At the Power Line Summit 2019, Upendra Tripathy, director general, International Solar Alliance (ISA), was felicitated for his outstanding contribution to the renewable energy sector.
Tripathy was instrumental in ushering in and implementing policies that transformed India’s renewable energy landscape, including setting the 175 GW renewable energy target. “The target seemed pretty unimaginable at the time and there were questions on why would someone take on the target. But he did, and made a tremendous amount of progress. It now seems a fairly realistic goal and for that we would like to present him this award,” said Alok Brara, publisher, Power Line, at the award ceremony.
Tripathy is a former IAS officer of the Karnataka Cadre. He was unanimously elected director general of the ISA by the members of the alliance at its first assembly. He has been instrumental in extending the ISA’s membership to countries beyond the tropics and making it a truly global entity. He was recognised as one of the 100 most influential people in climate policy in 2019. He has earlier served as secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), and also headed the Solar Energy Corporation of India.
In April 2009, he was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration for his work in transforming the Bengaluru city transport undertaking. He has been the recipient of several other awards as well during his career, including the Central Board of Irrigation and Power Award 2016 for Outstanding Contribution to India’s Renewable Energy Sector, the 10th Enertia Life Time Achievement Award, 2016, and the Extraordinary Citizens’ Award from Rotary International, 2008.
Tripathy has master’s degrees in political science from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and in public administration from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.
Accepting the award, Tripathy said, “Thank you Power Line for the award. This is not for me. It is for the MNRE and for ISA, because I strongly believe that no individual can actually do much unless the system provides supports.
“In common parlance, they say, there are three states of matter. The solid state is like local governance, panchayats, where people do work. Then, there is the liquid state, like provincial governance, where you work hard, but not as hard as in panchayats. The gaseous state is like international organisations such as the United Nations and ISA. Such organisations have a lot of mandates to deliver, but they don’t have the support system. However, going beyond the metaphors, in order to get anything done, you need three things – ideas, institutions and actors. Ideas actually move things. ISA itself was one of the best ideas that the MNRE could evolve. Re-Invest was another best idea. It is not about the number of files we push. It is the ideas that bring change,” he noted.
Speaking about the journey of ISA, Tripathy observed, “ISA today has 80 member countries. This is unique because, I don’t think, we have any Indian institution with 80 countries as members. The number of members is, of course, 58, but 80 countries have signed.” He further added that now since the countries from the tropics can become members of the ISA, in the next two to three years India will have a multilateral organisation based in Indian soil, which has 193 members.
“Energy is a big source of empowerment. Like in Marx’s Das Kapital, the more capital you have, the more capital you will tend to have, because it has a propensity for accumulation,” said Tripathy.
Commenting on the emerging power sector scenario in the country, Tripathy said, “The way technologies are coming in, in the solar power space, we are not really talking about efficiency, we are talking about transformation. We are talking about the storage economy. After 10 years, there will be battery stations, where a car comes and some 20 batteries are automatically pushed inside and the old batteries are taken away. These batteries are then distributed like gas cylinders. At present, there is so much wastage of sunlight because we are not using it. It can be used in cooking, boiling, steaming, and there can be 24-hour electricity from solar thermal stations. So, it is a different type of economy that is emerging, and I am very proud to say that the ISA is in the right place, at the time.”