India, UK to launch 'solar grid' project

·2-min read

India and the UK will use the UN climate talks in Glasgow to launch a project that aims to create a solar grid connecting countries in different parts of the world.

The project, known as the Green Grids Initiative, is being initiated by the International Solar Alliance, which was launched by India and France at the 2015 Paris climate conference to promote solar energy.

The UK and India agreed to join forces in the initiative in May this year.

Although solar energy is becoming cheaper than dirtier alternatives, countries cannot rely on it at night and must fall back on fossil fuels that produce earth-warming greenhouse gases.

This is especially the case in countries like India, where demand for power is soaring.

The new project is based on the idea that the sun is always shining in some part of the world, and the project aims to create a global grid that will transfer the sun's power from one place to another, said Ajay Mathur, director general of the International Solar Alliance.

"For example, when it is dark in east Asia, it's still light in India ... If there was a cable between India and east Asia, that solar electricity could be provided to east Asia," he said.

The idea of a grid spanning regions is not new, but this is the first attempt to create a global network.

Some experts view the project as India's counter to China's sweeping Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

Mathur said estimates showed that in the next three years, solar power will become as cheap as power from fossil fuels, which will make it easier to build new solar power plants and storage facilities.

But even then it will require countries with different priorities to reach complex agreements.

The project aims to start with a "coalition of the willing", such as two countries that would mutually benefit from the transfer of solar electricity, he said.

"The number of willing countries will keep on increasing over time, as costs lower and certainties become higher," Mathur said.

The International Solar Alliance hoped to enter into an agreement with a new group called the Global Energy Alliance, which includes philanthropic organisations and multi-laterals like the World Bank, to create a $US10 billion ($A13 billion) fund for the project and help mitigate risk, he said.

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