Palau Becomes 76th Nation To Join ISA

  • On 16th July, 2019, Palau signed the International Solar Alliance (ISA)Framework Agreement, becoming the 76th country to sign the ISA Framework Agreement.
  • Palau commended India as a key partner for South-South Cooperation and praised the positive role being played by the India-UN Development Fund in boosting sustainable development projects in partner nations.

Palau

Capital: Melekeok

Largest island- Babelthuap (Babeldaob)

  • Palau is a group of about 200 islands in the Micronesia area of Oceania, nearly 650 km southeast of the Philippines.
  • It emerged from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI)which the United States administered on behalf of the United Nations from 1947 to 1978.

International Solar Alliance(ISA)

  • Headquarter: National Institute of Solar Energy, Gwal Pahari, Gurugram, India
  • Also known International Agency for Solar Policy and Application (IASPA), it is an alliance of 121 solar resource rich countries lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
  • It was jointly launched byIndia and Franceon November 30, 2015 in Paris, France on the side-lines of the 21st Conference of Parties (CoP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC).
  • The Framework Agreement was opened for signature on 15 November 2016 in Marrakech, Morocco, on the side-lines of CoP-22.
  • The First Assembly of the ISA was held in New Delhi in October 2018.

Aim:

It aims at achieving the target of 1 trillion watts of solar energy by 2030 which would require investment of $1 trillion in order to achieve the desired goal.

Key Focus Areas:

  • Promotion of solar technologies, newer business models and investment in the solar sector to strengthen prosperity.
  • Formulation of new projects and programmes to promote solar applications.
  • Development of innovative financial mechanisms to reduce cost of capital.
  • Encouragecapacity building for fostering and involvement of solar technologies and R&D among member countries.

India’s Role:

  • India plays a significant part in the alliance in terms of being a host as well as a major contributor to the achievement of the target, apart from being a founding member.
  • India, with a target to produce 100 GW of solar energy by 2022, would account for a tenth of ISA’s goal.
  • India will produce 175 GW electricity from renewable sources by 2022 and 100 GW will be from solar energy.
  • India will also provide 500 training slots for ISA member-countries and start a solar tech mission to lead R&D.

Challenges to ISA:

  • India imported 89% of its total solar cells imports-the key component to manufacture solar panels from China in 2017–18. China accounted for India’s Rs. 224 billion worth of import out of the total Rs 252 billion. According to the Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD), this over-dependence on China and Chinese solar panel dumping has occasioned losses of 2 lakh jobs in the country.
  • The solar manufacturers find it economical to use the low-priced solar panels than making it themselves at a higher cost. The government doesn’t consider this as a viable plan for Make in India initiative, if it has to be made successful. It also curbs India from realizing economies of scale in its solar power production. Therefore, 25% safeguard duty on the import of Chinese solar cells till July 2019 was imposed by the Indian government. The plan is to decrease it to 20% till January 2020, and lower it further to 15% until July 2020.
  • The solar power tariff is going downquicklyin India -Rs. 2.44 per unit-while the prices of the equipment and setting up remains the same. In the absence of government incentives, solar stakeholders are not motivated and convinced enough to invest in this area.
  • The solar power supply chain in the country is not as flourished, sound and robust as it should be, considering India’s goals of securing 175 GW of clean energy by 2022, 100 GW being derived from solar power.

Significance:

  • As the host country and the foremost mover of the concept, India must address itself toassure that the alliance comes out as a truly international body.
  • India and ISA needs to make sure that solar benefits are clear, tangible and describable by users; demonstrate business models that are viable for users, suppliers and financiers; and support member countries in implementing policies to upscale adoption of these business models.

Advantages of Solar Energy:

Environmental Benefits

  • Renewable and Inexhaustive Energy Source: Solar energy is a truly renewable energy source. It can be harnessed in all areas of the world and is available every day. This energy will be accessible as long as we have the sun.
  • Reduces Air Pollution: Solar energy has a substantially reduced impact on the environment compared to fossil fuels. Its greenhouse gas emissions are inconsequential as the technology does not require any fuel combustion.
  • Reduces Water Pollution: Solar photovoltaic cells do notrequire water to generate electricity as all other manufacturing processes do which is one of the most significant environmental benefits of solar. Traditional biomass and geothermal power plants- natural gas and coal-fired facilities, demand massive amounts of water to operate their vital cooling requirements. Pollution of local water resources can be avoided and also strain on local supplies through the competition with agriculture, drinking systems, and other vital water needs are significantly reduces with the usage of solar energy.
  • Reduces Dependency on Fossil fuels:Solar energy production does not require fossil fuels and is therefore less dependent on this limited and expensive natural resource. Lowering our dependency on these limited resources and making best use of prolific, free source of energy, such as sunlight, could signify lower energy costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a stronger and stable energy future.

Economic Benefits

  • Economic Savings: The production of renewable energy from the sun remarkably reduces costs, because it is an illimitable source of energy. What is most important here is that it being an unlimited and steady source of energy, any additional maintenance or usage costsare ruled eliminated.
  • Employment Generation: Majority of the costs of the system arise from the installation of the solar panels, which also encourages local job creation. Hence, its widespread use by promoting job creation can impact the economy of the area positively.

Challenges in Harnessing Solar Energy:

  • Weather Dependent: One of the biggest problems that solar energy technology poses is that energy is only generated while the sun is shining. Solar panels are reliant on sunlight to efficaciouslygarner solar energy. Therefore, a cloudy or rainy days can have a visible effect on the system.
  • Land Use: One of the other concerns is that a significant amount of land maybe utilized by the solar energy system which may account for land degradation or habitat loss for wildlife.
  • Hazardous Materials:The most commonly used semiconductor material for the construction of photovoltaic cells is silicon. Other materials used for the construction of photovoltaic cells are polycrystalline thin films such as copper indium diselenide, cadmium telluride, and gallium arsenide. The PV cell manufacturing process includes a number of hazardous materials, most of which are used to clean and purify the semiconductor surface. These include hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and acetone.Workers face health risks associated with inhaling silicon dust. As solar becomes a more popular energy, the problem of disposing the hazardous waste becomes an additional challenge.

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, 16th July, 2019