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Desertec CAMPAIGNING IN THE UK

Gerry Wolff

2009-04-18

Desertec-UK (formerly TREC-UK) was established in 2006, aiming to raise awareness of the Desertec concept developed by the TREC international network of scientists and engineers, now the Desertec Foundation . We have been focussing mainly on the UK and Ireland but we have also been taking opportunities to raise awareness of the Desertec concept in the rest of the English-speaking world. There have been two main strands to our activities:
  • Raising awareness of the Desertec concept amongst the general public.
  • Raising awareness of the Desertec concept amongst politicians and the UK government, and pressing for action at both national and international levels to create an environment of laws and regulations that will facilitate Desertec developments.

General awareness

Here, first, is a summary of what we have been doing to raise awareness of the Desertec concept amongst the general public:
  • Setting up and maintaining the Desertec-UK website. The main aim has been to create an information resource about the Desertec concept and its several aspects, including links to formal studies, news reports, pictures of CSP plants, information about the history of CSP, pages about costs, security of supplies, worldwide potential, endorsements of the Desertec concept by high-profile organisations and individuals, commercial companies, spin-off benefits from CSP, transmission grids, and more.
  • Establishing the Desertec-UK group and mailing list, which now has 186 members.
  • Awareness-raising activities detailed on our Activities and Events page.
  • Publication of articles about the Desertec concept and giving interviews about the ideas on the radio and internet TV. Most of what we have been doing in those areas is detailed on our Highlights page.
  • Giving out copies of our leaflet, The Desertec concept in brief, at "green" and energy-related conferences and exhibitions.
  • Letters and comments in newspapers, blogs, and other online news channels.
  • Encouraging the setting up of Desertec groups in other parts of the world and liaising with related campaigning groups (see our Campaigns page). 
  • We have done most of the work to organise a Desertec seminar for investors and industrialists (in association with shadow energy minister Charles Hendry MP) but have had difficulty booking the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House owing to great demand for that room. We are aiming to raise £3000 in sponsorship money to pay for hire of conference facilities elsewhere.
  • Other activities include sending out press releases, responding to numerous emails and phone calls, posting information on online bulletin boards and mailing lists, and more.

I'm pleased to say that we have now received support from Friends of the Earth, the Campaign against Climate Change, and Good Energy, in our campaign encouraging people to write to their MPs, asking them to sign EDM 123. I'm also happy to say that, in March 2009, the Green Party passed two motions (EN809 and EN810, PDF, p 29) in favour of aspects of the Desertec concept. The Climate Group and Forum for the Future have both endorsed the Desertec concept (see our Endorsements page).

MPs and the government

The main things we have been doing to communicate with MPs and the government are as follows:
  • April 2006: A leaflet describing concentrating solar power and its potential was sent to all 646 MPs, with a personalised covering letter. Several MPs were kind enough to reply and many of those replies were very positive.
  • In July 2006, a press release about the TRANS-CSP report from the DLR was sent to a large number of editors and journalists. This led to a full-page article in The Guardian and this led directly to three questions being asked in Parliament, two about concentrating solar power (2006-12-11 and 2007-03-05) and one about the supergrid (2007-01-08).
  • April 2006: Gerry Wolff, Neil Crumpton of FoE, Dr Peter Foreman and Polly Higgins made a presentation about the Desertec concept at the DTI offices in Victoria Street, London.
  • May 2007: John Hemming of Desertec-UK, Neil Crumpton of FoE and Desertec-UK, and Frank Field MP, had a half-hour meeting with energy minister Malcolm Wicks MP. This meeting, which was kindly arranged by Frank Field with Malcolm Wicks was intended to provide information to Malcolm Wicks about the several advantages of the Desertec proposals.
  • July 2007: Gerry Wolff and Neil Crumpton made a presentation about CSP and the Desertec concepts to people from the DTI, DEFRA and the Treasury at the DTI offices in London. We were invited to give this presentation as a follow-up to the presentation we made to the DTI in April.
  • November 2007: Gerry Wolff and Neil Crumpton gave a presentation about CSP and the Desertec concept at a "breakfast" meeting of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee of MPs in the House of Commons. The meeting was proposed by Dr Howard Stoate MP and organised by Dr Doug Naysmith MP (Chairman of the Committee) and Professor Peter Simpson (Secretary) and we are very grateful to them for that.
  • February 2008: Concentrating solar power and the proposed HVDC supergrid (PDF, 397 KB, Science in Parliament, Spring 2008, pp. 34-36). This is a briefing report and notes prepared following the "breakfast" meeting of the Scientific and Parliamentary Committee  on 2007-11-13. The briefing report is by Gerry Wolff and Neil Crumpton and the notes are by Professor Peter Simpson, Secretary of the Committee. Science in Parliament is circulated to all MPs and Lords.
  • February 2008: Dr Howard Stoate, MP for Dartford, was successful in a bid for an "Adjournment Debate" about the Desertec proposals in the House of Commons. The debate was held at 6 pm on the 28th of February:

Gerry Wolff provided briefing information for Dr Stoate's speech.

  • April 2008: Gerry Wolff and Neil Crumpton visited Albert Owen, MP for Anglesey, to discuss the Desertec proposals and how they may be advanced.
  • June 2008: Dr Howard Stoate MP kindly posted Early Day Motion 1871 in support of the Desertec concept. By the end of the parliamentary session in December, this had attracted the signatures of 62 MPs.
  • June 2008: Dr Howard Stoate MP, Gerry Wolff, Neil Crumpton and Polly Higgins gave a presentation about the Desertec concept to energy minister Malcolm Wicks MP and two of his staff.
  • June 2008: Gerry Wolff, Neil Crumpton and Polly Higgins had a meeting with shadow energy minister Charles Hendry MP and associated staff, to present the main elements of the Desertec concept and to try to answer questions. We were pleasantly surprised that, at this meeting, Charles Hendry offered to host a seminar about the Desertec concept for investors and industrialists.
  • September 2008: Desertec-UK (then TREC-UK) sent in a Commentary on “UK renewable energy strategy consultation” from the DTI, June 2008.
  • December 2008: Hywel Roberts, a member of Desertec UK, asked Ed Miliband MP a question about the Desertec concept at a meeting in London. In his reply, Ed Miliband asked for information about the Desertec concept to be sent to him. Accordingly, I wrote to him, enclosing copies of the short documents that can be downloaded from our Resources page. The same documents have also been sent to Steve Martin, Senior Policy Advisor, Energy Innovation, in DECC.
  • December 2008: Dr Howard Stoate MP kindly posted Early Day Motion 123 in support of the Desertec concept. By April 2009, this had attracted the signatures of 143 MPs. This level of support is regarded as "significant" for an EDM. It puts EDM 123 at 35th position amongst 1435 EDMs.
  • We have prepared a web page to make it easy for people to write to their MPs, asking them to sign Early Day Motion 123 in support of the Desertec concept. Information about this page has been widely circulated on bulletin boards and mailing lists. Friends of the Earth have set up their own system to make it easy for their members to write to their MPs, asking them to sign the EDM. The Campaign against Climate Change has circulated all it its members encouraging them to write to their MPs, with a link to our web page. And Good Energy have featured the Desertec concept and this campaign on their energy blog.
  • January 2009: Our leaflet, The Desertec concept in brief (PDF, 179 KB), was sent to sent to all 646 MPs together with a personalised covering letter asking each MP to sign Early Day Motion 123 in support of the Desertec concept.
  • February 2009: Gerry Wolff made a presentation, giving a UK perspective on the Desertec concept, and was on the panel with other speakers at a seminar about the Desertec concept for MPs and others organised by the PRASEG and APPCCG parliamentary groups in the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House in London.

Responses from the government

The government's attitude to the Desertec concept is not entirely consistent:
The main concerns that have been raised (with our responses to those objections) are:
In general, the government appears to be "sitting on its hands" on this issue. Given the urgent need for new clean supplies of energy and the colossal potential of the Desertec concept, this passive wait-and-see approach is not appropriate.

What next?

It would be helpful if the government would recognise fully the potential and importance of the Desertec concept, to incorporate it in its policies, and to work vigorously with its international partners to promote the concept and to create a framework of laws and regulations that will facilitate Desertec developments. The reforms that we think are needed are described in Clean power from deserts: what governments can do (PDF, 68 KB).

As steps towards that goal, it would be useful if the government would do two things:
  • Make a formal statement in support of the Desertec concept.
  • Establish a small team within DECC:
    • To develop a good understanding of the Desertec concept, including a good understanding of possible snags and how they can be overcome,
    • To work vigorously with the EC and countries throughout EUMENA to create a framework of laws and regulations that will facilitate Desertec developments.

Last updated: 2009-08-20 (ISO 8601)