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World Solar Bank is a natural corollary of ISA: DG Upendra Tripathy

Upendra Tripathy, the outgoing director general of the International Solar AlliancePremium
Upendra Tripathy, the outgoing director general of the International Solar Alliance

It may not be fair to say that ISA has become a significant public policy tool for India and is considered a counter to China's ambitious One Belt One Road Initiative, says outgoing director general of the International Solar Alliance Upendra Tripathy

Upendra Tripathy, the outgoing director-general (DG) of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), has played a key role in setting up the first treaty-based international government organization to be based in India. Tripathy, a former secretary in the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), passes on the baton to Ajay Mathur, who earlier headed the New Delhi-based The Energy and Research Institute. In recognition of his service, Tripathy was accorded the honorary title of founding director-general emeritus by the ISA assembly. In an interview, Tripathy said that the World Solar Bank (WSB) and global electricity grid may be launched at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, and countered the perception of ISA becoming a significant public policy tool for India. Edited excerpts:

How important is ISA from India’s viewpoint for its efforts towards achieving a global leadership role in tackling climate change?

India is the host country; the president of the assembly and the DG is Indian. Indian public sector units and institutions (EESL, NTPC, SECI, IIT-D, NISE, etc.) help the implementation of ISA programmes and projects in the absence of a big Secretariat. Most of the Indian best practices from MNRE are being implemented in southern countries. India is the seat of ISA, and annual assemblies are held in India. Most of the corporate partners are Indian. The only other countries that have contributed to the corpus are Comoros and Myanmar. This gives India the leadership role globally that she worthily deserves. Many member countries look up to India for finance and technologies to ensure a smooth and green energy transition.

What is the road map ahead for Green Grid Initiative (GGI), Sun Charter and the World Solar Bank?

The Green Grid Initiative is in partnership with Climate Parliament to mobilize legislative support for two marque projects—the World Solar Bank (WSB) and the One Sun One World and One Grid (OSOWOG). The ISA assembly has constituted the international steering committee to establish the WSB, which will have a loan portfolio of $100 billion over the next 10 years. This is a concrete financial mechanism to translate the promise we made to our member countries in the framework agreement of mobilizing more than $1,000 billion by 2030. WSB is a natural corollary of ISA to deliver on our promise made to the members. This is difficult but is clearly doable and desirable. Sun Charter is a charter statement by ISA member countries to be announced at COP26 in Glasgow at the ministerial level when all the three initiatives—WSB, GGI, and the OSOWOG may be launched.

A consortium led by French state-run power utility firm EDF and comprising France’s AETS and Teri has been tasked with creating the road map for the global grid OSOWOG. What has been the progress there?

They have started working under the guidance of a steering committee under the chairmanship of secretary, MNRE. World Bank plays an important role. SBI (State Bank of India) has signed the contract, and the consultants have a time frame of 13 months. But some midterm report by the time of COP26 is likely to be provided.

Will it be fair to say that ISA has become a significant public policy tool for India and is considered a counter to China’s ambitious One Belt One Road initiative?

We do everything as a multilateral organization. We are registered under Article 102 of the UN charter. Our global tenders are open to all global companies, including that of China. So, it may not be fair to say that ISA has become a significant public policy tool for India and is considered a counter to China’s ambitious One Belt One Road Initiative. We work for all member countries. And all United Nation members can be our members.

How was the experience of setting up the first treaty-based international government organization to be based in India from the ground up?

As it always happens when you put up something from scratch, the opportunity and the experience of setting up the first treaty-based organization, was humbling, challenging, and a great learning curve. One had to assemble ideas, partner institutions, and bring together a network of actors to support. I am not a career diplomat, although I had briefly worked in the Indian embassy in Belgium that looked after the European Union and Luxemburg. My experience of growing up in a distant east-coast hamlet in the eastern ghats of Odisha helped greatly. Of course, the assembly, the standing committee, and the host country India were of great strength and support in building what we are today— a thriving global organization with the universal recognition of being the only solar-specific organization.

You have had a long career in the public policy during your stint in the IAS, where you also got the Prime Minister's award for excellence in public administration. What are your future plans?

I received PM's award in 2009 for excellence in public administration which was when I, as the managing director, helped transform the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation from a sick PSU to a profit-making PSU, with a host of welfare measures for our workers and commuters. I am grateful to the ISA assembly, India (our host country), and my colleagues for having given me the opportunity to build and shape ISA under the leadership of honorable PM Modi and minister R.K.Singh. My future plan is to build something new and innovative again in the climate space, to teach, write, mentor young entrepreneurs and spend time with my family and grandchildren.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Utpal Bhaskar

"Utpal Bhaskar leads Mint's policy and economy coverage. He is part of Mint’s launch team, which he joined as a staff writer in 2006. Widely cited by authors and think-tanks, he has reported extensively on the intersection of India’s policy, polity and corporate space.
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