Action Plan for Desert Power: Renewables to take over majority of the electricity mix by 2030

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According to the recently published Dii strategy report in June 2013 "Desert Power: Getting Started" renewable energy may account for 55 percent of the common electricity mix from North Africa, the Middle East (MENA) and Europe by 2030.

By 2040, allowing for a common power grid and given the abundant solar and wind resources in these regions, renewables could reach a total share of 80 percent of the mix. Another 10 years later, fossil fuels would only play a marginal role with renewable energy obtaining over 90 percent of the market as the principal source of power.

“The countries of North Africa and the Middle East will ultimately meet their rapidly growing electricity needs with renewable energy. In addition, they have a concrete economic interest in exporting green electricity in the direction of Europe. There is enough power available in the long term to contribute to energy policy targets in Europe and to reduce costs in a common market. Further progress now depends greatly on the political will in Europe to bring cross-border cooperation and grid infrastructure into reality. Desert power can make a decisive contribution to affordable electricity for all. This advantage can benefit the citizens of Europe.” said Paul van Son, CEO of Dii.

50 gigawatts of renewable energy in North Africa and the Middle East planned for 2020

Desert Power is becoming a reality. The countries of North Africa and the Middle East have renewable energy plans to build up to 50 gigawatts by 2020, to which the industrial initiative Dii has made concrete proposals on appropriate sites in “Getting Started”. In recent months, renewable energy in the region has received a boost; they have become the driving force behind a comprehensive energy transition with increases in wind, photovoltaic and solar thermal. In March of this year, Abu Dhabi put the largest solar thermal plant in the world into full operation with 100 megawatts capacity. In May 2013 Morocco broke ground in Ouarzazate on the construction of 500 megawatts as part of their national solar plan. Saudi Arabia has launched a program aimed at providing for the construction of more than 40 gigawatts of solar over the next 20 years.

Dii calls for binding 2030 targets for renewable energy in Europe and targeted funding policy

Specific targets for the development of renewable energies by 2030 in Europe are an important intermediate step to securing investment. According to Dii a 60 percent share in production can be reached. Equally important is building appropriate targeted support mechanisms for wind and solar technologies in Europe and the MENA region. According to Dii’s research, from 2020 to 2050 up to 390 billion euros would be sufficient funding for the transition to renewable energy, less than the 412 billion euros issued worldwide in 2011 for fossil fuels subsidies.

“Europe should take the initiative on grid expansion”

The idea is to produce electricity in more appropriate locations in order to cut costs of Desert energy. Connected to the appropriate grid, solar and wind capacities would become a more reliable basis of the power supply. Electricity connections between the MENA region and Europe are among the prerequisites of an interconnected system. According to Dii calculations, somewhere between 2.5 and 10 billion euros depending on the size are needed for the first lines, for example between Italy and North Africa. These projects should be considered “Projects of Common Interest”, so that the funds from the EU program “Connecting Europe Facility” can be accessed.

Dii calls for SME program “Desert Power Development Fund”

In “Getting Started” Dii developed a series of concrete proposals that put desert power on the path to supplying electricity markets. An example of this is the creation of a “Desert Power Development Fund”: project developers are at the start of the value chain for new projects. To finance 20 economically viable and profitable projects with a capacity of 2-5 gigawatts in the MENA region, around 50 million euros are needed. To this purpose, European countries should promote the creation of a “Desert Power Development Fund” and financially contribute to it. This fund serves in particular, small and medium companies with project experience, but who lack sufficient financial resources and additionally it supports international collaboration in these initial projects.

Time to act

In writing “Getting Started” Dii collaborated with partners from industry, government and academia to provide a deeper expertise on all aspects of desert power. The concrete recommendations for policy conditions, locations, current market trends, transmission grids, and social and economic impacts of desert power are part of the discussion for upcoming topics such as the Mediterranean Solar Plan in the coming months.

About Dii

With partner companies from 17 countries, Dii is looking to turn power from the deserts into reality. The activities of the industrial initiative, which was founded in 2009, are focussed on creating an industrial-scale market by 2050 for renewable energies from the desert regions of North Africa and the Middle East. These activities include the development of integrated energy markets and the identification of suitable technologies for generating and transmitting energy.

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