Interview: Paul van Son, Dii Managing Director
Despite the recent controversy between the DESERTEC Foundation and Dii, Dii Managing Director Paul van Son remains upbeat in an interview with SETIS.read more
The Mediterranean Solar Plan (MSP) is one of six key initiatives of the Union for the Mediterranean that aims to meet the major energy and climate challenges confronting the European Union and the larger Mediterranean region in the coming decades. In order to achieve these objectives, the MSP has set itself two complementary targets: developing 20 GW of new renewable energy production capacities, and achieving significant energy savings around the Mediterranean by 2020, thereby addressing both supply and demand.
The MSP aims to complement existing Euro-Mediterranean activities and to work within existing renewable energy structures and associated grid infrastructure development projects, and will focus on creating an adequate regulatory, economic and organizational environment to enable the development and large-scale deployment of solar energy and other renewable energy technologies in the Mediterranean region, with the ultimate goal of helping the European Union meet its energy and climate goals for 2020 and beyond.
The MSP will help improve the balance in north-south trade by promoting sustainable energy projects, facilitating cooperation and promoting the development of electricity interconnections between the EU and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to establish a viable framework for the import and export of clean electricity. The plan complements work being done under a number of Mediterranean energy interconnection projects being funded by the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), such as the MED-REG II, which aims to support the development of an efficient energy regulatory framework in the Mediterranean Partner Countries; MED-EMIP - a platform for energy policy dialogue aimed at integrating energy markets and improving security and sustainability; MED-ENEC II - a project aimed at promoting energy efficiency and the use of solar energy in the construction sector; and an electricity market integration project, supporting the development of an integrated electricity market between Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia and between these three countries and the EU.
One of the most visible projects to supply clean electricity from the MENA region to the European Union, in part made possible by the MSP’s work to create the necessary organisational and regulatory environment, and specifically mentioned in the Identification Mission for the Mediterranean Solar Plan, has been the DESERTEC project. The DESERTEC Foundation was set up in January 2009 as a non-profit global civil society initiative that grew out of a network of scientists, politicians and economists from around the Mediterranean, who together developed the DESERTEC concept, the basic premise of which was that the almost inexhaustible supply of energy, in the form of direct sunlight and wind, offered by the deserts of the world could, with the appropriate technology, be converted into electricity and could potentially supply about 90% of the world’s population with additional electricity to supplement their locally available sources of power. The DESERTEC Industrial Initiative (Dii) was founded in Munich in October 2009 as a private industrial consortium working towards enabling the DESERTEC vision. The project has seen some successes, such as the launch of a solar plant in Ouarzazate, Morocco, by Dii shareholder ACWA Power, but it has also encountered a number of problems, such as the withdrawal of major investors and the Spanish government’s failure to turn up at the signing of an agreement to launch the project. In further developments, the DESERTEC Foundation and Dii parted ways somewhat acrimoniously last month following a disagreement over strategy and managerial style, among other things. Both sides have said that this decision will not influence their plans to tap the clean energy potential of the world’s deserts. Dii Head of Communications Klaus Schmidtke was quoted recently1 as saying that the decision would not affect Dii’s work or the realisation of desert power in the Middle East or North Africa.
This remains to be seen, but whatever the fate of the DESERTEC project, the vision on which it is based of creating an integrated electricity market in the Mediterranean region to supply clean energy to the European Union is one that will continue to be the focus of the Mediterranean Solar Plan. According to the MSP Project Preparation Initiative (MSP-PPI) of the European Investment Bank, “despite Mediterranean partner countries’ (MPCs) awareness of the region’s huge potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency, and some encouraging steps towards their deployment under the MSP, their overall contribution to meeting the growing energy demand in the region has remained limited. There is a need to accelerate the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in the MPCs, in order to fulfil their national targets and to achieve regional MSP objectives.”2
The EIB’s Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP) has been a key instrument in financing strategic projects in the region. Between its launch in 2002 and 2012, FEMIP had provided EUR 14.2 billion of financing through 192 projects in the 9 Mediterranean partner countries, and mobilised nearly EUR 43 billion of additional capital, with 31 000 jobs created through support for SMEs in the region and 42 000 jobs supported via direct growth capital investments. During 2011, FEMIP prioritized the private sector, which accounted for 64% of the lending volume for the year, including EUR 50 million for energy projects.
The Priority Action Plan for Euro-Mediterranean Energy Cooperation for 2008-2013 identified three priority areas for Euro-Mediterranean energy cooperation: ensuring the improved harmonization of energy markets and legislation and pursuing the integration of energy markets in the Euro-Mediterranean region; promoting sustainable development in the energy sector; and developing initiatives of common interest in key areas, such as infrastructure extension, investment financing and research and development. Given the size of the renewable energy resource in the MENA region, it is clear that renewables will continue to play a key role in relations between this region and the EU in years to come.
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2European Investment Bank, Mediterranean Solar Plan - Project Preparation Initiative, 14 June, 2012.