ISA: India’s quest for the high table in global energy geopolitics

Date of Publishing: MAR 23, 2018


With the initiation of a solar movement worldwide, India has gained an opportunity to exercise its diplomatic ‘soft power’ and lead global collaborative and renewable energy geopolitics, from India’s point of view, writes Sabareesh P.A for South Asia Monitor.
By Sabareesh P.A
India’s initiative, along with France, to form the International Solar Alliance (ISA) at the Conference of Parties 21 (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 30th November, 2015 was aimed at attracting investment and the world’s attention towards India while portraying it as a viable destination for investment in the renewable energy sector.
The goals of the ISA are to achieve a target of 1 TW of solar energy by 2030; promote solar technologies, new business models and investment in the solar sector; and formulate projects and programmes to promote solar applications. India’s solar quest is to effectively use the sunshine streaming over 121 nations between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to bring about a ‘universal orange revolution’.
On March 10, 2018, New Delhi hosted heads of state and government and ministerial delegations of over 30 nations at the first ever ISA Summit. The ensuing document stated that the challenge of clean solar energy being costlier than thermal power could be faced with more private commercial players entering the renewable energy sector under the supportive shade of government. They could initiate research and develop solar technologies and efficient solar components. The ‘solar cooperation movement’ is being currently spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The ISA Summit not only reminded world leaders about the most abundant renewable source of energy but also that a rapid shift must be initiated for them to meet their respective Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The alliance also outlines the importance of solar energy in achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Though the India-led global alliance is a first at the international level, India has been locally working on the solar angle through the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) which was launched in 2009 to achieve the earlier target of 20,000 MW of solar power by 2022. The Modi government has recently revised that target upwards, to 100,000 MW.
It is important that India formulate a viable solar policy to execute massive solar projects to achieve the target of 100 GW. This also requires an estimated investment of a massive six lakh crore rupees, initially from the public sector, to provide a boost to the solar manufacturing sector.
The most important outcome of a successful solar mission in terms of climate change mitigation is that it can reduce the filthy smoke emissions from thermal power plants (about 170 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over its lifecycle).
There are always challenges during any paradigm change. Recently India was dragged by the United States to the World Trade Organisation over a trade dispute related to the ‘local procurement’ clause in the procurement of solar panels for solar projects, which is in contempt of world trade obligations. The precise and devoted focus at the policy level and multilateral interaction are now required.
According to the Economic Times, “The International Solar Alliance is … India’s contribution to enabling developing countries to make the transition to a low-carbon economy. In diplomatic terms, it was a game changer for India, when it emerged as a proactive partner in the transition to more sustainable development.”
With the initiation of a solar movement worldwide, India has gained an opportunity to exercise its diplomatic ‘soft power’ and lead global collaborative and renewable energy geopolitics, from India’s point of view.
(The author is Chief Coordinator at, a web portal which provides scientific mentorship programmes for Indian school students. He can be reached at

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