Clean electricity from deserts will soon be making a growing contribution to supplying the people of North Africa and the Middle East with power. And electricity from solar and wind plants in the desert will also find its way to Europe within the space of the next decade. In doing so, it will help all 27 EU states achieve their ambitious renewable energy goals by the year 2020. "Based on a foundation of mutual respect, partnership and cooperation, a new age of sustainable energy supply can begin that is to the benefit of all. We now want to show how the Desertec vision of electricity for North Africa, the Middle East and Europe from renewable energy sources can be turned into very real activities and projects through this collaboration," said Dii CEO Paul van Son today at the first annual Dii conference in Barcelona.
Around 300 participants from the Arab nations and Europe are using this conference today and tomorrow to take stock of the progress being made on the topic of electricity from the desert. The presence of government and corporate representatives from potential electricity-generating countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt bears witness to the great interest that North Africa has in renewable energies. Opened by EU Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger, the conference will address all the important aspects of the Desertec vision:
- Generating energy in deserts: At which locations in desert regions canenergy be generated using sun and wind, with which technology and atwhat cost? These are the key questions in the field of powergeneration that international experts from the commercial andresearch sectors are discussing. On the basis of geo-scientificanalysis, the possible locations have to be found and the best suitedtechnologies identified, such as solar thermal and photovoltaic, andthe expected generation costs calculated. The ways of reducing energyproduction costs are also an important consideration here.
- Transporting electricity to local and distant consumption centres:There are also many technical and economic aspects that have to beclarified when it comes to how to transport the electricity from thegeneration locations to the places where consumers need it. Existingelectricity grids have to be examined as to their suitability for thefuture, bottlenecks have to be identified and the best possibletransmission technologies selected. Within the scope of its work, Diiwill also submit scenarios for the structure of the electricity gridsby 2012, and the related investment propositions. In doing so, theclose collaboration between Dii und MEDGRID/Transgreen will be ofparticular importance. This international industrial consortium is tobe founded in Paris in November and develop an integrated master planin the framework of the Mediterranean Solar Plan for a high-performanceelectricity grid in the Mediterranean. Using this grid, the plan isthen to be able to transport up to five gigawatts from Africa toEurope.
- The development of the energy markets: In the focus of the marketanalysis is the question of how the gap between the costs ofelectricity from the desert and the income that can be expected fromit can be bridged over time. The analysis of the market potential isas important here as is the issue of who comes into question as afuture buyer of the electricity. In order to make desert electricitymarketable in the medium term, stimulation mechanisms have to beinvestigated and compared. In particular, a standardised pan-Europeanfeed-in tariff for North African solar and wind energy would be animportant tool here. The earnings that can be achieved in Europe - forsolar energy, for example - could also be used as financing levers formore investments in North Africa.
- Economic and social development potential for the MENA region: Acrucial success factor for the realisation of the Desertec vision willalso be the analysis and ascertainment of the benefit that thepotential producers of the energy from the desert will gain. To thisend, the macro-economic effects of the expected investments have to beidentified. The value created locally by Desertec has to becomevisible - for example, through the development of industries, thecreation of jobs and the transfer of know-how.
- Political-regulatory environment: The political-regulatory environmentis another key factor for the realisation of the Desertec vision. TheEU directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewablesources provides the legal foundation for the integration ofelectricity from the desert. This directive makes it possible toimport renewable electricity from non-EU states as long as it is thenconsumed within the EU. "The EU directive for the promotion ofrenewable energies is an important regulatory lever for decisivelyadvancing the vision of electricity from the desert," says Paul vanSon, CEO of the industry initiative Dii.