Europe could import up to a fifth of its electricity from solar and wind parks in North Africa and the Middle East by 2050, and the CEO of a Germany-based consortium studying the expensive project says stakeholders must act, or face a jump in power prices.
The Desertec Industrial Initiative, set up in Germany in 2009, says Europe could import up to a fifth of its electricity from desert regions, saving $46 billion per year, according to a report in Climate Spectator.
Deserts get more power from the sun than can be used by mankind in a year, Desertec claims.
But the price tag – $533 billion – is considered too expensive and too risky, partly due to unstable North African politics. It also needs strong political backing by Europe, the report says.
Rising power bills have been a problem in Europe, especially Germany, where household energy bills have increased due to subsidies to expand renewable energy.
“Europe needs to act now, otherwise nothing will happen,” Paul van Son, Desertec’s CEO, told Reuters in an interview Tuesday, the report says.
While incentives helped bump up expansion of wind and solar power in Europe over the last decade, conditions for renewables are much better in North Africa and the Middle East, where the sun beats more strongly, Van Son said in the interview.
Desertec will publish a report this month to try and get political backing for the project with policy proposals on how European governments can make the Desertec project work.
“If Europe does not wake up, it’ll get much more expensive for its citizens,” van Son said, according to Climate Spectator.
Desertec’s proposed delivery of more than 1 terawatt hours spread over 6,500 square miles – more than half the size of Belgium – is enough energy to power Germany for two years, the report says.
Photovoltaic and wind plants could be built in Northern Africa without any subsidies, van Son claims, but access to capital in the region is still a challenge.
Wind and solar power could be produced at costs of between $66 to $132 per megawatt hour in North Africa, even undershooting costs of $154 per megawatt hour for nuclear power in parts of Britain, he said.
Former Desertec shareholders Siemens and Bosch have left the project. Other Desertec shareholders include Munich RE, E.ON, RWE and Deutsche Bank. Other companies outside Europe are showing interest, the report says, including Chinese power company State Grid Corp.