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PM Launches India-UK Green Grids Project at COP26

On Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, the Green Grids Initiative One Sun One World One Grid (GGI-OSOWOG) was launched by the Prime Ministers of India and the UK at the World Leaders’ Summit at COP26. The project is the brainchild of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), presided by India, supported by the UK’s COP26 core team. The idea for the initiative was first introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during ISA’s first assembly in October 2018 where he asked for connecting solar power supply across borders. 

About the GGI-OSOWOG

The new GGI-OSOWOG is another development in ISA’s trajectory of multilateral efforts that foster solar energy infrastructure globally. It also represents a flagship coalition between strengthening the bilateral relationship between India and the UK. This has also been asserted by Dr. Ajay Mathur, the Director General of ISA, who said that, “the Green Grids Initiative aims to start with a coalition of the willing, such as two countries that would mutually benefit from the transfer of solar electricity and in time, lower costs of solar around the world.” 

This infrastructure includes vastly increased renewable energy generation capacity in energy-rich areas, all of which is connected via continental networks. Smart grids join millions of solar cells and electric vehicle charging stations, as well as micro-grids for rural areas and to maintain resilience during extreme weather events. The project's main goals are to galvanise global cooperation for large-scale renewable energy capacity addition, boost demand-side flexibility, and handle renewable energy production variability. The project will be completed in stages, with the first connecting the West Asian, South Asian, and Southeast Asian regions; the stage two extending to the African power pools; and the third stage potentially leading to a global grid connectivity.

With deregulated power markets, cross-border electricity trade offers the potential to maximize renewable energy installations and lower electricity costs. Long-term planning and dedication to the creation of a global grid will encourage investment, mitigate country-specific hazards, create jobs, and promote technological advancement. In this direction, ISA and Bloomberg Philanthropies have recently partnered to raise $ 1 trillion in worldwide solar energy investments across ISA's member countries. The two organisations have also collaborated with the World Resources Institute (WRI) to design a Solar Investment Action Agenda and Roadmap, also unveiled at COP26.

India’s Solar Energy Initiatives

During the 7th November 2020 Facilitative Sharing of Views (FSV) of COP26, India presented its 3rd Biennial Update Report (BUR), which had been submitted first to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the month of February. The main highlight of the presentation was the fact that India has successfully reduced emission intensity by 24 per cent with respect to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 2005 to 2014, along with the increased focus on utilising solar energy .

In recent times, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe. It also highlighted the necessity for robust medical facilities and infrastructure to deliver lifesaving refrigerated vaccines. As the country grapples with seasonal heat waves and power outages, the importance of green energy, particularly solar energy, in addressing these issues has become clear. For many people, especially in India's rural communities where the pandemic is causing havoc, having access to sustainable sources of energy can greatly impact health care facilities, determining the difference between life and death.

India was keen to realize the benefits of solar electricity long before COVID-19 struck. By the year 2022, the country has set a laudable goal for itself: generating 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity . This would be beneficial to the commercial and industrial customers, who represent 74% of existing energy capacity, compared to only 13% for residential customers and public sector entities.

It had 38.8 GW of installed solar power as of December 2020, comprising ground-mounted and rooftop facilities. Other critical infrastructure, such as transportation, is also powered by solar. The massive Rewa solar park, one of India's biggest solar projects, fuels the New Delhi metro rail, which serves over 2.6 million passengers daily. Government-led projects such as 24x7 - Power for All, which aims to give every family access to energy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, are supporting the empowerment of communities – both literally and metaphorically – and enhance their quality of life.

As per the BUR, India’s solar capacity now stands at 45 gigawatts, seeing an increase of 17 times during the last seven years. The report also asserted that while the country may constitute 17 per cent of the world’s population, historically, it has contributed to 4 per cent of the cumulative emissions, with the current greenhouse gas emissions being only 5 per cent to the total. 

It's not simple to get solar projects initiated. It necessitates the adoption of the appropriate rules and industry regulations, as well as the provision of tax concessions or de-risking mechanisms to encourage private capital to flow. Aside from providing this kind of assistance – from providing concessional financing to set up solar parks in Madhya Pradesh to strengthening enabling policies and bringing private sector to the table – India's solar expansion seems to provide key lessons for boosting clean energy investments all over the world.

What’s Ahead for the GGI-OSOWOG

After the launch of the GGI-OSOWOG, the US also announced its intent to join the initiative at the Steering Committee meeting. This critical project kickstarted by India and the UK attracted US attention inspired by the fact that, “all the energy humanity uses in a year is equal to the energy that reaches the earth from the sun in a single hour”, as asserted by Jennifer Granholm, US Secretary of Energy. 

In addition to the five member countries of the initiative’s Standing Committee (India, the UK, the US, Australia and Paris), the World Bank has also joined forces. Through this alliance, it aims to leverage the paybacks of renewable generators and non-centres complementarity across countries by interconnecting them.  

The GGI-OSOWOG project has the ability to transform the global electrical system to one that is more oriented towards variable renewable energy, while lowering fossil fuel consumption.  This will, therefore, usher in a new era of harvesting a considerably higher share of renewable energy, taking advantage of the global energy shift, and assisting in the development of an ecosystem built on mutual trust and shared benefits.
 

This article has been co-authored by Karishma Sharma and Radhika Sharma.