India and UK leaders announce $12.4m solar R&D collaboration

The Prime Ministers of India and the U.K. met today in New Delhi to discuss a range of collaboration efforts between the two nations, including the commitment to jointly fund a £10 million ($12.4 million) India-U.K. Clean Energy R&D Centre on solar energy.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed the collaboration during British PM Theresa May’s official state visit to the country, designed to strengthen ties between the two trading partners. India is the third-largest investor in the U.K., while Britain is the largest G20 investor in India.

The solar PV markets of the two nations have diverged wildly over the past 18 months, with India’s rise mirroring the contraction of solar installations in the U.K. However, the two leaders evidently believe that they can work from the same page when it comes to solar and, more widely, renewable energy and climate change in general.

"We have agreed to establish India-U.K. Clean Energy R&D Center on solar energy with joint investment of £10 million," Modi confirmed. The project will be operated under the umbrella of the existing Newton Bhabha Fund, which has long sought to strengthen R&D ties between the two nations.

A joint statement issued by the two leaders detailed the role that the U.K. will play in funding low carbon infrastructure in India, largely via the issuance of green bonds denominated in the Indian currency, rupees. Since July this year London has issued in excess of $1.1 billion of rupee-denominated bonds, paving the way for the first green bonds.

"Noting the growing partnership in the area of renewable energy and combating climate change, the two prime ministers welcome the launch [of the centre] with a focus on solar energy, storage and integration, with joint investment of £10 million and a collaborative R&D programme on energy efficient building materials," continued the statement. "Both these green initiatives would help to reduce carbon footprint and contribute to the Smart Cities programme."

The two governments also announced plans for the introduction of an inaugural India-UK Energy Summit to be hosted early next year.

"Prime Minister May appreciated Indian leadership on the International Solar Alliance to harness solar energy for meeting energy demands globally and to address climate change concerns," added the statement. "She signaled the U.K.’s intention to join the alliance and the U.K. will continue to engage in discussions as the framework agreement is finalized."