Clean Tech

Interconnected power: One sun, one world, one eco-friendly grid

V Rishi Kumar | Updated on August 22, 2021

Nation-to-nation linkage to ensure steady and uninterrupted energy generation and transmission   -  ISTOCK.COM

With environmental alarm bells ringing, the International Solar Alliance’s ‘solarisation of the world’ is an idea whose time has come

The focus on global warming has acquired a new urgency with the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report ringing alarm bells and the COP26 meet in Glasgow later this year likely to draw up tighter deadlines for all nations.

In this context, the International Solar Alliance (ISA), a 98-nation grouping initiated by India in 2015, is hoping to play a pivotal role in helping meet climate change mitigation goals through ‘solarisation of the world.’ Initially member countries were primarily located in the region between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, which is blessed with ample sunshine. But now others like Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have joined after membership was opened to all nations.

ISA is pushing the idea of interconnecting different regions of the world to ensure steady and uninterrupted energy generation and transmission.

Thus, if South Asia is connected with the Gulf region, then, since it is evening in Asia when it is still afternoon in West Asia, solar electricity generated in the afternoon in Saudi Arabia can provide green electricity in India when it is dark. This concept of one sun, one world, one grid is what solarisation is all about.

Local challenges

ISA has contracted with Électricité de France (EDF) to look at the techno-economics of such interconnections. “Earlier we were talking about one grid in a country, now we are looking at a global grid,” says Ajay Mathur, who took over as Director General of ISA in February this year. “It has been about getting countries together on the major global challenges of addressing climate change, and how to link them with local challenges,” adds Mathur.

According to him, the local challenges include whether to import a lot of energy or go solar, or how to convert to electric vehicles and reduce air pollution.

It is these local aspects that are at the heart of policy change with a global impact. Therefore, it is about bringing together convergence of thoughts, so one can do things much faster.

He feels India, having achieved the landmark of 100 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power, is in a position to share its best practices — learned the hard way — to help other countries transition to renewable energy.

Mutual benefit

Mathur marvels at the fact that Germany, which is in a northern latitude, has less solar radiation than India but, on some days of the year, meets 100 per cent of its electricity requirement through renewable energy.

“They have a strong interconnection with the Nordic grid, in particular with the Norwegian system rich in hydroelectric power. Germany can get electricity from Norway and both become greener than they would on their own,” Mathur explains.

This interconnection is important and mutually profitable. India, he says, has a similar link with Bhutan and Nepal. “Today we are selling electricity to Nepal but there is no reason why we can’t buy hydroelectricity from them. Interconnections provide countries with benefits and power.”

In fact, ISA is trying to help some member nations instal solar power.

One of its projects is targeting the bottom of the pyramid — bringing 1,000 GW of solar power to 1,000 million people with an investment of $1,000 billion by 2030.

In the present context it is clear that solar energy can meet a large part of the challenge of climate change, help displace fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.

Referring to India, Mathur says “the pace of change has been tremendous with solar parks offering electricity at ₹1.99 per unit. With batteries it is ₹7-9 per unit. We expect this to be in the ₹4-5 range in a couple of years. The renewables and batteries combination will make other forms of energy economically obsolete.”

He hopes that COP26 will become a platform to reach out to countries that are not yet members of ISA and get everybody under the tent.

The concept of ‘one sun, one world, one grid’ and regional interconnections will help in creating a global green grid. For this initiative, besides the World Bank, ISA has found willing partners in the private sector. The key challenge, however, would be the setting up of regulatory institutions.

Published on August 22, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor