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Consortium moves ahead with ambitious Desertec project

DESERTEC Industrial Initiative is tasked with studying the concept further and establishing a framework for potential investments.

The group of large European companies which together will form a new entity that will move the ambitious Desertec project forward have officially incorporated their company on Friday.

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The Desertec project wants to build a wide network of wind and solar installation across resource-rich Africa and the Middle East. The idea is for these regions to supply as much as 15 percent of Europe’s electricity demand by 2050 through an extensive grid interconnection network.

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In return, energy from the sites will power water desalination systems and other projects in the water-scarce regions.

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Critics of the plan say it would be too costly, with estimates ranging from 400 billion to over 500 billion euros ($590 to $737 billion).

The articles effectively form the DESERTEC Industrial Initiative G.m.b.H. (D.I.I.) and sets the relationship of its 12 shareholders.

Plans for the forming of DESERTEC were announced in July, giving some practical boost to what has been a long-discussed, though criticized, concept of making use of the vast deserts of Africa and the Middle East.

The 12 shareholders, mostly European, include engineering giants ABB and Siemens; solar companies MAN Solar Millennium and Schott Solar; and European utilities E.ON and RWE.

They are joined by financial giants Deutsche Bank, HSH Nordbank and Munich Re.

DESERTEC Industrial Initiative is tasked with studying the concept further and establishing a framework for potential investments.

Paul van Son was appointed chief executive. He has 30 years of experience in the European energy industry and was chairman of the Energy4All Foundation that is active in Africa.

“The D.I.I. will primarily focus on the economic, technical and regulatory conditions that must be fulfilled for successful project implementation. Early reference projects will allow us to learn for further rollout plans by the D.I.I. and other parties,” Mr. van Son said.

Hermann Scheer, chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy and member of the German parliament, has called the Desertec concept a “mirage.”

Mr. Scheer said there is no need to go to Africa to fulfill Europe’s future electricity needs because the continent can reportedly source energy from its own backyard. Desertec’s proponents have refuted this.

The Desertec concept’s main proponent is the elite think tank Club of Rome.

- Eric Dorente

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