Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have launched a ‘green grids’ initiative the One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) project on the sidelines of the COP26 summit.

About One Sun One World One Grid project-

  • One Sun One World One Grid\” will be the first international network of global interconnected solar power grid which will combine large-scale solar power stations, wind farms and grids with rooftop solar and community grids to ensure a reliable, resilient and affordable supply of clean energy for all.
  • The announcement was accompanied by the \”One Sun\” declaration, which has been endorsed by 83 ISA member countries.
  • India is a member of the GGI-OSOWOG steering committee along with four other countries

– USA, UK, Australia and France.

  • The project is being spearheaded by the governments of India and the UK in partnership with the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the World Bank Group
    • The initiative aims to combine a massive increase in solar and wind power with international grids on every continent, connecting energy rich locations such as sunny deserts and windy coastlines.
    • It aims to combine large-scale solar power stations, wind farms and grids with rooftop solar and community grids, including village mini grids, to ensure a reliable, resilient, and affordable supply of clean energy for all.
  • The grid is expected to be set up over the next few years by the ISA. Once operational, it will transport solar power to different countries under green grid initiative.

Rationale behind the initiative-

  • The untapped potential of the sun is well known – all the energy humanity uses in a year is equal to the energy that reaches the earth from the sun in a single hour.
  • The sun never sets – every hour, half the planet is bathed in sunshine. By trading energy from sun, wind and water across borders, we can deliver more than enough clean energy to meet the needs of everyone on earth.
  • This trading is already beginning to happen through discrete bilateral and regional arrangements.
  • But to meet the sheer scale of the challenge, these efforts need to be brought together and supplemented to create a more inter-connected global grid. We call this vision: One Sun One World One Grid.
  • The idea for the One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) initiative was put forth first by Prime minister of India at the First Assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in October 2018 to allow parts of the world with excess renewable power to send power to other countries.
  • ISA is studying the viability of the concept through the World Bank and Électricité de France and have already found that under certain circumstances this transfer can be economically viable
  • In May 2021, the United Kingdom and India agreed to combine forces of the Green Grids Initiative and the One Sun One World One Grid initiative and jointly launch GGI-OSOWOG at the COP26 summit being hosted by the UK at Glasgow in November 2021

Countries covered under the Project-

  • The project aims to drive global interconnectivity across the Middle East, south Asia and South East Asia while leveraging the African power pools
  • The project is planned to be implemented in three phases.
    • First Phase: In first phase, the Indian Grid will interconnect with Middle East, south Asia and South East Asia grid to share the solar and other renewable energy sources for meeting electricity needs, including during peak demand
    • Second Phase: It will then be interconnected with the African pools in the second phase
    • Third phase: The third phase would cover the global interconnection of the power transmission to achieve the OSOWOG Initiative

Major initiatives under OSOWOG-

  • According to the One Sun declaration, the main areas of work of the initiative will be:
    • Investing in solar, wind, storage and other renewable energy generation in locations endowed with renewable resources for supporting a global grid
    • Building long-distance cross-border transmission lines to connect renewable energy generators;
    • Developing and deploying cutting edge techniques and technologies to modernise power systems;
  • Supporting the global transition to zero emission vehicles through incorporating the role of electric vehicles to help improve grid flexibility;
    • Attracting investment into solar mini-grids and off-grid systems to help vulnerable communities gain access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy;
    • Developing innovative financial instruments, market structures for solar grid infrastructure.

Significance of OSOWOG project-

·         24*7 Supply of Energy

  • Solar energy despite being totally clean and sustainable, the major challenge is that this energy is only available during the daytime and is dependent on the weather.
    • ‘One Sun, One World & One Grid’ is the solution to this problem. Through a worldwide grid, clean energy can be transmitted to anywhere & anytime

·         Reliable supply of solar power

  • The proposal is aimed at addressing the issue of reliability of supply from solar power plants, which do not generate electricity after the sun has set.
    • A transnational grid would allow countries to source solar power from regions where it is daytime to meet their green energy needs even when their own installed solar capacity is not generating energy.

·         Reduction of Cost of the energy transition

  • OSOWOG is also aimed at addressing the issue of high cost of energy storage.
    • The high cost of energy storage is a key challenge to boosting the use of renewable energy and that the OSOWOG initiative is a possible solution for driving down the need for storage, which in effect will reduce the costs of the energy transition.

·         New avenue for Cooperation

  • The GGI-OSOWOG will bring together a global coalition of governments, international financial and technical organisations, legislators, power system operators and knowledge leaders to accelerate the construction of the new infrastructure needed for a world powered by clean energy

·         Role in meeting climate targets

  • Realising the vision of One Sun One World One Grid through interconnected green grids can be transformational, enabling all of us to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement to prevent dangerous climate change.

·         Other benefits

  • The project while reduce storage needs also enhance the viability of solar projects.
    • These efforts can stimulate green investments and create millions of good jobs
    • It helps to accelerate the clean energy transition, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
    • By sharing the sun’s energy, we can help to build a more peaceful and prosperous world.

Challenges to OSOWOG project-

·         High Capital Investment:

  • The transmission of power across vast distances would require large capital investment to set up long transmission lines.
    • Experts have pointed out that supply of energy through this grid, in a time zone with a six-hour difference will require thousands of kilometres of transmission of the electricity, which will add up a huge cost
    • A single 1,100 kilovolt high voltage direct current can’t even go so far, and costs will be further compounded with higher Indian costs of capital.

·         Geopolitical challenges

  • The project is seen as an Indian endeavour for world leadership. But under COVID-19 uncertainties, the geopolitical implications of projects like OSOWOG are hard to decipher.
    • The mechanism of cost-sharing will be challenging, given the varied priorities of participating countries depending on their socio-economic orders.
    • The strategic benefits, if any, of having a single grid will be obliterated in the wake of any geopolitical problem.

·         Globalisation vs de-globalisation

  • The coronavirus pandemic has raised questions on the concept of globalisation. The effects of this will be transformational.
    • Dealing with different governments and market forces will be a dreadful experience for the developers that can be easily extrapolated from the experience of the renewable energy (RE) developers in India.
    • In India, the major issue of RE developers is to deal with different state governments and hence, different laws and regulations.
  • Further, the project also contradicts the Prime Minister’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self- dependent India) vision, as it extends the reliance for a major strategic entity, energy supply, to other countries through this grid.

·         Centralised vs. distributed generation

  • There is a difference in voltage, frequency and specifications of the grid in most regions. Maintaining grid stability with just renewable generation would be technically difficult.
    • Aggregate technical and commercial losses in India are close to 20 per cent. Therefore, the distributed generation can be cheaper and directly serve the people in the hinterlands.

The Way Ahead-

  • In the backdrop of all the above conditions, it is important for India to re-look its targets and to focus on developing long-term and complete solutions that can reach the masses.
  • First step of OSWOG would be solar power transfer between neighbouring countries.
  • India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal already share transmission capacity for energy transfer across borders which can be expanded further and utilised for the transfer of solar power between these countries.
  • The International Solar Alliance has commissioned a study the feasibility of the OSOWOG project.
  • The study will make an assessment on a country-by-country basis, examining projected power demand and supply as well as the renewable energy resource potential.