Inter-Continental Grid means borderless transfer of renewable energy across connected nations spanning continents with an pro active approach towards climate action.
The visionary concept of One Sun One World One Grid for an under-sea inter-continental network of renewable energy to reduce the carbon foot print and costs can be a reality given the technological advancement what we have and urgency arising out of climate change.
Covid has unified the world to have an first hand encounter with a calamity at global scale with similar scale of suffering in almost all aspect be it rich or poor. The pandemic and climate change have a lethal combination in terms of their global reach and disastrous fallout for the very existence and survival of human lives. No doubt, preventing a pandemic all together is beyond our means, but averting a climate change is still with in our capability.
Covid-19 has made us realise that “we all are in one boat”
Just to avoid doom days resulting from climate change, we must have to restore our planet temperature to the pre-industrial levels. This can be done by only offsetting the carbon dioxide emissions globally by an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide absorption by 2050. This will require Reforestation at impossible scale and in all practical terms cannot be realized practically. Only possibility, we are left with is to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions in first place.
Today, the energy sector at global level accounts for 75 % of global greenhouse gas emission. Clearly, to face the impending danger of climatic change resulting from greenhouse gas emission, We, first of all, have to reduce the carbon emission from energy sector. And this can be achieved only through deploying Renewable means of energy generation enabling every nation to develop economically and sustainably
One Sun One World One Grid—An inter-continental grid solution
The idea was first floated by Modi in 2018 during the first assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
Prime Minister Modi in his address to the nation on 74th Independence Day i.e. 15th August 2020, from the ramparts of Red Fort mentioned about his vision of a trans-national electricity grid supplying solar power across the globe-- 'One Sun, One World, One Grid' (OSOWOG). This project is a trans-national electricity grid supplying solar power across the globe.
The project will link as many as 140 countries through a common grid that will be used to transfer solar power. 'The vision behind the OSOWOG mantra is ‘The Sun Never Sets’ and is a constant at some geographical location, globally, at any given point of time. The idea behind OSOWOG is that the sun never sets. An inter-continental grid can be instrumental in harnessing the sun’s energy (and all other forms of renewable energy) by optimally leveraging the differences in time zones, seasons, resources, and prices between countries and regions. This is particularly helpful for decarbonising countries which have limited avenues of harnessing renewable energy and heavily reliant on fossil fuels. One such example is Singapore, which is 95 percent reliant on natural gas and is land-scarce.
While individual countries with high renewable penetration levels, could have surplus renewable power around a solar peak, interconnecting these countries could transform this surplus into a deficit at a supranational level. Therefore, OSOWOG would facilitate countries to expand their renewable energy generation without worrying about the associated integration challenges.
Inter-continental Power transmission: Technology paradigm
Intercontinental subsea power transmission is not a new concept. The technology for high-voltage direct current (HVDC) cabling has advanced phenomenally over the last few decades. Currently, several long-distance submarine HVDC cable transmissions already exist. In November 2019, a 423 km (400 kV, 600 MW) undersea power cable linking Montenegro to Italy was put into operation by Terna—an Italian electricity transmission system operator. Recently, Australia granted “major project status” to an ambitious AUD 22 billion ($16 billion) plan to export power from a giant solar farm in the country’s north to Southeast Asia through undersea cables. The EuroAsia Interconnector between Greece and Cyprus and Israel, expected to be commissioned by December 2023, will have a capacity of 2,000 MW, a length of 1,208 km, and will be laid almost 3,000 meters below the sea. Given the technological advancements and the volume of investments made—it would be safe to assume that technology will not be a bottleneck.
Besides, India could leverage its own experience of cross-border electricity trade with its neighbors. The Bhutan-India transmission link has a grid capacity of 1,200 MW; the India-Nepal one has a capacity of 450 MW, and the India-Bangladesh link has a capacity of 1,200 MW.
With India at the fulcrum, the solar spectrum can easily be divided into two broad zones viz. far East, which would include countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Lao, Cambodia etc, and far West, which would cover the Middle East and the Africa Region.'
Phases of the project
The OSOWOG project is divided into three phases. The first phase will connect the Indian grid with grids in West Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia to share solar and other renewable energy resources. The second phase will connect the first-phase nations with the African pool of renewable sources while the third phase will connect the final step of global inter-connection.
The OSOWOG plan will be executed in phased manner to share solar and other renewable energy resources:
Phase I: Indian grid will be connected with the Middle East, South Asia and South-East Asian grids.
Phase II: Connect the first phase nations with the African Region countries rich in solar and other renewable energy resources.
Phase III: Global interconnection.
Many Policy experts describe this policy as an answer to China's 'One Belt, One Road' initiative. This is because China has already initiated the infrastructure project in other countries which experts say shows a sign of supremacy.
India could benefit from several years of experience in international electricity trade. Bhutan-India has an international grid capacity of 1,200MW, while India-Nepal has 450MW and India-Bangladesh has 1,200MW (with a further 1,496MW of grid capacity currently built by Adani to export from its Godda coal-fired power plant in Jharkhand to Bangladesh). However, trade is mostly one-directional, importing hydroelectricity from Bhutan and exporting to Nepal and Bangladesh.
The states of Gujarat and Rajasthan are expected to have a cumulative 50GWof green energy parks in the next decade. They are amongst the top five states with the highest renewable energy capacity installed in the country, each having approximately 10GW renewables. An option could be to serve the country’s demand centers in Delhi or Mumbai. Or, an alternate could be to trade with Middle Eastern countries, for instance, Oman. It would be interesting to see the developments in this space and hopefully see the piped dreams becoming true.
India, while relying on some $250 billion of fossil fuel imports annually (oil, diesel, LNG, cooking, and thermal coal), can look to develop sustainable renewable energy exports, improve the current account deficit, and reduce imported inflation pressures. India has grand plans for renewables with a target of 450GW by 2030. With this scale of variable power generation, it can on techno-commercial basis, make a case to expand the balancing pool and trade renewable electricity with far-flung countries in the East and West. An intercontinental grid can maximise economic benefits through interconnections by leveraging the differences of time zones, seasons, resources, and prices between countries and regions. In the month of June 2021, India has moved ahead by inviting bid for One Sun One World One Grid to take on China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The pre-bid meeting called on 5 June 2021, by ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), is being seen as taking a lead in evolving global strategies. This is by far one of the most ambitious schemes undertaken by any country and is of global significance in terms of sharing economic benefits
International Solar Alliance is India’s gift against Global Warming.
Transferring Solar Power beyond borders connected in one grid ?
Connecting countries with power lines
At its essence, it sounds simple — power lines connecting various countries, potentially evolving into one giant global grid. This should not be unfathomable. After all, the world has already done this for telecom and internet connectivity. Under-sea internet cables transport gigabytes of data from one continent to another. Even thinking of physical goods, there are inter-continental oil pipelines, stretching as far as 4,000 km.
It might seem like the next logical step to have an inter-continental grid that leverages the time difference between countries to inject surplus renewable energy from one country’s grid to another who needs it. This is theoretically achieved by connecting the right points across the globe to service demand in others by following the sun or cyclicality of the renewable sources like wind.
For example, when India hits peak energy demand at around 6 PM, the sun is likely to be shining bright in the Arabian Gulf countries. The GCC (Gulf Coordination Committee) can feed India’s power demand through a sub-sea link from Oman to Porbandar in Gujarat.
If one does the math, it’s not very expensive, either. The cost of the GCC-India interconnection via sub-sea cable is estimated to be $3.5 billion dollars for a 3 GW link. The cost per unit of power transmitted over this link could be lower than ₹2 ($2.5 cents/unit) with innovative usage of this link for power transfer between countries.
You might be able to work out then, that when the sun shines brightly over India, the beneficiary will be eastward countries like Vietnam and Myanmar, not to mention morning peak demand in GCC countries.
It’s exciting to think of what this could lead to. This could pave the way for a new Green Power Corridor for the world along the sunshine tropical countries, much like how the ancient Silk Route helped establish East-West trade routes, and how the 21-km long Strait of Hormuz sees 20% of all the world’s oil passing through it.
For long, the world has been speaking of the power of Asia, this would be a way to literally manifest it. Not to mention, this will lead to increased diplomacy between all states concerned. It’s also exciting to think about how this could extend to other areas of the globe. Particularly the perennially under-electrified African countries, for which this could act as a vital source of revenue as well.
If we could connect all countries across the solar-blessed tropic of cancer, then India’s vision of establishing “One World, One Sun, One Grid” could come true. The sun would never set for any country.
What would the impact of this be?
An intercontinental grid brings with it several direct and indirect benefits.
Primary, of course, is complete electrification, everyone on the planet would have reliable 24*7 power. This brings with it socio-economic benefits to all – from providing education & entertainment to individuals, to boosting agriculture and industrial production, and providing impetus to trade and commerce related opportunities.
There are many counties which do not receive optimal sunlight. Hence, the only option for them is investment in fossil fuel-based power generation sources. With Intercontinental Grid, these investments can be directed to other critical sectors such as healthcare.
The electricity sourced through Intercontinental Grid would be green, hence reducing the impact on the planet and addressing climate change. Furthermore, this paves the way for stronger diplomatic relations between countries. India, with its potential for generating renewable power – solar, hydro and wind, stands to gain much in this regard as the harbinger of One World – One Grid.
And in 2020, the most powerful thing would be for barriers of all kinds to be broken down. That is the hope that a truly intercontinental grid brings with it.
International Solar Alliance (ISA)
The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is an alliance of 124 countries which are members of UN. This alliance was founded by India at Paris to work in the field of renewable energy with sole purpose of Bringing together a group of nations to endorse clean energy, sustainable environment, public transport and climate. Most of the member countries are sunshine countries which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
The primary objective of the alliance is to work for efficient consumption of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. This initiative was first proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech in November 2015 at Wembley Stadium (London HA9 0WS, United Kingdom), in which he referred to sunshine countries as Suryaputra ("Sons of the Sun"). The alliance is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization. Countries that do not fall within the Tropics can join the alliance and enjoy all benefits as other members, with the exception of voting rights. After the United Nations, it is the largest grouping of states world-wide.
The ISA is headquartered in Gurugram India
ISA is the first treaty-based international government organization headquartered in India and is being seen as a foreign policy instrument. In October 2020, India and France were re-elected as president and co-president of the ISA for a span of two years.
ISA will also promote the “One Sun, One World and One Grid global” (OSOWOG) project once India carries out a comprehensive vision document for which work has commenced.
Objective of International Solar Alliance (ISA)
The focus is on solar power utilization. The launching of such an alliance in Paris also sends a strong signal to the global communities about the sincerity of the developing nations towards their concern about climate change and to switch to a low-carbon growth path. India has pledged a target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy of which 100 GW will be solar energy by 2022 and reduction in emission intensity by 33–35% by 2030 to let solar energy reach to the most unconnected villages and communities and also towards creating a clean planet India's pledge to the Paris summit offered to bring 40% of its electricity generation capacity (not actual production) from non-fossil sources (renewable, large hydro, and nuclear) by 2030. It is based on world cooperation.
The area of Earth located in between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn is called the tropical (torrid) zone. This is the part of the world in which the sun can appear directly overhead, and that more-direct exposure means that the sun's actual effect is greater here; anywhere north or south of this zone, sunlight always reaches the earth's surface at an angle and is correspondingly less intense. The sunniest countries of the world are on the African continent, ranging from Somalia- Horn of Africa-, east to Niger, west and north to Egypt.
For India, possible additional benefits from the alliance can be a strengthening of ties with the major African countries and increasing goodwill for India among them.
As guided by the Framework Agreement of the ISA, the interests and objectives of the ISA are as follows:
To collectively address key common challenges to scale up solar energy applications in line with their needs;
To mobilize investments of more than USD 1000 billion by 2030;
To take coordinated action through programmes and activities launched on a voluntary basis, aimed at better harmonization, aggregation of demand, risk and resources, for promoting solar finance, solar technologies, innovation, R&D, capacity building etc.;
Reduce the cost of finance to increase investments in solar energy in member countries by promoting innovative financial mechanisms and mobilizing finance from Institutions;
Scale up applications of solar technologies in member countries, and
Facilitate collaborative research and development (R&D) activities in solar energy technologies among member countries.
Promote a common cyber platform for networking, cooperation and exchange of ideas among member countries;