[UPDATE] Desertec founder explains reasons for Dii split

03. July 2013 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By:  Max Hall

Industrial consortium's communications problems exemplified when Desertec members read an online news story stating plans to sell Saharan energy to Europe may be altered. Foundation's co-founder says visionary group will continue their work to drive renewables development. Dii responds to move.

Dr Thiemo Gropp.

Desertec Foundation co-founder Thiemo Gropp has explained the reasons for the organization's split with the Dii industrial consortium it founded in 2009.

Thiemo Gropp, co-founder of Desertec has told pv magazine one of the reasons for the foundation's withdrawal from its own Dii consortium was that members first learned of an apparent change of Desertec/Dii strategy on a news website.

Gropp said a lack of efficient communications at Dii was exemplified by the incident when Desertec members read online that plans to export power to Europe – a critical part of the foundation's vision – might be dispensed with.

"The impression was given that Desertec would give up on the plan to export power to Europe," Gropp told pv magazine.

"Exporting power to Europe is an important option, not only to attract financing but to meet Europe's future energy needs."

Gropp added that internal disagreements at Dii were made public, to the detriment of the foundation's reputation.

"We were opening the newspaper and reading of a dispute between MDs of organizations claiming to be working under the auspices of Desertec," added Gropp, "if this happens under the roof of Desertec, we see a problem. We had to pull back and say 'stop if you are going to have an argument in such an unprofessional manner'."

Gropp is adamant the foundation will continue its work in offering expertise and encouraging politicians, industry and society at large to embrace the proliferation of renewables.

'They are big names that produced small results'

"We have many other partners," he added, "Dii was an important part of our work but made up only around 20% of our work. Desertec of course will not stop, we have been moving forward for 25 years and for around 10 years under this name. We have strong relationships with Saudi Arabia and Morocco and with many other organizations around the world."

When asked how damaging the loss of high-profile backers such as Deutsche Bank, RWE and E.ON would be, Gropp said: "They are big names but they have produced small results."

Gropp admitted the TuNur CSP project in Tunisia – intended to generate 2 GW of renewable energy in the Sahara to be sold to Europe by 2016 via a high voltage DC line to Rome – had been delayed by political turmoil in the country adding: "The legislation required to sell energy to Europe is not in place."

But he added the Desertec Power company which Desertec helped found in Saudi Arabia would drive forward the kingdom's ambitious renewables plans and said the foundation played a central role in driving the Moroccan government's plans for a large CSP project in the country adding: "Maybe the Morrocan government won't put a Desertec label on it but that's not a problem."

Gropp was less certain on the future plans of the Dii consortium, explaining: "I have no idea if they will continue their renewables plans but if they do, we would applaud them."

Dii responds to Desertec's exit

Dii has said it respects Desertec's decision to leave the consortium. "[W]e also
believe that this development does not affect the realization of desert power in EUMENA," said Klaus Schmidtke, Dii's head of communications in a statement to pv magazine.

"In the past the foundation has had little impact on determining Dii's objectives, strategy or activities. ... In general there is no doubt about the strategic orientation of the company. Neither our goals nor our strategy have changed at all.

"Dii works towards the creation of an electricity market from renewable energy in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Power generated from sun and wind is primarily intended to meet the local demand in North Africa and the Middle East," Schmidtke added.

"The resources are such that in the context of market development, a constantly growing volume of affordable electricity will eventually be exported to Europe. Dii's strategy was solidified through its recently launched report 'Getting Started,' in Brussels on June 25."  


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