HomeIndustry SectorsFinance and Policy$400m energy project for Africa

$400m energy project for Africa

12 May 2010 – Twenty blue chip German companies are planning to harness solar power in the deserts of North Africa by transporting clean electricity to Europe.

The businesses, which include some of the biggest names in the energy, finance and manufacturing sectors have formed a consortium to kick start the project.

The highly ambitious plan could see Europe fuelled by solar energy within a decade.

The project has the capacity to fulfill 15 percent of Europe’s energy needs.The consortium behind what would be the biggest ever solar energy initiative will first raise awareness and interest among other investors. The project, known as Desertec, is estimated to cost about €400 billion (£338 billion).

Many European multi-nationals and Mediterranean-area organizations such as the Trans- Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC), Eumena, the Union of the Mediterranean and the Club of Rome are all supporting Desertec and Gerhard Knies, the coordinator of TREC, which is also the chairman of Desertec’s advisory board.

German insurance, Behemoth Munich Re is spearheading the initiative, which would be supported by other German giants such as Siemens, Deutsche Bank and E.On. “The project is sending a strong signal that investments in renewable energies don’t just make ecological sense,” said The Financial Times Deutschland, adding that “they make economic sense as well.”

“Europeans need energy and have cash. Africans have sun and territory. It is quite logical to combine all this.” The German Daily newspaper, Die Tageszeitung stated, “It must once again be pointed out that the most successful method of harvesting solar power is with rooftop panels.

In just three to five years, power from the roof will be cheaper than electricity from the wall plug. The economic bar for desert power is in other words high. Solar power produced in a decentralized manner will likely be the cheaper variety.”

The German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle quoted Frank Asbeck, the Chief Executive of Solar World, which is the largest German solar company as saying that “building solar power plants in politically unstable countries opens you to the same kind of dependency as the situation with oil.”

In addition to the above arguments against the Desertec initiative, others are still upset by the imperialistic implications of such a project, drawing connections to the European legacy of resource exploitation in Africa.