The transformative potential of One Sun One World One Grid
To realise the full potential of solar, what is needed is not just energy transition, but an energy transformation, founded on unprecedented climate cooperation
International climate action must be focussed on establishing the world’s most abundant and clean energy source — solar — as the common energy imperative. Solar has the abundance, the scale, and the affordability that the global climate call to action asks for. To realise the full potential of solar, what is needed is not just energy transition, but an energy transformation, founded on unprecedented climate cooperation.
There are two salient aspects to realising this. The first is a combination of technology and logistics, whose blueprint entails building and operating electricity grids that can absorb large shares of variable renewable energy to deliver secure, reliable, and affordable power to billions, across the globe.
This will require the establishment of new transmission lines crossing frontiers and time zones, integrated into expanded and modernised grids, and coordinated with rapid scale-up of mini-grids and off-grid energy access solutions. Solar-rich areas can be linked together through continental-scale regional grids, with inter-regional links connecting different time zones, ensuring reliable supply to countries with low solar irradiation.
The second aspect of this energy transformation is common and united political will, which can focus actions by governments, public sector players, policymakers, and mission-critical organisations. The vision of globally interconnected solar grids was launched at the first Assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in October 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Its name, One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG), underlined the common global framework of cohesion and unity of purpose for countries, actors, and stakeholders.
Accelerating the pace at which OSOWOG comes to life, the United Kingdom (UK) and the International Solar Alliance jointly launched a global Green Grids Initiative-One Sun One World One Grid (GGI-OSOWOG), at the COP26 in Glasgow. GGI-OSOWOG will bring more technical, financial and research cooperation to help facilitate cross-border renewable energy transfer projects, which will give OSOWOG its global infrastructure.
GGI-OSOWOG will also create depth of organisational scale, spanning national governments, international financial and technical organisations, legislators, power system operators and knowledge leaders, to accelerate the construction of the new infrastructure needed for a world powered by clean energy. It will provide momentum, and a pool of investment towards low-carbon, innovative solar projects, and bring together skilled workers for a solar-powered economic recovery. The initiative will interconnect generators and demand centres across continents with an international power transportation grid. There will be an opportunity to combine community-level power plants, rooftop systems for domestic and industrial customers, agricultural pumps, smart vehicle charging and interactive appliances to ensure that grids are green and resilient at all levels and are serving green end-uses.
The UK COP26 presidency and the India ISA presidency launched this initiative at COP26 with the One Sun Declaration endorsed by 80 countries. The aim is forging political leadership and increased global consensus around the proliferation of solar power, agnostic of national borders. Increased cooperation will be the backbone of shared cross-border infrastructure, power systems, power trading, operations, technology standards, financing regimes, and collaborative R&D. It can also propel investment and create millions of new green jobs. A new, global green grid for solar has the transformative span and reach that matches the aggressive ambition of the Paris Agreement.
The time is nigh for the global community to take concerted steps towards combating rising global temperatures. The coming together of the two leading lights in the clean energy space through this initiative represents a paradigm shift in global climate action efforts. This spirit of partnership and commonality of purpose also demonstrates the kind of multilateral climate action needed for the world to stay within its carbon budget.
Ajay Mathur is director-general, International Solar Alliance
The views expressed are personal