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Transcript of Media Briefing on Founding Conference of ISA (March 11, 2018)

March 12, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar! Welcome to the special briefing on the Founding Conference of International Solar Alliance. As you know this has been a very hectic day for all of us and that is why we have to keep the briefing so late, I apologize for that.

Apart from the events around the founding conference there were also several bilateral meetings which Prime Minister had to do. To brief you about the conference as well as to give you the sense of what happened during the bilateral meetings, I have with me Secretary (Economic Relations) from the Ministry of External Affairs Mr.Tirumurti as well as Nagaraj Naidu who is Jt.Secretary (Europe West) and also the coordinator for this conference.

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti:
Friends, thank you very much for your presence this evening. We have successfully concluded the inaugural segment this morning of the plenary of the Founding Conference of the International Solar Alliance Summit at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Cultural Centre in New Delhi. The second segment consisting of Technical sessions which has just been concluded and the valedictory session is currently on.

Apart from the President of France and our own Prime Minister, 21 Heads of State and Heads of Government, 6 Vice Presidents and Deputy Prime Ministers, 19 Ministers as Heads of Delegation attended the conference in addition to many other ministers who were accompanying the Heads of State and Heads of Government.

10 heads of multilateral banks, top representatives from UN agencies, corporate sector particularly in Renewable Energy, civil society, academic and research institutions and think tanks were present from India and from all over the world. Before the conference more than half the potential States i.e. 61 countries had signed the International Solar Alliance Framework and 32 have ratified it already.

It is evident that there has been a huge surge and interest in joining the International Solar Alliance as witnessed by the presence of so many high level dignitaries. It signifies the commitment at the highest level of these founding States of the International Solar Alliance to go for clean, affordable, appropriate and sustainable energy to make our world a better place to live in. Sustainable development has received a very huge boost.

The inaugural session was launched with the soulful rendering of the "We shall overcome” by the solar mamas who have all been trained in India under the ITEC program. They stand as a symbol of what can be achieved at the grassroots level to bring about genuine change in the lives of local communities.

Prime Minister of India in his inaugural address inter-alia announced India's commitment to extend nearly US$ 1.4 billion worth of lines of credit which will cover 27 projects in 15 countries. This initiative has been widely welcomed by the International Solar Alliance Founding States and the beneficiary countries. This is indeed one of the largest commitment to financing solar energy projects around the world.

Over the last few months, we have been intensely engaging with various signatory countries to ascertain their interest and seek proposals for potential solar projects in their respective countries. As you can see that our initiative has generated an overwhelming positive response. The projects which we will be looking at or taking up in these 15 countries include setting up of solar PV power plants, mini grid and off grid usage, irrigation, rural electrification, street lighting, solar power for urban infrastructure including for health, hospitals, colleges, schools, government establishments, low income families etc.

A project preparation facility was announced by the prime minister to assist our development partners towards preparation of project documentation as consultancy support. Prime Minister also announced a path breaking initiative relating to solar technology mission. This is in line with Prime Minister’s own initiative for India to take the lead internationally in solar energy development.

The focus is on development of solar technology which is appropriate, innovative and affordable for scaling up commercially and to become genuine alternative to unsustainable energy sources. Consequently solar technology innovation and development including creation of a solar research and development base is essential. The Solar Technology Mission announced by the Prime Minister envisages a national mission with international focus.

The Prime Minister also mooted a 10 point action plan for the world on solar energy. The Prime Minister's speech and the list of projects under lines of credit and others are already on the website.

The leaders of the founding states of the International Solar Alliance adopted the Delhi Solar Agenda. The agenda re-emphasizes the determination of the ISA member states to increase the share of solar energy in their respective national energy mix to facilitate affordable financing including innovative financing mechanisms to facilitate joint research and development effort to undertake off grid solar applications for poorer and or remote communities, to enhance skills, to undertake capacity building and to strengthen ISA to become an action oriented and member driven multilateral organization.

In the speeches of the leaders from France and other countries, the importance of this initiative for combating climate change and the need to ensure access to affordable and innovative solar energy especially for developing countries including for Africa and small island states was underlined. Scaling up of solar technology and production was re-emphasized.

The President of Rwanda, the Chair of African Union eloquently called the ISA a transformative initiative and called for implementing the twin mission of the International Solar Alliance namely, technology transfer and innovative financing. He reiterated that Africa stood to benefit from the International Solar Alliance. As the Governor General of Australia mentioned ISA is the gift of India to the world. President of Togo mentioned that history will remember New Delhi as where the ISA was born.

We had a series of technical sessions in the afternoon where discussions centered around solar priorities, low cost finance, scaling up of off-grid solar energy, women and energy, enhancing energy access in small islands states and on ISA as a catalyst for SDG number 7, by panels of distinguished ministers from many countries, representatives from MDBs and from other experts.

The valedictory session will be addressed inter-alia by the Hon’ble Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy of India, Secretary for New & Renewable Energy and the interim Director General of the International Solar Alliance.

On March 10, Hon’ble Rashtrapati Ji hosted a banquet in honor of the President of France and all the other Heads of State and Heads of Government and Ministers leading the various delegations to the founding conference.

Prime Minister also had a series of bilateral meetings with leaders of various countries over the last three days. He will be doing 25 bilateral meetings by the end of today and by tomorrow. Thank you very much.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
Thank you Sir. The floor is now open for questions.

Question: This around 140 crore dollars is investment or a grant or LoC, what is this?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti:
These are covered under the lines of credit.

Question Contd.: So in that way Indian companies will be investing in those countries?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: Yes. See the lines of credit have a component where 75% should be sourced from India and we have offered these projects with the full knowledge that when they pick up from this menu of projects which were given them, at least 75% will be sourced from India.

Question Contd.: So in that way it will be our permanent built and transfer, so what exactly is the model?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: As of now, let me just say that, as you correctly said that it will be a huge symbol of Indian contribution, there is no doubt about it and that is precisely why we have taken this up and that too in 15 countries and right now there are various categories which I just mentioned.

We have expertise in every one of these categories which I just mentioned so what we would do is now we would send teams who are knowledgeable about these aspects and help them prepare the detailed project report and that is why in case they don’t have a capacity to do it, we have started this feasibility help them as consultancy also and once it is done we will take the usual procedures which we have under lines of credit, we will adopt.

Question: Just one clarification and one question. US $1.4 billion lines of credit, this is in addition to US $2 billion which is earmarked under IAFS III for solar energy development, right?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti:See, we have pledged US$10 billion. Now out of this informally we have earmarked US$2 billion. This US$1.4 billion will be part of the US$2 billion, which we have earmarked.

Question Contd.: My question is about Africa, this is the largest gathering of African leaders probably after IAFS – III and Prime Minister had very significant bilateral meetings with many important countries. If you have some input on meetings with Ghana, Rwanda, Chad and whichever country where you have some read out or share something with us that what is the overall thrust of engagement with Africa?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: As Secretary mentioned that by the end of the day we will have 25 bilateral meetings spread over three days. We had 2 meetings day before yesterday, 6 yesterday and there will be 17 meetings, we will conclude in the next hour or so. I can give you a gist of common elements which were discussed with the African leaders.

The focus was on capacity building, this is something which has been going on with the African countries and we of course offered our help and assistance to them.

We have to understand that the meetings were taking place in the context of a multilateral summit, on the sidelines of International Solar Alliance so naturally the focus was on Climate Change, renewable energy and solar technology.

So apart from the issues which we earlier mentioned and also developmental cooperation. We have a significant developmental cooperation partnership going on with most of the African countries, so some discussion took place also on how to take that forward and if there were any additional inputs and requests from these countries.

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: Let me just add that there was certainly a feeling among all the African Heads that he had met that our engagement with Africa has increased exponentially in the last three years.

Question: We have taken a big initiative, I think this is the first and biggest one issue alliance that you have created and there is a big competition in market about manufacturing of solar goods like how to create solar panels and all the related equipments. So through this initiative how are you coordinating with our other ministries so that they can be benefitted and India can be benefitted out of this?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: I think the Prime Minister himself spelt it out in his address. Why he brought the International Solar Alliance Secretariat to India and he spelt out his vision which he had. One of which was to ensure that innovative and affordable technologies are made available to all sections of the world.

The costs are already falling in solar energy and therefore not only are we looking at a partnership with the corporate world, with the consumers and with the others and scale up the products what we already have but also to bring in technology transfer. I think that is why he not only had the Founding Conference of the ISA but he also announced this very very important initiative which is the Solar Technology Mission, which is a national mission with an international focus.

So I think when we look at the fact that we are giving US$1.4 billion, we will have a partnership which will include the Ministry of New & Renewable energy, they are already very much part of this entire exercise and they will be important for the announcement which he has made on the Solar Technology Mission and also the corporate world and others will come in.

When we discuss technology, naturally the research which is being taken up in all the universities and others and R & D efforts will all be pulled together. So therefore as far as this initiative goes, it is far beyond the ISA per se, I think this is an initiative for the nation with an eye on the international community.

Question: Has the ISA, at the end of this meeting, agreed on the overall corpus fund for the running of the alliance and other related expenses, is there a corpus fund which is collected besides which Prime Minister had announced of US$1.4 billion?

Jt. Secretary (Europe West), Shri K Nagaraj Naidu: I think it was also conveyed in the EAM’s speech this morning. Government of India would be setting aside a corpus fund initially to run the organization for a period of five years and this period allows the ISA sufficient time not only to establish itself but you would have already noticed that yesterday the ISA had done joint declarations with a number of multilateral development banks.

Our aim is to appeal to the MDBs if they could set aside 15% of their overall loan portfolios to the renewable sector and particularly to solar that itself make the ISA facilitate more affordable financing to nations which would require solar.

Our attempt here is to garner global demand for solar, and I think ISA is doing that so garnering global demand and putting together financing and other credit risk mitigating mechanisms where ISA would want to distinguish itself. But for the corpus, initially the government of India is putting some money for the next five years. It will allow the ISA and the assembly that is going to take place next month, I think this would be one of the agenda items as to how to run the ISA and how would it fund itself going forth.

Question: How is France doing in this, is France also signing separate agreements or they are collaborated with India and then it will be routed through India? My second question is, how enthusiastic you are to invite the other developed countries or big developing countries to take part in this alliance?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: I think the President of France in his own speech mentioned about what he was doing.

Question Contd.: Can you elaborate?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: I don’t want to interpret what he has said because he said in so many words and it was clear what France was doing and his commitment to ISA is 100 percent which is what he mentioned.

There is nothing which, at this point of time, are we doing together in a third country. That we are not doing right now but certainly countries, not just France, I think all the countries including India firmly supporting the ISA Secretariat and the activities and some of the contributions which they are giving to the ISA Secretariat which Hon’ble External Affairs Minister mentioned in her speech. So that is as far as this is concerned.

Regarding the other question, we are already working with other countries, they are very much part of the 121 countries which are part of the steering committee of the ISA.

Jt. Secretary (Europe West), Shri K Nagaraj Naidu: If you look at the 121 prospective member countries, 61 have already signed. The other countries like US, China are also prospective member countries but they are yet to sign the agreement. I think it would happen over the next few years. They are currently studying this.

Question Contd.: But have they shown any interest?

Jt. Secretary (Europe West), Shri K Nagaraj Naidu: Yes, absolutely.

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: In fact all of them have taken part very actively in the steering committee proceedings. I think the last one was on 20th February in New Delhi and they all participated. So there is a great deal of enthusiasm for this initiative.

Before I conclude I just wanted to also thank everyone who was involved in this entire exercise. The holding of the International Solar Alliance has been a massive exercise and we are, as I said, overwhelmed by the participation but we also coordinated with a lot of agencies and the government of India and I wanted to thank every one of the agencies which were involved in making this event a big success, particularly the other ministries including the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, of course the International Solar Alliance Secretariat itself, the Delhi Police, the Airport Authority, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and many many others who ensured that this event went off well. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you Sir, thank you Nagaraj and thank you all for joining.

As Secretary (ER) mentioned and I don’t need to highlight once again, thank you to the members of media as well who we had to ask them to get up very early in the morning and they have been very kind and patient with us. Thank you once again.

(Concludes)

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