The DESERTEC Initiative : Powering the development perspectives of Southern Mediterranean countries?

Erdle, Steffen

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URL http://edoc.vifapol.de/opus/volltexte/2011/3328/
Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: DIE - Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik
Schriftenreihe: Discussion paper // Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik
Bandnummer: 2010, 12
ISBN: 978-3-88985-520-6
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2010
Publikationsdatum: 29.08.2011
Originalveröffentlichung: http://www.die-gdi.de/CMS-Homepage/openwebcms3.nsf/(ynDK_contentByKey)/ANES-89JH6C/$FILE/DP%2012.2010.pdf (2010)
SWD-Schlagwörter: Desertec Industrial Initiative , Energieversorgung , Sonnenenergie , Entwicklungspolitik
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 52.56 (Regenerative Energieformen, alternative Energieformen), 89.93 (Nord-Süd-Verhältnis)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

DESERTEC aims to secure the energy needs of the countries north and south of the Mediterranean via the large-scale deployment of solar and wind energy plants in MENA (Middle East and North Africa) countries and their systematic inter-connection with European energy markets via high-voltage direct-current lines. This will include in particular the systematic recourse to Concentrating Solar Power (CSP). This not only promises participating countries to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels, and improve their compliance with climate policy provisions, but also to create new sources of income and employment, by speeding up know-how transfer and industrial development processes in them. If implemented on a large scale and with sufficient determination, it could allow participating countries to gain a first-mover advantage in an emerging technology that is likely to play a key role in the 21st century and that could lay the bases for an energy system essentially based on green power. In principle, this appears to be a rational choice for the involved countries. CSP could provide firm and controllable electricity at potentially affordable and already declining prices. Moreover, CSP and other renewable energy technologies are not yet as competitive as mature technologies, and therefore offer more opportunities for newcomers; due to the excellent natural conditions in the southern Mediterranean, these countries enjoy substantial comparative advantages vis-à-vis other providers. Finally, looking for alternative energy sources is even more urgent for southern partners than for European countries. Their demand for power is growing rapidly and increasingly exceeding their current capacity of supply. They cannot simply divert fossil fuels for domestic use, as they need the revenues generated through their sale. Making stronger use of renewable energies in general, and of CSP in particular, could offer a solution to this dilemma. The sore point, however, is the cost aspect. In contrast to conventional plants, which are relatively cheap to build, but increasingly expensive to maintain, CSP plants are expensive to build, but cheap to maintain. The high start-up costs are thus the main obstacle for the large-scale deployment of this technology. A closer look at the framework conditions on either side of the Mediterranean shows that the successful implementation of this project is not at all a foregone conclusion, and that much remains to be done before the vision can become reality. The international context of DESERTEC is still characterized by an extraordinary degree of insecurity (regarding future policy preferences, energy prices, capital costs, available technologies and worldwide resources, etc.), and the strong vertical fragmentation of the energy systems of participating countries does not help either. The capital intensity and still evolving nature of CSP technology (plus the elevated energy subsidies and limited spending power of most MENA countries) further aggravate the problem of high up-front costs and potentially slow return ratios of CSP plants. Thus, having a very clear idea of the future requirements of one's energy system (and of the role which renewable energies should perform in this framework) is key for choosing the right technology for production, transmission, and storage. A key requirement for the large-scale introduction of green power technologies will be the creation of viable local markets for environmentally friendly energy products in southern partner countries. This will need to build on an ‘enabling environment’ that sets the right Steffen Erdle German Development In 2 stitute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) incentives for producers and consumers, and offers the necessary safeguards for producers and investors. Only in this case will local markets be able to develop the necessary size for attracting private investment in sufficiently large quantities and for developing local value chains on a sufficiently large scale. Otherwise, it might appear more rational to wait until production costs have come down, even if this would mean loosing an opportunity for ‘catching up’. In any case, it would be a grave mistake to only focus on the creation of landmark projects and forget about the creation of the necessary framework conditions. The large-scale provision of foreign soft loans should not slow down the implementation of the necessary institutional reforms and lead to the reproduction of development-adverse rent structures. It will thus be of utmost importance that policy makers and private promoters cooperate very closely from the very beginning. The fact that DESERTEC has been launched as a private initiative and that the related industrial initiative is pooling key business concerns could provide a crucial added value to the otherwise intergovernmental framework of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation and complement policy-driven formats like the Mediterranean Solar Plan (MSP). The MSP itself will offer a policy framework through which DESERTEC could eventually unfold. Its potential contribution is to offer a common ground that allows for a systematic exchange of views between stakeholders from both sides of the Mediterranean about what needs to be done to facilitate the large-scale introduction of environmentally sustainable technologies along the southern rim and to provide for their inter-connection with European markets. This will also need to entail an in-depth revision of the existing legal-institutional frameworks around the Mediterranean. German development organizations could play an important facilitating role in this context. They have accumulated a wealth of experience and expertise in the fields of renewable energies, environmental protection and natural resource management that is both recognized and solicited. In addition, they have also assumed responsibility for the implementation of several large Euro-Mediterranean projects specifically in the renewable energies sphere. They appear thus ideally positioned to provide strategic advice and operational support as to how to organize an enabling legal-institutional environment, create the necessary quality infrastructure, implement large-scale projects, and improve partners’ human resources. The inter-related and well-targeted reform of accounting and pricing systems, plus the choice of the right incentive systems and power purchase agreements, will also be key. The very differentiated nature of German development organizations, and their solid working relationships with southern partner countries, will be important assets from this perspective.


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