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The Desertec Foundation & The Dii.

Then came the focus on a non-profit organisation called the Desertec Foundation promoting a solution for a global transition to renewable energy by harnessing the power of the world's deserts. Experts had the opportunity to interview its director during the 18th annual Climate Change talks held in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 26/Dec. 7 (see down23ClimateDohaDec3-12).

Desertec is a globally applicable set of solutions for climate protection, energy and water security and development. These solutions were developed by a group of politicians, scientists and economists from around the Mediterranean who called themselves the TREC network.

The Desertec Foundation emerged out of that network in 2009. The ideas contained in its studies demonstrate how the world can make a global transition to renewables by harnessing renewable sources of energy where they are at their strongest.

In the best locations, renewable power plants and wind farms can produce more electricity and can therefore replace fossil fuel-based power generation more quickly for less money. This power can then be transported to the centres of demand by using high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission.

HVDC can transport electricity generated from renewables over long distances with losses of just 3% per 1,000 kilometres. If the resource is good enough, it more than justifies the investment in the transmission process.

Desertec does not only focus on deserts. Its main point is that energy is available in abundance and one can have all the technologies - proven and ready to be rolled out - which one is able to harness.

The deserts play a special role because they are so incredibly rich in renewable energy and because land is available. Within six hours, the world's deserts receive more energy from the sun than humans can consume in a year.

In combination with other renewables in different locations, they offer the world the best chance of leaving polluting fossil fuels behind for good. They help to clean up the world.

Desertec helped to found an industrial initiative to push the implementation of its ideas in the European Union and the Middle East and North Africa (EU-MENA) region forward. The Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii) was thus created as a JV among commercial companies.

However, two big German companies, Siemens and Bosch, have decided not to renew their membership of the Dii.

Desertec helped set up the Dii in 2009 because it believed the private sector's role in the implementation of its vision was quite essential. The Desertec founders say they remain fully convinced that Dii's is the right approach. Dii has done some impressive work in moving things forward in its focus region of the EU-MENA.

Siemens is said to have reached some conclusions on the chances of its solar technology in the current market in the short term and taken appropriate measures. It may enter the market again in the future. Bosch withdrew for reasons related to the automotive industry.

In the meantime, other manufacturers will take their place in Dii. But for Desertec, its executives say what is most important of them is the vision of their foundation and its initiatives.

The Western media is fixated on the issue of the export of desert power from North Africa to Europe. But the Desertec executives says this ignores the fact that the vast majority of desert power in North Africa will be needed for rising demand in MENA countries and that the EU-MENA region as a whole. This is just one of many where Desertec's solutions can and are being implemented.

Desertec Dii executives are trying hard to get the Middle East to join North Africa and the EU in a broader and far more effective enterprise. They believe the six Saudi-led Arab Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states are a key factor in getting the Middle East on board. Saudi Arabia and the other cash-rich GCC states are spending heavily in the fields of renewables and energy efficiency (see news24GreenGCC-Dec10-12).

Desertec is not just a project for the export of renewable power to Europe. Its executives say the foundation's vision is for a more stable and prosperous world. Desertec Dii executives say their programme shows how this enterprise and its potential EU-MENA partners can achieve more in terms of climate protection by working together.

If one looks to the Sahara, the Kalahari, the Arabian, the Mojave, the Atacama and Gobi deserts one will find renewable energy projects in operation or under construction. Apart from the GCC region's spending programme in this field, several states have agreed to join the Desertec Dii programme. This is a ringing endorsement of its solutions.

With major European financial support, the first part of Morocco's 500MW Ouarzazate solar complex is on the way. Desertec Dii executives says they will keep spreading these ideas and will support governments around the world to implement them.

Desertec Dii will focus on the regions of EU-MENA, East Asia and South America and, eventually, world-wide. Ultimately, executives of the Desertec Foundation stress, it will not matter who builds the plants as long as they are built in the right way and they get built.

Desertec Foundation officials have said that the proposed Green Climate Fund (GCF) could help in the financing of some of Desertec Dii-led projects. But the GCF has to begin distributing funds as soon as possible. If Dii and the GCF have not taken decisive steps by 2020, it will be far too late to prevent dangerous climate change.

Another alternative might be to focus on already existing funds to provide the transitional support which renewable technologies need to displace fossil fuels.

The World Bank has recently released a report on the terrible results of climate change. It called on states around the world to re-direct the $1 trillion spent every year on fossil fuels and other harmful subsidies to developing alternative energy sources.

The World Bank's is a great proposal. The only problem is that, although the bank invests significant amounts in climate protection, it has also invested more than $12 billion in fossil fuels in the last six years. Those are public funds subsidising climate change.

So the money is there. If the world's development banks or export credit agencies took the global climate into account when investing public money, it would unleash an incredible amount of investment in renewable technologies. That amount of money could massively accelerate the process of bringing the cost of renewable technologies like concentrating solar power (CSP) down.

Desertec Foundation promoters talk a lot about these technologies because they can supply electricity on demand day and night. They makes them ideal complements to inter-mittent energy sources such as wind and PV power.

Increasingly, in more and more locations wind and PV power supplies are cheaper than the conventional alternatives. CSP allows one to incorporate a higher percentage of these cheap inter-mittent renewables in one energy mix.

So the solutions are available. All that is lacking is the political will. The Desertec Foundation's Thiemo Gropp notes that $12 billion would go a long way towards advancing renewable energy capacities in the developing world. And on Nov. 21, 2012, Dr Gropp issued a public statement calling on the World Bank to follow its own investment recommendations and spend on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.

Dr Gropp cites another recent World Bank report calling on global states to re-direct the $1 trillion in annual subsidies to fossil fuels to developing alternative energy sources. He contrasts this with the more than $12 billion in World Bank funds which have been invested in the construction of new fossil fuel power plants and the extraction of petroleum, natural gas and coal over the last six years.

Dr Gropp says: "If politicians are serious about their climate ambitions, they must insist on stricter rules for the handling of public funds". He adds: "Had this $12 billion been invested in harnessing renewable energy in the sites where the wind blows the hardest or the sun shines the fiercest...our mitigation efforts would already have taken a big step forward".
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Publication:APS Review Gas Market Trends
Date:Dec 10, 2012
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