In the run up to its 67th Republic Day, India has for the first time laid the foundations of an intertiol agency on its soil. The Intertiol Solar Alliance (ISA) is an alliance of 121 countries situated between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, normally having 300 or more days of sunshine a year. However, other countries located outside the tropics can join as partners. An Indian initiative announced at the start of the COP 21 climate conference in Paris last December, the ISA will be headquartered at Gurgaon and the Indian government will host its secretariat for five years, having already set aside Rs 100 crore initially as corpus fund. The alliance is likely to become operatiol by the middle of this year, after member countries sign the statute and get it ratified by their parliaments. In due course, the alliance needs to become fincially independent by generating its own resources, targeting a 1 billion dollar fund from member contributions. Announcing 300 million euros for initial solar energy projects during the foundation stone laying ceremony at Gurgaon on Monday, French President Francois Hollande called upon the alliance to get cracking immediately and ‘achieve tangible results on the ground’. With the primary aim of reducing fincial risk by spreading it across a larger global market, Hollande has mooted a three-pronged approach — to pool the demand in high solar potential countries so that larger volumes can bring down costs, harmonise and improve access to solar markets for investors as well as users, and facilitate solar technology transfers from developed to developing countries. In the next 15 years till 2030, the ISA hopes to raise investments to the tune of 1 trillion dollars, primarily from private players. Of the two big initiatives launched during the Paris climate talks — one on innovation to combat global warming and climate change, the other on solar technology for clean energy — India’s leadership of the solar initiative indicated its will to become a major player in this sector. It has already set a domestic target of generating 100 gigawatts from the solar route by 2022. Mindful of its ever increasing oil import bill, the Indian government now has a huge challenge on its hands to meet its commitment of generating nearly 40 per cent of its energy from renewable sources. Solar energy is therefore the buzzword now, with the country receiving solar radiation up to 7 kilowatt per hour per sq metre for most part of the year, one of the highest in the world. By next month, the ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is will reportedly come out with a policy for creation of special solar zones across the country with areas of at least 100 sq km. About one-fourth of the area of such zones will be earmarked for small and medium level enterprises developing small solar power projects less than 10 megawatt, another one-fourth area will be allotted for solar panel manufacturers, while the remaining 50 percent area will be auctioned for solar parks. There could also be hybrid zones for setting up both solar and wind power projects. Prime Minister rendra Modi has expressed the hope that the solar alliance will work like a ‘life-giver to mankind’. But if it has to capture the imagition of other ISA members as prime initiator, the Indian government can launch a massive research and development programme towards building a reliable storage device for solar energy, as well as promote efficient rooftop solar panels on a large scale. Such a twin focus in the short term can do wonders for decentralised and clean power generation across the country within a few years.