Current Affairs
Explained

First-ever World Solar Technology Summit (WSTS)

  • Posted By
    10Pointer
  • Categories
    Environment
  • Published
    11th Oct, 2020
  • Context

    • The International Solar Alliance (ISA) organized the first-ever World Solar Technology Summit (WSTS). The summit brought together key stakeholders – leading academic scientists, technology developers, researchers, and innovators on one platform.
  • Background

    • ISA discussed the recent developments in solar technologies both in terms of cost and technology, along with technology transfers, challenges, and concerns in the field.
    • The main objective of the summit was to showcase next-generation solar technologies to member countries.
    • The summit also allowed decision-makers and stakeholders to meet and discuss their priorities and strategic agenda towards a broader integration.
    • Some of the key events during the summit was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the ISA and the International Institute for Refrigeration (Paris); and a partnership agreement between ISA and Global Green Growth Institute (South Korea) for the promotion of one million solar pumps.
    • Partnership agreements on the implementation of 47 projects was also signed and exchanged between ISA and NTPC. A partnership agreement on the ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ was signed and exchanged between the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the World Bank, and the ISA.
    • As of June 2020, the ISA framework agreement has been signed by 86 countries, with 68 having submitted instruments of ratification.
    • Last year, it was announced that the ISA would no longer be treated as a foreign source of funding.
    • Previously, the Commonwealth of Nations and the ISA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand solar power in the Commonwealth member countries. The ISA and Commonwealth have at least 28 common member countries.
  • What is the International Solar Alliance (ISA)?

    • The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is an alliance of 121 countries initiated by India, most of them being sunshine countries, which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
    • The primary objective of the alliance is to work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
    • This initiative was first proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech in November 2015 at Wembley Stadium, in which he referred to sunshine countries as Suryaputra ("Sons of the Sun").
    • The alliance is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization. Countries that do not fall within the Tropics can join the alliance and enjoy all benefits as other members, with the exception of voting rights. After the United Nations, it is the largest grouping of states world-wide.
  • Is there any Geographical importance?

    • The area of Earth located in between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn is called the tropical (torrid) zone. This is the part of the world in which the sun can appear directly overhead, and that more-direct exposure means that the sun's actual effect is greater here; anywhere north or south of this zone, sunlight always reaches the earth's surface at an angle and is correspondingly less intense.
    • The sunniest countries of the world are on the African continent, ranging from Somalia- Horn of Africa-, east to Niger, west and north to Egypt.
    • For India, possible additional benefits from the alliance can be a strengthening of ties with the major African countries and increasing goodwill for India among them.
  • What are the Challenges before ISA?

    • First challenge, solar electricity has to overcome the roadblocks of transmission and storage. Cross-border transmission of electricity requires establishment of transmission lines from the producer to the consumer country. These lines have to be dedicated to the specific countries. For example, a transmission line from Bhutan to India cannot be used to transmit electricity from Bhutan to Bangladesh.
    • Therefore, Solar Alliance can challenge the OPEC only when the infrastructure for cross-border transmission of electricity is put in place. It is necessary to build international transmission lines along the lines of the Belt Road Initiative of China.
    • The second challenge lies in storage of electricity. Oil can be extracted and stored in large tanks and used when required. Not solar electricity. It is produced when the sun is shining. It is often the case that the buyer is unwilling to lift the solar electricity when it is being generated because at that time it may have other cheaper sources of electricity available.
    • The cost of power has two components. The variable cost is the payment made for the numbers of units of electricity purchased. In addition, the buyer is required to pay certain amount towards the fixed cost of solar supply. This cost has to be paid by the buyer irrespective of whether it purchases the electricity or not.
    • Solar has another disadvantage in the time of the day when it is generated. Solar electricity is available only during the day when the sun shines. The demand for electricity, however, is more during the morning and evening which are called “peak hours”. Therefore, solar electricity is like warm clothes in the summer. It is produced when the demand is less.
    • The challenge is to store solar electricity during the day and release it during the peak hours. Various methods are available for doing this. These include storing electricity in super-heated oil, in batteries, or in pump storage schemes.
    • The third challenge is of providing the money for promoting solar electricity among the members. The Alliance has very little money of its own.
    • The Alliance proposes to help channel funds from established multilateral banking institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank and the New Development Bank. But the priority of these institutions is different.
    • Moreover, access to these institutions is already available to the member countries. The Alliance does not add to the availability of funds in a significant way. The challenge is to establish a “World Solar Development Bank”. Certain developed countries that are deeply concerned with global warming could provide big-ticket funding for this initiative.
    • The fourth challenge, and an opportunity for India, is to develop a solar power waste recycling business along the line of ship breaking business. Solar panels have a life of about 30 years. The panels have to be physically dismantled and the glass, silicon, copper and plastic have to be separated. The glass, copper and plastic are easily reused. The silicon cannot be reused for making new solar panels because it contains some glass.
  • Way forward:

    • There is no doubt that the future belongs to the Solar Alliance. However, for the Alliance to become a challenge to OPEC, following steps should be taken:
    •  Initiate the establishment of an international electricity transmission grid.
    • Undertake research to bring down the cost of storage of electricity.
    • Establish a new multilateral bank dedicated to the promotion of solar power.
    • Invest in research on reuse of silicon extracted from used solar panels.