Desertec agreement postponed; project details unveiled


The first agreement between EU member states and Morocco has still not been signed, with Spain holding back its agreement, according to CEO of the Desertec planning company Dii, Paul von Son, at the third annual conference in Berlin, Germany.

Currently, negotiations are at a political level. Government representatives from Morocco, France, Italy, Malta, Luxemburg and Germany are said to be ready to sign a letter of intent for the first Desertec project cooperation. However, with Spain still missing as a key participant – the generated desert electricity is expected to be delivered there – the signing of the contract has been postponed.

In Germany, skepticism about the initiative has also arisen from Economics Minister, Philipp Rösler in a recent interview. "I would caution against too much euphoria," he told Germany’s Neuen Osnabrücker Zeitung today.

In principle, the German government is ready to support a planned pilot project in Morocco. However, there are still open issues regarding the establishment of networks for the transmission of electricity from North Africa to Europe, said Rösler, who at the last minute declined to attend the annual conference. He added that the financial involvement of the federal government and other EU member states is still to be clarified.

Despite the political difficulties, DII is planning its first reference project in Morocco, led by RWE Innogy. Overall, it is planning to construct both wind and photovoltaic plants totaling 100 MW each, and a 150 MW solar thermal plant.

According to CEO of RWE Innogy, Hans Bünting, project costs are expected to reach between €130 million and €150 million. Partners are currently still being sought, which are part of the consortium. However, some of the financing is expected to come from the banks, said Bünting.

Locations are also still being sought for the photovoltaic and wind plants, the first phases of which are expected to total 50 MW each. After the projects have been completed, it is planned that a part of the generated electricity will be exported to Spain. No clear timelines have been set, however Bünting said he envisioned a short construction period after the planning phase.

Meanwhile, Mustapha Bakkoury, head of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) presented a redeveloped solar plan for Morocco. Overall, the installation of 500 MW of solar power is planned, via photovoltaic and solar thermal plants.

He said that projects totaling 160 MW are already in preparation and that parts of the generated solar electricity will be transported to Europe. CSP is expected to play a particularly big role in Morocco, as there is said to be a large potential for cost reduction.

In addition to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia are said to be of central importance to the Desertec project. Wind and solar projects worth a total of 2.5 GW are set to be installed in the countries over the coming years, said Paul von Son, with part of the projects using locally produced equipment.

Currently, 57 partners from 16 countries are involved in Desertec, which was established in 2009. The aim is to create an industrial scale market for renewable energy in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East by 2050, with parts of the generated solar and wind energy to be transported to the EU.

Translated by Becky Beetz.