In his address on the occasion of India’s 74th Independence Day, PM Narendra Modi made mention of his government’s mega plan of initiating the One Sun, One World, One Grid project - a transnational electricity grid that aims to boost the supply of solar energy globally. This vision was initially proposed by PM Modi during the first assembly of the International Solar Alliance in 2018.
The ISA, headquartered in India, was founded under the aegis of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015. It was formed with the objective of unifying the solar resource-rich nations to tap into their potential to generate more solar energy and lessen the dependence on fossil fuels. Currently, 120 countries are affiliates of the alliance.
What is the OSOWOG Project and what are its aims?
The grand One Sun, One World, One Grid project is an attempt to connect 140 countries through a common grid that will be utilized for the transfer of solar energy resources. In June of 2020, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) began the consultation process for “developing a long term vision, implementation plan, road map and institutional framework for implementing the OSOWOG project”. According to the MNRE, India envisages to establish an interconnected power transmission grid across nations for the seamless supply of clean energy.
The guiding mantra of this undertaking, as mentioned by Mr. Modi, is that the “sun never sets” and “is a constant at some geographical location, globally, at any given point of time”. The mega plan aims to synergize over 140 countries. With India occupying a pivotal space on the map, the solar spectrum can be easily bifurcated into two zones: the far East, which includes South Asian countries like Myanmar, Thailand, Lao, Vietnam and Cambodia, and the far West which covers the Middle East and African region.
Several policy experts believe that this is India’s response to China’s One World One Belt project, which entails investments from over 70 nations and international organizations. It is also considered to be another of India’s efforts to curtail Chinese participation and intervention, following heightened tensions between the two countries due to the clash at Galwan Valley. It has also been theorized by specialists that the Chinese government has attempted to initiate many infrastructural projects to assert supremacy. Hence, the OSOWOG plan would aid India in climbing up the global leadership ladder.
African markets lack reliable electricity supply, making them a ready market for electricity infrastructure along with renewable energy progress.
Phases of the plan
The cross-continental energy trade plan will be unfolded in phases. The first phase will connect Indian grids with grids in West Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. The second phase will involve the connection of the firs phase nations with the African pool of renewable energy (RE) resources. The third, and final step, will globalize the entire grid of energy transfer.
The practicality and feasibility
From the geopolitical lens, this initiative is being hailed as a clever strategy to strengthen India’s position in the international markets. It is also assumed that it is going to be an expensive, elaborate, and long-drawn process. Experts also suppose that it isn’t very technologically feasible to implement this idea. While India has a power trade with Bhutan and Nepal, the idea of cross-continental energy trade is seemingly far-fetched.
Experts and thinkers also worry that if India embarks on this journey, it might lag lead to the digression of capital and investments away from domestic commitments and priorities.
Besides attempting to serve the purpose of geopolitical prosperity, it will also aid India and, by extension, all the other nations involved in this plan to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and popularize renewable sources of energy thus taking a detour to a more sustainable path of development.