassures the investors.
In this context, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has created universal template contracts called “Open Solar Contracts”, which ensure a consistent basis for legal agreements and make them simpler and quicker to implement in each country. This reduces the transaction costs for public operators and lends greater visibility to project developers.
A pilot initiative is under way in which Togo, Mali, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger and Gabon have defined joint regulatory and contractual provisions in order to accelerate and strengthen trust in solar investments in their countries. The French Development Agency (AFD) is providing €350,000 in funding for a preparatory feasibility study to define a joint approach for solar projects.
Mobilize funding on an international scale
The goal of the ISA is to facilitate affordable access for member countries to funding for solar projects. To this end, in partnership with the ISA, the World Bank and the AFD launched the Solar Risk Mitigation Initiative (SRMI) at COP24 in 2018.
Although the cost of solar energy is constantly falling, its deployment remains slow in certain emerging markets, notably in Africa, where the private sector believes that funding solar projects carries too many risks: the SRMI initiative aims to reverse this trend. It involves creating:
• a technical assistance programme for developing sustainable solar projects (support with planning, resource mapping and electrical sector reform); the Solar Deployment Guidelines, which help countries identify clear and stable solar goals, were published in September 2019 and the first support mechanisms will be set up in the West African countries;
• a new procurement platform, which will be launched online and will facilitate and collect solar project bids;
• hedging instruments to protect against the financial risks inherent in renewable energy production projects, in order to guarantee the solvency of the suppliers.
France is spending €50 million on financial guarantee instruments in order to mobilize private investment at the level of $3.9 billion in renewable energy projects and the installation of 1.6 GW new renewable energy capacity, primarily solar energy for projects below 50 MW in Africa.
Consolidate the programmes offered by the training, research and innovation network
Training technicians and engineers in the field is an essential part of establishing local solar energy sectors. With this in mind, the ISA, supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), is rallying nine regional renewable energy and energy efficiency centres, as well as almost 70 national institutes, in order to support training, research and innovation in the member countries, thus facilitating technology transfer. To this end, France has provided financial and technical support to set up an initial training programme for the East African Solar Academy (announced during One Planet Nairobi). This course covers the latest theoretical and practical knowledge on the manufacture and installation of standalone photovoltaic systems, which provide access to electricity in isolated areas that are not connected to the grid.
The ISA is also continuing its training programme for trainers, which is funded by India. One-hundred-and-thirty-three professionals with different backgrounds and hailing from 25 member countries were trained by the National Institute of Solar Energy between September 2018 and March 2019. In August, the ISA launched a mid-career grant programme for professional technicians. The first cohort comprised 21 individuals from 18 member countries (80 applications from 38 countries were received). The training course, which lasts a year and a half, is run by the India Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi. Grant recipients will also complete a six-month placement in the ISA secretariat.
What is France’s role?
France is a co-founder of the ISA and co-chair of its Assembly. It contributes to the work of the ISA secretariat, which comprises some twenty people, whose role is to manage the programmes. Within this team, a French expert, who has been in the role for more than two years, contributes to the overall strategy, to the implementation of the programmes (notably training programmes) and to the management of the ISA network, in partnership with the member States and external organizations.
France uses its diplomatic network to bring the ISA’s priorities to the One Planet Summit, to all of the relevant multilateral bodies (the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, COP25, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), the International Energy Agency (IAE), etc.) and to the multilateral development banks.
France also mobilizes the private sector. The Syndicat des Énergies Renouvelables (SER) and MEDEF International, along with their Indian counterparts, co-chair an international committee of chambers of commerce that makes recommendations to the ISA on the conditions that encourage private investment in solar energy.
So far, the AFD has committed almost €900 million to 44 projects in 25 countries. Essentially, these are projects to create photovoltaic solar farms connected to the grid. These funds have contributed to the development of more than 2.5 GW of solar capacity. Notably, €380 million have been invested in projects in Africa, producing 650 MW of installed capacity.
At COP24, the World Bank and the AFD launched the Solar Risk Mitigation Initiative, which includes a support programme for developing favourable conditions and an online procurement platform that will facilitate access to funding by collecting solar project bids in one place. The aim is to move towards joint and multi-country tenders. France will put €50 million into a guarantee facility for small renewable energy farm projects in the ISA countries. These funds will make it possible to secure a private investment of €3.5 billion and to produce 1.6 GW of solar energy.
Ségolène Royal, Special Envoy for the Implementation of the International Solar Alliance
Working with the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition and the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and at the request of the President of the French Republic, Ségolène Royal is responsible for:
accelerating the pace of States joining the Alliance;
promoting the massive deployment of solar energy with tangible projects advocated by the Alliance;
uniting all of the partners and forces that could be mobilized (businesses, including the Terrawatt Initiative, regions, cities, NGOs, donors, international institutions);
finalizing the essential financial engineering for these projects.