Desertec Setback

Most of the participating companies in the “Desertec industrial initiative (Dii)” have decided not to extend their membership over the end of this year.

After this decision, Dii is left only with the World’s largest electric utility company (SGCC), one of the largest German utilities (RWE), and ACWA from Saudi Arabia. These are still some serious players. Especially the Chinese grid company SGCC has experience with energy from the desert. There is already quite a lot of wind power in Inner Mongolia, and the Chinese are not shy about building the necessary power lines to distribute that power over the whole country.

A large majority of the stakeholders is out. See for example this Guardian article.

Many people don’t understand that the “industrial initiative” was scheduled to run only for three years in the first place, that it has been running already longer than originally planned, that its mission was not to actually build desert power plants, but publish reports on how to best go ahead.

Having the Dii scale back strongly because most of the member companies are leaving does certainly not mean that suddenly it makes no sense to generate solar and wind power in Northern Africa. Of course it does.

It remains to be seen if it makes sense to export much of the desert electricity to Europe a couple of decades from now, once Desertec scales up. The fact that a couple of companies decided that they want to pull out of the Dii does not much to influence that decision in either direction.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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