Following the first summit of the International Solar Alliance held in New Delhi recently, the Indian government has announced assistance worth $1 billion for implementation of solar power projects across several countries in Africa.
The Indian Ministry for External Affairs has outlined guidelines to make available the $1 billion assistance for 23 projects across 13 countries in Africa. These countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Togo, Guinea, Democratic Republic Congo, Ghana, and Nigeria.
The International Solar Alliance was an idea floated by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and was launched in collaboration with the French government at the climate change summit in 2017.
The aim of the ISA is to support installation of 1,000 gigawatts of solar power capacity by 2030 globally. The Alliance also fits well in India’s strategic aspirations.
Targeting African countries with solar project funding puts India in direct competition with China which has had a long history of funding energy projects in Africa.
Sources told Indian news agencies that solar modules will be supplied by Indian manufacturers, likely at rates cheaper than those from Chinese manufacturers. If this is indeed the case, it would extend the trade war between Indian and Chinese solar cell and module manufacturers to outside the continent.
What India practices is by no means unethical or uncommon. Several initial solar power projects under India’s National Solar Mission were commissioned with debt funding from American banks, including the United States Export-Import Bank. All these projects used solar modules from American companies, mostly from First Solar.
By offering a line of credit to African countries, India would not only achieve its strategic goals but also open a new market for its ailing domestic solar module manufacturers.
Not long ago there were media reports that the Indian government would allow the Solar Energy Corporation of India to open offices in other countries with a goal to enable quicker and easier implementation of solar energy policy and infrastructure. SECI is responsible for formulation and implementation of solar as well as wind energy policies in India.