Nicholas Dunlop, Secretary General of the Climate Parliament, at RE-INVEST 2020
From 26 – 28 November 2020, the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) held the third RE-INVEST India conference on a global digital platform. On the third day of the digital conference, the Technical Session on India’s ambitious ‘One Sun, One World, One Grid’ (OSOWOG) was held. The session outlined India’s plan to connect the world via grids powered by solar energy. The initiative will accelerate the transition to clean energy, tackle climate change, increase access to reliable energy, improve health, create jobs, and advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The distinguished panel of contributors included: H.E. Mr. R.K. Singh, Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy (MNRE); H.E. Mr. Upendra Tripathy, Director General of the International Solar Alliance (ISA); H.E. Mr. Indu Shekhar Chaturvedi, Secretary of MNRE; Mr. Nicolas Dunlop, Secretary General of the Climate Parliament; Mr. K Sreekant, Chairman and Managing Director, Power Grid Corporation of India; Ms. Anita Marangoly George, Executive Vice-President and Deputy Head of CDPQ Global; Mr. Gavin Thompson of the British High Commission in India; Prof. Christian Breyer of Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland; and Professor Lawrence Kazmerski of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, University of Colorado. Dr. Amit Jain, Senior Energy Specialist at the World Bank chaired the session.
Mr. Dunlop opened his discussion by congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister R.K. Singh, and Mr. Chaturvedi for the OSOWOG initiative. The initiative demonstrates the bold thinking needed to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy in time to prevent a climate catastrophe, he said. Mr. Dunlop quoted the assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the world has very tight ‘carbon budget’ to stay within in order to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. To prevent this from occurring, we must accelerate the electrification of energy from large-scale solar and large-scale wind projects, with hydro playing a balancing role. Mr. Dunlop pointed out that continental grids are key to this transition. Solar and wind provide a more reliable supply of energy when harnessed over wide areas. This is because on the one hand, large-scale wind projects are needed because wind moves around. On the other hand, increasing the length of east–west connections consequently increases the length of the solar day. Mr. Dunlop stressed that these continental scale and interregional grids are needed, given future and increasing reliance on solar to powering the world economy. We will have to cover a lot of area with solar power stations, he said. Crucially, however, we must not build these solar power stations on agricultural land. In a warming world, food production will become a critical issue, so we need to implement these large-scale renewable energy projects in unproductive desert land, thereby maintaining agricultural land for food production. Certain continents, such as Europe, do not have desert land, and need to connect with regions that do, such as India or North Africa. Fortunately, solar and wind are the cheapest sources of energy, and are cheaper still in areas that are abundant with desert and windy coastlines. And by wiring the world up in the way that the Prime Minister Modi proposes, we get cheap, clean, reliable, unlimited power.
Building political ambition to make the change is crucial to the implementation of this initiative, Mr. Dunlop stressed. He lauded Minister R.K. Singh’s assessment that there is a widespread feeling that the time for connecting the world via grids has come. The COP26 is a perfect opportunity to move this project forward, to get other countries involved, and to build a coalition of the wiling in order to implement OSOWOG. The ISA and the Climate Parliament are working together on this to encourage willing countries to declare their commitment to the goals of OSOWOG and state their intention to work together to implement it in a series of working groups. Mr. Dunlop concluded by emphasising that building large-scale smart grids is absolutely key to enabling the world economy to run on solar power and its derivatives, such as wind and hydro. This must be at the absolute top of the list of priorities for world leaders, as we look at the extremely tight time frame that we have for making the global energy transition, he said.