A new high-level coalition for clean energy was announced today at the Glasgow climate summit, involving major governments, international organisations, legislators, business leaders, researchers and citizen groups.
It includes a group of governments called the Green Grids Initiative – One Sun One World One Grid. The group was announced at COP26 by summit host Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the presence of other heads of government including US President Biden, the two Prime Ministers presented a One Sun Declaration, endorsed by more than 80 countries, setting out the group’s aims.
A Ministerial Steering Group will lead a process to accelerate the construction of large solar power stations and windfarms in the best locations, linked together by continental-scale grids crossing national borders. The Steering Group includes France, India, the United Kingdom and the United States, and will also have representatives from Africa, the Gulf, Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Germany attended the first meeting as an observer while post-election negotiations on a new government continue, as did Australia.
In a simultaneous online event convened by an international network of legislators called the Climate Parliament, members of a broader Green Grids Initiative partnership were introduced. Working alongside the governments are Members of Parliament and Congress, renewable energy companies, university researchers and international development agencies.
Speakers in the Climate Parliament event also included two leaders of the international youth climate strike, Alexandria Villaseñor of the USA and Ayisha Siddiqa from Pakistan. Among the business leaders were Anand Mahindra, Chairman of one of India’s largest industrial groups, the Mahindra Group, and Paddy Padmanathan, CEO of ACWA Power, which holds the record for the world’s cheapest solar power.
The online event was opened by African superstar Angelique Kidjo of Lion King fame, followed by William Ury, author of world bestseller on negotiation Getting to Yes.
Research support for the Green Grids Initiative is being provided by the Climate Compatible Growth consortium of universities, which includes Cambridge, Imperial College, Oxford and University College London.
Green Grids Initiative Working Groups made up of national and international agencies have already been established for Africa and for the Asia-Pacific region. Their membership includes most major multilateral development banks such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. The Green Climate Fund, established to channel part of the $100 billion a year pledged by rich countries in the climate negotiations, is leading a Finance Working Group. The Africa Working Group is co-convened by the AfDB and the African Union, and the Asia-Pacific group is coordinated by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. The International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency are actively involved, as are the ASEAN Energy Centre in Southeast Asia and the SAARC Energy Centre in South Asia.
“One Sun One World One Grid” is a favourite phrase of Indian Prime Minister Modi. In their One Sun Declaration the national leaders say, “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.”
To make this possible, they say, “we need new transmission lines crossing frontiers and connecting different time zones, creating a global ecosystem of interconnected renewables that are shared for mutual benefit.” The organisers point out that wind power must be harnessed over a wide area to provide a reliable energy supply, and the “solar day” can be lengthened for everyone by connecting different time zones.
In addition to large-scale solar and wind power connected through international grids, the One Sun Declaration highlights the need for investment in solar minigrids for remote villages, smart charging for electric vehicles to help balance green grids, and new financial instruments to attract low-cost capital into clean energy.
The Declaration concludes, “Realising 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, to accelerate the clean energy transition, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The Green Grids Initiative was first developed by the Climate Parliament. “By combining rooftop solar with desert solar power stations, plus offshore wind farms and hydropower, we can easily generate more than enough renewable energy to power the world. But only if we build the right grids,” said Nicholas Dunlop, Secretary-General of the Climate Parliament. “Thanks to the UK COP26 Presidency taking up the project, and Prime Minister Modi’s personal interest, we’ve begun to assemble a powerful coalition which could get those grids and power stations built faster than ever.”
Anand Mahindra, whose company is a major car manufacturer and solar developer said, “Nothing could be more urgent than to accelerate the shift to clean energy and electric transport around the world. Companies like ours need to partner with legislators, governments and international organisations to step up the pace. We will be an active participant in the Green Grids Initiative.”
William Ury, author and co-founder of the Harvard Program on Negotiation, said, “Today the world got to YES on the Green Grid – the project with possibly the greatest potential to solve the climate crisis and increase the quality of life for every human being on earth. Now let’s make it happen!”
Former British environment minister Barry Gardiner MP, whose long-standing personal friendship with Prime Minister Modi played an important role in convening the initiative, said, “in an interconnected world it makes no sense that governments continue to fixate on energy independence. A global green grid will make it possible for power generated anywhere to be utilised everywhere. It is cooperation on a global scale to utilise the renewable resources of water, wind and sun and to trade each country’s surplus to where it is required. This is an international political vision equal to the climate challenge we face.”
Indian MP Dr Sanjay Jaiswal, who also played a key role in developing the project, said, “the Green Grids Initiative can help to generate greater political will, feed ideas and expertise into the governments, and mobilise finance to deploy clean energy faster. Those are the three key requirements for an accelerated global shift to renewables.”
Climate Parliament Chairwoman Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, who as a young Finnish environment minister helped to lead the original negotiations on the UN Climate Convention, said, “we’ve run out of time for a leisurely global energy transition. We need new political vehicles that can go faster. That’s why we developed the Green Grids Initiative.”
Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Indonesia, Executive Secretary, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Adam Bandt MP, Leader, Green Party, Australia
Will Blyth, UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
US Congressman Charlie Crist, former Governor of Florida
Ashvin Dayal, Senior Vice-President, Rockefeller Foundation
Tom Downey, former Congressman, US
Tareq Emtairah, Director, Energy Department, UN Industrial Development
Barry Gardiner MP, UK, former Environment Minister
Monica Gullberg, Green Climate Fund Senator
Abshiro Halake, Kenya Silvia Hernández, former Senator and Minister, Mexico
Dr Sanjay Jaiswal MP, Chair, Climate Parliament India
Tanvir Shakil Joy MP, Chair, Climate Parliament Bangladesh Rebecca
Kamara MP, Sierra Leone Angelique Kidjo, singer and activist
Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group
Prof. Yacob Mulugetta, University College London
Sam Onuigbo MP, Nigeria
Paddy Padmanathan, CEO, ACWA Power
Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, Chair, Climate Parliament
Dr. Zanetor Rawlings MP, Ghana
Yacouba Sangaré, Deputy, Ivory Coast
Conrad Sangma, Chief Minister of Meghalaya State, India
Ayisha Siddiqa, Pakistan, co-founder of youth movement Polluters Out
Aditya Thakeray, Environment Minister, Maharashtra State, India
Moeketsi Enos Thobela, African Development Bank
William Ury, author Getting to Yes, co-founder Harvard Program on Negotiation
Alexandria Villaseñor, USA, co-founder of the Youth Climate Strike
Kandeh Yumkella MP, Sierra Leone, former Director-General of UNIDO and first Director of the UN Sustainable Energy for All programme
Deputy Juliette Zingan, Senegal