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India’s strategy of showcasing its green energy credentials abroad has gained traction, with state-run NTPC Ltd securing a raft of project contracts under the aegis of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in Cuba, Niger and Malawi to help set up solar projects to meet their electricity demand, said two people aware of the development.

NTPC has been awarded the project management consultancy (PMC) contract for setting up 900 megawatt (MW) solar projects in Cuba. It has also secured contracts in Malawi and Niger to set up 100MW and 50MW solar capacity, respectively. These are the countries after Mali (500MW) and Togo (285MW) where India’s largest power generation utility has been awarded the PMC contracts via ISA, the first treaty-based inter-government organization headquartered in India.

NTPC is also eyeing similar opportunities in other ISA member countries in Africa such as Sudan, Congo, Mozambique, Egypt, Uganda, Rwanda, Gambia, Tanzania, Senegal and Zimbabwe. It is targeting the setting up of 10 gigawatts (GW) capacity in ISA member countries.

ISA, co-founded by India and France, has become a significant public policy tool for India and is considered a counter to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. India’s strategy is to negate China’s growing influence in the region.

NTPC also aims to bid for solar power projects in African countries. This assumes significance given the aggressive bids quoted by the firm in the recent solar auctions in India. Of the 650 million people expected to be without energy access in 2030, a majority are likely to be from Africa.

“NTPC has been endorsed by the ISA as project management consultant (PMC)/solar project developer to ISA member countries in November 2019 through a transparent and competitive process of Swiss Challenge. Under this endorsement, NTPC and ISA have been jointly approaching member cou-ntries for collaboration in the implementation of solar parks and projects in these countries," an NTPC spokesperson said in an emailed response.

The Cuba and Niger assignments were received by India’s largest power generation utility in June, with the Malawi assignment received in March. This also comes at a time of India’s efforts at gaining a global leadership role on tackling climate change.

“Regular meetings are being held with Cuba for finalizing the pre-feasibility report for the project. A visit to Cuba by NTPC and ISA teams is planned for mid of September 2021 to gather further information and to discuss the modalities for implementation of the subject project," the NTPC spokesperson said. “Niger side has invited NTPC indicating a blanket capacity and has requested NTPC to identify the location. Currently, NTPC is exploring various options where such power project can be developed."

“In Cuba, a total of 900MW at 175 locations have been identified," an ISA spokesperson said in an emailed response.

China has made major forays into Africa since 2004-05. New Delhi is opposed to the Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to invest about $8 trillion in infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and Africa, as it says the initiative lures countries into debt traps, and does not respect sovereignty or address environmental concerns.

“Regarding other African countries, including Congo, we have been in regular touch with concerned authorities for the way forward. Additionally, NTPC has been participating in various tenders for capacity building and consultancy assignments in Africa, which are at different stages of evaluation," the NTPC spokesperson said.

An ISA spokesperson in the emailed response said that NTPC had submitted a statement of intent to the president of ISA assembly, Union power and new and renewable energy minister Raj Kumar Singh, on 27 April last year, to work with the ISA to assist its member countries to set up solar plants and solar parks.

NTPC plans to reach 60GW renewable energy capacity by 2032 from around 4GW today. NTPC has also announced its target of 10% reduction in net energy intensity as part of its energy compact goals. At present, the public sector unit has an installed capacity of around 67GW across 71 power projects with an additional 17GW under construction.

“NTPC is open to bid for projects in African countries, including Congo, where there is payment security and a robust regulatory environment," said one of the two people mentioned above requesting anonymity.

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