From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : ISA, OSOWOG
Mains level : Solar Energy
The Union Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has addressed the Ministerial session of the Green Grids Initiative-One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) Northwest Europe Cooperative Event.
One Sun, One World, One Grid
- The mega plan of OSOWOG calls for trans-national electricity grid supplying solar power across the globe.
- It will connect 140 countries through a common grid that will be used to transfer solar power.
- The idea was first floated by PM Modi in 2018 during the first assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
- The vision behind the OSOWOG mantra is “the Sun never sets” and is a constant at some geographical location, globally, at any given point of time.
With India at the fulcrum, the solar spectrum can easily be divided into two broad zones viz:
- Far East: It would include countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Lao, Cambodia and
- Far West: It would cover the Middle East and the Africa Region
Implementation phases of the plan
The plan is divided into three phases:
- Phase 1: It will connect the Indian grid with the Middle East, South Asia and South-East Asian grids to share solar and other renewable energy resources
- Phase 2: It will connect the first phase nations with the African pool of renewable sources
- Phase 3: It will be the concluding step of global interconnection
How novel is the idea?
(1) Scale of the program
- Not limited by national boundaries, it can tackle global challenges linked to energy.
- It will tackle access for underserved people and communities the world over.
- It will enable 3 billion people to access clean drinking water (via solar pumps), give 2 billion women access to clean cooking and bring light to the homes of 750 million people.
(2) Pivotal moment in India’s energy history
- Going back even further, almost a decade ago, the price of solar energy (then INR 15 a unit) had raised question marks about its commercial feasibility.
- Today OSOWOG envisions dispatching surplus electricity at near-zero cost as India produces the cheapest solar-powered electricity anywhere in the world.
- OSOWOG directly tackles two key problems that are emerging as energy systems try to deliver both energy sustainability and access to underserved populations.
- Countries like Singapore or Bangladesh simply may not have enough empty land to generate solar energy.
- Many nations’ policies also prioritise food security (i.e., devoting land to farming) over solar energy. These countries can still benefit from the solar energy dispatched to them via OSOWOG.
(4) India extending leadership
- Having international associations is not a new trend for the energy sector which already has a strong geopolitical organisation such as OPEC.
- Several countries including China have initiated infrastructure projects in other countries, which is seen as a sign of asserting supremacy by several policy experts.
- While India is a partner nation with most trade associations, with ISA and OSOWOG, it is planning to take a leadership position.
Significance of OSOWOG
- Successful ambitious project: It is obviously a very grand and ambitious project with a looming success.
- Pathbreaking idea: It is also clear that a new energy sector paradigm is needed as we are facing a huge inflection point in electricity generation and consumption.
- Green benefits: Potential benefits include widespread scale up in energy access, abatement in carbon emissions, lower cost and improved livelihoods.
- Energy alternative: With battery and storage technology becoming cheaper, electricity consumption at source end is a more feasible idea for solar power.
Limitations of OSOWOG
- Low financial benefits: This may sound a geopolitically a clever strategy. However, it is to be seen if this makes sense, technology-wise and in terms of financial benefits.
- Cost-sharing challenge: The mechanism of cost-sharing will be challenging, given the varied priorities of participating countries depending on their socio-economic orders.
- Pace of progress: The OSOWOG will turn out to be an expensive, complex and very slow progress project.
- Geopolitical issue: Any disruption caused due to any bilateral/multilateral issues can potentially affect critical services in multiple continents and countries.
- Grid parameters: There is a difference in voltage, frequency and specifications of the grid in most regions. Maintaining grid stability with just renewable generation would be technically difficult.
- While India has taken baby steps with ISA, a major investment drive is still missing. This is planned to be achieved through OSOWOG.
- India will need a strong coalition of international partners to realise this vision.
Back2Basics: International Solar Alliance
- Officially announced during UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015, the ISA is a partnership of solar-resource rich countries.
- Currently, there are 121 countries that have agreed to be members for ISA.
- Most of these are countries with large participation from Africa, South-east Asia and Europe.
- Pakistan and China are not a part of ISA.