Twelve European companies announced Monday plans for the Desertec Industrial Initiative, a $560 billion initiative that would provide energy to Europe from huge solar plants in North Africa and the Middle East.
The initiative is aiming to provide up to 15 percent of Europe's energy needs by 2050, in addition to supplying some of the energy needed for growing populations in Africa and the Middle East.
The companies signed a memorandum of understanding Monday that will push the project into the preliminary planning stages. The group hopes to complete the first solar thermal plant by 2015.
The details of the initiative, such as the locations of the power plants, will not be known until the companies publish a huge feasibility report for the initiative.
"Besides the business opportunities for the companies," the press release says, "there are other economic, ecological, and social potentials:
Greater energy security in the EU/MENA countries
Growth and development opportunities for the MENA region as a result of substantial private investment
Safeguarding the future water supply in the MENA countries by utilising excess energy in seawater desalination plants
Reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and thus making a significant contribution to achieving the climate change targets of the European Union and the German Federal Government Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan said of the proposal: "The partnerships that will be formed across the regions as a result of the DESERTEC project will open a new chapter in relations between the people of the European Union, West Asia and North Africa.”
The founder companies are ABB, ABENGOA Solar, Cevital, Deutsche Bank, E.ON, HSH Nordbank, MAN Solar Millennium, Munich Re, M+W Zander, RWE, SCHOTT Solar, SIEMENS.
As Katie Fehrenbaucher of Earth2Tech notes:
The group now has the overwhelming goal of writing up a business plan for a project that will involve hundreds of solar thermal plants and massive underseas high-voltage transmission cables spanning countries. The blueprint of the plan itself will take three years just to develop and incorporate under German law.
While many politicians in Europe, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have hailed the initiative, others question whether the producer countries will benefit equally and why the money is not being invested within Europe.
German Social Democratic deputy Hermann Scheer told Agence France-Presse that he would rather have the money spent in Europe, where it would benefit the European economy the most.