Power Minister and ISA President inaugurates 9 Solar Demonstration Projects

Four of these projects are in Uganda, two in Comoros and three in Mali.

Power Minister and ISA President inaugurates 9 Solar Demonstration Projects

New Delhi: The International Solar Alliance (ISA) hosted its 5th regional meeting in Kigali, Rwanda today, August 31, 2023, supported by the Government of Rwanda, with 36 countries and Ministers of 15 countries participating.

At the meeting, the President, the International Solar Alliance and Union Minister for Power and New & Renewable Energy, Government of India, Shri R. K. Singh, who joined the meeting virtually from New Delhi, inaugurated a total of nine solar power demonstration projects in the Republic of Uganda, the Union of Comoros and the Republic of Mali.

Four of these projects are in Uganda, two in Comoros and three in Mali.

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Through grants given by the International Solar Alliance, solarization of a rural healthcare centre and three primary schools, with a capacity of 8.5 kilo-watt peak and a 17.2 kilo-watt hour battery storage system, has been commissioned in Uganda at a cost of USD 48,835. Similarly in Comoros, solarization of two rural healthcare centres in Banguoikouni and Ivembeni, with a capacity of 15 kilo-watt peak and a 33 kilo-watt hour battery storage system, has been completed at a total cost of USD 49,999. Solarization of three rural healthcare centres in Koula, Sinzani, and Doumba, of the Republic of Mali, with a capacity of 13 kilo-watt peak and a 43 kilo-watt hour battery storage, has been done at a total cost of USD 49,995. None of these areas had energy access before.

“ISA seeks to lay down compelling models of solar projects for replication in ISA Member Countries”

Dedicating the nine demonstration projects to the countries, the Union Power and New & Renewable Energy Minister and ISA President underlined the commitment to undertake such projects which improve well-being of the underserved. “These demonstration projects transcend their energy provision role; they serve as drivers of advancement and emblems of global cooperation. At the International Solar Alliance, our dedication remains unwavering in furnishing additional instances where such showcase projects can enhance the well-being of the underserved. We seek to lay down compelling models for replication in our Member Countries.”

“Need to promote solar energy to enable sustainable energy transition”

The Union Minister said that ISA is an international organisation which is a partner to the G20 Presidency of the Republic of India, and as a partner in the 2023 G20 processes, an important message that ISA has been advocating is the need to promote solar energy for universal energy access and in enabling a sustainable energy transition.

“ISA Report identifies approaches centred on mini-grids and DRE which can address energy access challenges in different situations”

The Union Minister highlighted the report titled “Roadmap of Solar Energy for Universal Energy Access”, released by ISA, in collaboration with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India. The report unfolds a strategic vision of leveraging solar-driven solutions to tackle the global energy access challenge effectively and economically. The report provides case studies, examples, innovative policies that can make a pivotal shift in deployment of solar mini-grids.

The ISA President said that the findings of the report are particularly relevant for the African continent. “Energy access challenge is more acute in Sub-Saharan Africa and in rural areas. The report identifies a combination of electrification approaches, centred around solar energy, with an emphasis on solar mini-grids and Decentralized Renewable Energy solutions, which can be deployed to address energy access challenges in different situations. Promoting such solutions can also lead to locally developed innovative ideas and business models coming to the forefront, which can greatly enhance the solarization of country’s energy generation.”

“ISA is dedicated to tackling lack of affordable credit and technical expertise”

Shri Singh said that the ISA is dedicated to tackling the urgent lack of affordable financing and technical expertise in the ISA Member Countries, particularly in our Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Member Countries. “The ISA has completed demonstration projects in eight countries. These include the solarization of health centres in Comoros, Guyana, Niger, Uganda and Mali; the solar irrigation project in Jamaica and Togo; and the solarization of school buildings in Kiribati and Uganda. The fundamental concept behind these demonstration projects is straightforward yet compelling: to showcase the remarkable potential of solar technology applications in enhancing the lives of individuals across our member nations. As we witness the realization of this vision through the inauguration of nine demonstration projects today, I am overwhelmed by a sense of optimism and gratitude.”

“Vision is a future where clean energy is a fundamental pillar of development”

The Union Power and New & Renewable Energy Minister of India and ISA President closed his remarks by stating that the vision is a future where clean and sustainable energy stands as a fundamental pillar of development, where solar energy is harnessed to uplift communities and preserve the environment. “Today, we commemorate the essence of ingenuity, collaboration, and shared ambitions that have materialized these undertakings. Let us persist in our joint efforts, tapping into the solar potential to illuminate the route toward a more prosperous, sustainable, and just world for all.”

“Africa has the potential to become a global leader in renewable energy production and innovation”

Vice President of the ISA from the Africa Region and Minister, Ministry of Energy and Water Resources of Somalia, Mr. Jama Taqal Abbas, highlighted how Africa has the potential to become a global leader in renewable energy production and innovation. “Despite many challenges, Africa is blessed with an abundance of renewable energy resources, ranging from vast solar potential, wind resources, geothermal hotspots, hydro energy, and green hydrogen. It is also home to over 40% of the global reserve of critical minerals which are essential to renewable and low-carbon technologies. By tapping into these resources, Africa can not only meet its energy needs but also become a global leader in renewable energy production and innovation.”

“Need innovative financing mechanisms that make solar energy investments more attractive and accessible”

The Vice President of ISA from the African Region added that Governments across Africa have a crucial role to play in accelerating the transition to clean energy by prioritizing renewable energy in national energy strategies, policies, regulation, and guidelines to create an enabling environment for investment, and development of the necessary infrastructure, such as transmission and distribution networks, to facilitate the integration of renewable energy into the grid. “In collaboration with ISA, we need to prioritize knowledge sharing between educational institutions, business professionals, and partners, discuss best practices, promote technology transfer, and foster capacity growth to establish a knowledgeable workforce that can innovate and support the expansion of the solar energy sector in Africa. Access to finance remains a significant barrier to scaling up solar energy projects in Africa. We have to work together with our partners, domestic and international financial institutions, to establish innovative financing mechanisms that make solar energy investments more attractive and accessible.”

Deliberations during the meeting emphasised that solar energy in Africa has gained significant attention as a promising solution to address the region's energy challenges and in contributing to sustainable development. Africa's abundant sunlight makes it well-suited for solar power generation, and various initiatives are underway to harness this potential.

“Solar energy in Africa presents a remarkable opportunity to tackle energy deficits and combat climate change”

Director General of ISA, Dr. Ajay Mathur expressed the need to capitalise on the potential of solar energy. "Solar energy in Africa presents a remarkable opportunity to tackle energy deficits, advance sustainable development, and contribute to global endeavours in combatting climate change. Sustained collaboration among governments, private sector entities, and international organisations is indispensable to unleash the complete potential of solar energy across the continent."

Regarding ISA's distinctive initiatives for Africa, he said that ISA advocates for the utilisation of cost-effective decentralised solutions, exemplified by mini-grids that can be swiftly implemented in areas lacking or limited in grid infrastructure. He added that ISA's interventions within the 2023 G20 processes have prominently addressed this pivotal theme.

Reflecting on innovation and entrepreneurship, Dr. Mathur highlighted ISA’s SolarX, an exclusive Startup Challenge, recently announcing winners from its Africa segment. "African entrepreneurs and innovators are crafting distinct solutions to confront local energy challenges, representing a highly advantageous approach where local needs are met with locally nurtured solutions."

The proceedings of the Regional Committee Meeting presented important updates on multiple initiatives of ISA, such as STAR-C, SolarX Startup Challenge, and Global Finance Facility, which are ISA’s key interventions in driving capacity building, innovation, and investment in the solar sector and hold the potential for tailoring to specific indigenous needs.

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20 companies from 10 African nations win ISA’s SolarX StartUp Challenge

The ISA felicitated the winners of its SolarX StartUp Challenge. Launched specifically for Africa, this initiative aimed to promote entrepreneurship and advance clean energy in African ISA Member Countries. After a rigorous selection process from April to June 2023, 20 companies from 10 African nations were declared winners. Notably, seven of these start-ups are led by woman entrepreneurs. Maximum number of winning companies (4) belong to Kenya, and Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda have 3 winning companies each. The 182 applications had come from 28 countries, namely Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, India, Israel, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – a testament to the potential of addressing the pressing challenges of the solar sector.

Among the ISA initiatives catering to the needs of the African region, the Global Solar Facility lays a foundation for boosting innovative solar technologies through private investment in Africa. The Facility is set to catalyse the deployment of solar through scalable business models, drawing in private capital to address underserved African markets. This innovative initiative includes a pioneering payment and insurance mechanism, endorsed by the Fifth Session of the ISA Assembly, that serves as a robust first-loss guarantee. By operationalising this Facility, it aims to attract investments from diverse global donors. The Facility introduces a comprehensive approach by combining three distinct funds—the payment guarantee fund, the insurance fund, and the investment fund. In this framework, proposed projects across Africa have the opportunity to secure payment guarantees or partial insurance premia from these dedicated funds.

Charting the path for solar energy's role in universal energy access, the Meeting spotlighted the role of mini-grids in universalising energy access through innovative business models. The meeting can be watched here.

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