Study: Europe could save €30/MWh on Desertec power

Europe could save €30/MWh on renewable electricity generated in the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), if the three regions integrated their power networks, according to a new study published on Thursday.

The report comes from Dii, a Munich-based consortium of industrial partners championing the Desertec project, a proposed network of wind and solar projects across the deserts of the MENA region which it says could help Europe reach its carbon reduction goals.

The Desert Power 2050 report said that a joint power grid, linking the network of Desertec projects across with the European grid, would be “essential” if European energy buyers want to bring down the cost of desert-produced power.

Paul van Son, chief executive of Dii, said: “A sustainable supply of power from renewable sources that is virtually free of CO2 can best be achieved by cooperation between the peoples of Europe and both sides of the Mediterranean. It is essential to develop such a market. Using the energy of the wind and the sun, we can leave the era of fossil fuels behind us and realse the Desertec vision.”

Such a network, which would entail 90% of renewables penetration, is both economic and viable because of the abundance of wind and sun in the desert, the report said.

Both sides of the Mediterranean would reap the benefits, it added. The MENA region would be able to meet their needs for power with renewable energy, while developing an export industry from their excess power with an annual volume worth more than €60 billion. Meanwhile, by importing 20% of its power from Desertec, Europe could save around €30/MWh the cost.

However, Dii warned that decisions made on the network now would have a direct impact on the viability of the Desertec project in the future.

"To produce renewable energy in areas with optimal resources, and relay that energy to areas with the highest demand – this is the joint future of the EUMENA region, one for which the foundations must be laid right now," Dii’s managing director, Aglaia Wieland, said "An expansion of the network beyond national borders, and the creation of a regulatory framework for desert power, will be the major milestones in the coming years. The political decisions to be made today will determine whether the framework for a sustainable energy network can be successfully constructed.”

At present Dii is preparing 2.5GW of reference projects in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, including plans for 500MW in Morocco. Half of this project has already been specified with 150 MW of solar thermal energy and 100 MW PV and wind energy planned for 2014. Algeria and Tunisia will contribute 1GW each.

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