Solar power generated in the Nepalese Himalayas. (Credit: blas/Bigstock)
Solar power generated in the Nepalese Himalayas. (Credit: blas/Bigstock) (via: bit.ly)

The recent BRICS meeting, coming on the heels of the Dokhlam standoff, brought the Indian prime minister Modi and Chinese president Xi Jinjping together to discuss larger co-operational issues, including how can the two nations can leverage their abundance of solar energy in order to generate latent energy reserves that lie as yet untapped.

Both leaders jointly invited other nations to join an alliance that would reap the benefits of a wealth of solar energy, and use it for wider developmental purposes.

It is noteworthy that while China and India have emerged as front runners in solar power generation, the other three BRICS nations – Russia, Brazil, and South Africa – are making substantive strides to expand their solar power resources.

The shared recognition of renewable opportunities also shows that these nations are more deeply inter-connected economically and developmentally than via geo-political considerations.

Driving the renewable energy mini-revolution, solar power and wind energy have emerged as leading sources of energy.

Tropical nations like India and China naturally stand to gain by capturing and storing solar power and generating power in this fashion.

At the recently concluded ninth BRICS meeting in the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen, the leading five nations focused their attention towards contemporary geo-political issues and also considered the socio-economic viability of natural resources as fuel for growth and development in their regions.

Energy issues, especially the solar one, emerged as top agenda items during the meeting, given both their economic viability for communities and their ability to bring BRICS countries together to deepen their engagement, accelerate their growth, and enhance the prospects of leveraging the transformational power of new technologies.

Although comparisons can be odious, examining the two Asian giants on the solar energy front is interesting because they represent two of the largest markets in solar energy resources and both continue to expand their solar resources in realisation of the fact that energy sources contribute to more than half of their respective gross domestic products – this besides renewables being good social, political, and economic investments.

Over the years, China has established itself as the world’s largest market for solar panels. The National Energy Administration (NEA) estimates that in the year 2016, China installed 34.2 GW of new solar power, up 126% from the previous year’s installations, and bringing the country’s cumulative solar capacity to 77.42 GW. Under China’s thirteenth Five Year Plan, the country has set an ambitious target of attaining 150GW to 200GW of solar PV capacity by the year 2020.

Meanwhile, India is striving to enhance its solar energy capacity to 100 GW by 2022, which will include 60 GW from grid-connected solar projects and 40 GW from rooftop solar panels. It is expected that around 1.1 GW of rooftop solar capacity will be added in 2017, up 75% from 2016.

COP 21, an event held in France in 2015, has proved a historic platform over the years, pushing forward the solar energy agenda by bringing together 121 sun-rich nations lying between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to exploit their solar potential. Popularly known as the International Solar Alliance (ISA), the platform was jointly inaugurated by the president of France and the Indian prime minister. Over the years leading up to 2030, the finish line for the UN’s sustainable development goals, the group aims to invest about 1 trillion US dollars, which is indicative of solar power’s potential for leveraging growth in the economy and empower people at the same time.

Given the size of the solar energy market in India, US companies like First Solar Inc., FSLR and SunEdison Inc. have been ramping up collaborations with local Indian partners to invest in the country’s solar resources. Chinese stocks like ReneSola Ltd. SOL are also financing solar projects in India. Solar markets and companies have already moved to Asia following President Trump’s decision to walk out of the Paris climate agreement, with the focus of investors sharply shifting to Chinese and Indian markets.

Solar energy has many advantages, including cost, efficiency, and scale, and also impacts economies and society favourably by bringing governments together to collectively trigger regional and international cooperation based on equity, sustainability, and dignity.

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Pooran Chandra Pandey

Former CEO of the DOC Research Institute (2016-2018), IN

Pooran Chandra Pandey is one of India’s leading experts on advocacy, economic and social development work, management and the voluntary sector. From 2011 to 2016, he served as Executive Director for UN Global Compact Network India. Prior to taking up that post, he was Director at the Times Foundation, one of India’s leading corporate foundations working in the areas of health, education, environment, women’s empowerment, and disaster management. From 2004 to 2007, he was CEO at Voluntary Action Network India, the country’s largest association of voluntary organizations, comprising 2,400 members within India. Credited with pioneering the notion of involving civil society, businesses and government through a consensus-building approach for inclusive social dividends, Pooran Chandra Pandey has led the launch of national public service campaigns within India such as Lead India, Teach India and the social impact awards. Specialising both in development and humanitarian assistance, he has also chaired and co-chaired a number of Indian Government task forces and committees developing national policy on the voluntary sector, implementing the UN Handbook, non-governmental charter of good governance, rationalisation of policies for NGOs, and the foreign contribution regulation act. Pooran Chandra Pandey holds a BA and MA from the University of Allahabad, an M.Phil in International Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, and was also a Chevening Scholar in Leadership and Global Organization at the London School of Economics.