Experts discuss MENA-EU solar energy super-grid

Officials and experts from many countries met in Saudi Arabia this week to discuss renewable energy issues, including a proposed mega project involving a super-grid that will supply solar power to Europe from North African deserts.

Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), launched in 2009, is a consortium, which brings together 56 companies, including the main German energy groups that helped create the initiative: E.ON, RWE and Deutsche Bank, and the reinsurer Munich Re, as well as the French company Saint-Gobain-Solar.

The project foresees the creation of a large network of thermal and photovoltaic solar parks in the North African deserts, and also wind turbines across the Mediterranean, connecting continental Europe with the countries of the MENA zone using high-tension cables.

“One of the key topics discussed at the meeting was Desertec, which is being developed by the Desertec Foundation and its offshoot DII. The latter is progressing it from a concept to a project. Earlier this week an updated study “DESERTEC Power 2050” was handed over to the EC in Brussels,” said Ali Aissoui, Senior Consultant at the Saudi-based Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation, an affiliate of the 10-nation OAPEC.

“The talks covered Germany, which has some of the world’s most ambitious goals in the field….In the broader context, visions of an electricity super solar-based grid include the ‘Desertec’ concept foreshadow a word-wide ‘Supergrid of the Future’ encompassing all continents,” Aissaoui, who attended the one-day talks in the eastern Saudi province of Khobar, told Emirates 24/7.

Early this week, the Brussels-based Europolitics daily published a detailed report on the proposed grid, describing it as a crucial for EY’s energy future.

“That is how the DII CEO Paul van Son framed his report ‘Desertec power 2050’ when presenting it to Michael Koehler, the head of Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s cabinet, in Brussels last week,” it said.

“The report is timely. In its communication on the future of renewables, adopted on June 6, the Commission points to the development of cross-border electricity exchanges as a key factor in ensuring the use of renewable energy, underlined Koehler..Above all, the Desertec project is a way for Europe to stock up on renewable electricity produced on the Southern banks of the Mediterranean – thus meeting up to 20 per cent of its electricity needs. While the flow from South to North predominates, the project will be beneficial for all countries concerned.”

The paper quoted Koehler as saying the Mediterranean Solar Plan (MSP), launched by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), is closely linked to Desertec.

“MSP projects are framework projects implying North-South or South-South cooperation, or both, and these can be integrated perfectly with the Desertec project. For example, electricity produced by wind power in Egypt could supply Libya, which itself exports to Italy.”

It gave no figures on the project costs but earlier estimates put at nearly $526 billion when the venture is completed in the next three decades.