Union Budget 2023-24
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Solar Energy – The African Connect

According to a United Nations report, about 80 percent of the global population lives in countries that are net importers of fossil fuels—that’s about 6 billion people who are dependent on fossil fuels from other countries, which makes them vulnerable to geopolitical shocks and crises. These countries have a heavy dependence on coal, oil, and gas. These fossil fuels are by far the largest contributors to climate change, accounting for over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions.

Renewable energy sources are available in all countries, and their potential is yet to be fully harnessed. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that 90 percent of the world’s electricity can and should come from renewable energy by 2050.

Renewable energy is at the heart of the climate challenge and the key to the solution, powering a safer future. Solar energy is one of the fastest-growing renewable energy source across the world. In India 59 solar parks of an aggregate capacity of 40 GW have been approved and an outlay of Rs 19,500 crore has been announced to boost manufacturing of solar modules under the government’s flagship Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme.  African nations have shown great interest in the India-led International Solar Alliance. Solar energy, infrastructure, military cooperation and startup ecosystem are four critical areas where India can be a valuable partner to African nations. Solar energy is an emerging sector in Africa. Between 2011 and 2020, solar capacity in Africa grew at an average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 54%. 

Africa today possesses some of the world’s most significant solar power generation potential. The continent receives annual average solar irradiation of 2,119 kilowatt hours per square meter (kWh/m2), and the continent’s solar potential is around 7,900 GW, indicating the vast potential for the generation of solar power. Despite this potential, Africa accounts for less than 3% of the world’s installed renewables-based electricity generation capacity. The utility-scale solar power has been systematically deployed in just a few countries. The huge gap between the present and potential can be abridged by enhanced accessibility for regional companies, incentivising local innovators, and capacity building across the entire solar value chain.

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is an action-oriented, member-driven, collaborative platform for increased deployment of solar energy technologies as a means for bringing energy access, ensuring energy security, and driving energy transition in its member countries. The ISA was conceived as a joint effort by India and France to mobilize efforts against climate change through the deployment of solar energy solutions.

The SolarX Grand Challenge, launched by ISA, in partnership with Invest India, aims to accelerate investments in solar by creating a pool of entrepreneurs and startups in the solar energy sector of ISA member countries. The first edition is focused on the African region, aiming to promote innovation, discover local solutions, and enable entrepreneurs with the over-arching objective of building human and institutional capacity to sustain and grow solar businesses. The SolarX Grand Challenge will enable four-fold benefits in technology, finance, innovation, and the business startup ecosystem of the solar energy sector in the region.

The applicants are invited to apply by March 31, 2023. The evaluation and shortlisting of the applications are expected to be completed by June 2023. This will be followed by the declaration of the winners in July 2023.

The 20 Winning startups will get a cash grant of $ 15,000 each along with Access to Market for selected innovators, assisted through an in-house acceleration program. The innovations identified from the program will be supported by the ISA, Invest India, and other support partners for wider implementation through Mentorship support programs, Investor connect programs, and Market Access programs that will enable buyer-seller meets in collaboration with the ecosystem, private players, and enablers. The acceleration program will be delivered virtually and physically to ensure outreach to all finalists across the continent.

10 problem statements pertinent to the solar energy sector have been identified for this challenge to promote innovation in the solar energy space. You can get more information on the Challenge and apply directly at https://www.investindia.gov.in/solarx-grand-challenge