Rhein on Energy and Climate

12 European industrial and financial companies have carried the Desertec project one step further by setting up “Desertec Industrial Initiative” GmbH (DII). The object of the company is to clarify the legal, technical and economical issues for the construction of solar power plants in the Sahara from which to supply North Africa and Europe with solar electricity. By the end of 2012 the company will submit a complete concept for the locations and the necessary financing.

On that basis the plan is to establish rapidly a series of pilot projects before engaging in large-scale operations including the transmission of electricity across the Mediterranean.

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The long-term vision is to generate 15 percent of the European electricity needs in the Sahara by 2050, which would require an investment of around € 400 billion.

Desertec constitutes one of the most complex energy projects ever tackled by the sheer size of the investment – the equivalent of 100 nuclear power plants – the technical challenges and the legal-political obstacles, including authorisation by the North African neighbours.

It will only succeed if solar thermal power generation proves to be fully competitive with nuclear power and if its initiators are able to establish a trustful partnership with the host countries, which have subscribed to the development of solar energy in the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean.

It has the big advantage of having been launched by private business without government subsidies. So let us wait for the feasibility report in three years.

Brussels 03.11.09 Eberhard Rhein

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