Clean power from deserts

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POLITICIANS AND the desertec CONCEPT

This page shows extracts from speeches and other public statements that have been made by politicians relating to CSP and the Desertec proposals. See also our page of Endorsements for the Desertec concept.

CSP

International

January 2009 Making the Green Energy Switch at a Time of Crisis (PDF, 179 KB, booklet containing articles by Dorette Corbey MEP, David Hammerstein MEP, Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, Vittorio Prodi MEP, and Graham Watson MEP, including several sections about Desertec-related proposals).

2008-07-17 Letter to Presidents Sarkozy and Barroso from several MEPs (PDF, 13 KB). This letter calls for a strong European solar plan for CSP investments and for an HVDC supergrid.

2008-07-13 A Mediterranean Solar Plan features in the Joint Declaration of the Paris Summit for the Union for the Mediterranean.

In April 2008, at a meeting hosted by TED.com, Al Gore included the Desertec map in his new slide show and spoke very positively about the Desertec proposals to generate solar power in desert regions of North Africa and the Middle East and to transmit the power via HVDC transmission lines to the whole of EUMENA. A video of the slide show may be seen on the TED website and also on YouTube. The Desertec map is shown about 14 minutes into Al Gore's talk.

In March 2008, TREC was invited by the French government to provide information about the Desertec concept in support of their preparations for the Head of States Conference about the proposed Union for the Mediterranean, to be held in July.

Also in March, the German government responded to an official request by Hans-Josef Fell MdB of the German green party to say that the German government supports the Desertec proposals strongly, especially in the context of the proposed "Union for the Mediterranean".

2008-03-13 Speech by the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, at the meeting of the European Council. In his speech, Hans-Gert Pöttering said:

The European Union should support forward-looking projects such as Desertec, which was presented to the European Parliament by Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan: the aim of this project is to promote the use, on the basis of the latest technology, of solar energy in parts of the world, such as the Middle East, which enjoy long periods of sunshine. Countries including Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia have already stated their interest in cooperating in such a project.

2008-01-23 The Desertec concept was presented to the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA) on January 23rd and was received with great interest. Desertec is now part of EMPA's recommendations for policies to be adopted by the proposed Union for the Mediterranean. The Assembly is the parliamentary dimension of the Barcelona Process and an important component in the European Parliament's relations with North Africa and the Middle East.

2007-09-21 Colorado Governor Ritter testimony to House Select Committee on renewable energy. In this testimony, Governor Ritter says:

Another exciting development on the horizon is concentrated solar power (CSP). The capacity to develop industrial scale solar energy that can be stored and dispatched to the grid is an opportunity for this nation to embrace. In Colorado, our San Luis Valley offers some of the highest solar potential for the deployment of concentrated solar production. In addition to the energy development, the economic opportunity associated with these facilities is of great interest to Colorado.

2007-04-19 Renewable energy and energy efficiency in the European neighbourhood policy (European Neighbourhood Conference, Berlin). This is a speech given by Sigmar Gabriel, German Federal Minister for the Environment. In the speech he says:

There is enormous and to a large extent still untapped potential in solar power. Studies on potential by the German Aerospace Center find that solar thermal power plants in southern Europe and northern Africa could play an important role in securing a sustainable European energy supply. I am very pleased about the power plant projects in Morocco, Algeria and Egypt, and about the planned projects in Libya and Jordan. Ladies and gentlemen, the idea is ground-breaking: it means that in 20 to 30 years we can procure part of our energy from solar power plants. To this end we need stronger regional cooperation and an investment boost in the expansion of a stable electricity grid. All this is already technically feasible. The electricity grid of the future will overcome borders and even the Mediterranean. One day, the European "super grid" will be able to transfer electricity produced in solar thermal power plants to central Europe—without any power cuts! (emphasis added).

2007-03-29 Energy, natural resources and the environment (German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety). This is a transcript of speech given by Michael Müller, Parliamentary Secretary of State in the German government, at the European Conference "Integrating Environment, Development and Conflict Prevention". In the speech, he says:

Renewables offer a unique opportunity for many developing countries to develop and export domestic energy sources. Encouraging results were recently obtained from two research projects to investigate the potential of solar thermal power plants in North Africa and the Middle East, whereby surplus electricity could also be sold to Europe. The authors predict that by the year 2050, between 10 and 25 % of Europe's electricity requirements could be met by desert regions. We need these types of visions, and must focus on implementing what is already feasible.

In this connection, I would draw your attention to the "Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation" (TREC) and its "Gaza Solar Power & Water Project", which it is hoped will supply some 2 - 3 million people in the Gaza region with electricity and water; this project is significant in several respects, and its relevance to peace policy is evident, given Israel's likely involvement.

UK

2009-06-03 In Prime Minister's question time, Dr Howard Stoate MP asked a question about CSP:

Dr Howard Stoate (Dartford) (Lab): At last year’s Union for the Mediterranean summit, my right hon. Friend gave his backing to concentrated solar power as a means of providing almost limitless clean energy for Europe. Given that more than 170 Members of this House have signed an early-day motion supporting concentrated solar power and the development of a high-voltage, direct-current supergrid, what active steps is my right hon. Friend taking to work with our international partners to make this a reality?

The Prime Minister: This is a serious issue that needs European co-operation for it to happen. Our target is for 15 per cent. of energy consumption to come from renewable sources. We have spent more than £11 million over the last few years to support solar installations, and we will publish the renewable energy strategy, setting out our strategy to meet these renewable targets. We will work with all countries in Europe to develop a renewables strategy.

2008-12-04 Dr Howard Stoate MP posted Early Day Motion (EDM) 123 08-09 on 2009-12-04:

CONCENTRATING SOLAR POWER AND THE CREATION OF A HIGH VOLTAGE DIRECT CURRENT SUPERGRID

That this House recognises the great potential of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) in desert regions as a source of clean energy for countries throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (EUMENA); welcomes the Prime Minister's endorsement of CSP and its potential in his speech at the inaugural meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean; notes that CSP is already feeding electricity into the European transmission grid, that CSP plants are quick to build, and that the UK may benefit soon from this source of power via the existing grid; further notes that the existing grid may be upgraded with high voltage direct current technologies and smart electronics; further notes that the resulting supergrid would be a cost-effective means of promoting the security, efficiency and stability of electricity supplies throughout the region, and will in any case be needed for a single market for electricity and to provide access to large-scale but remote sources of renewable energy; and calls on the Government to promote these developments vigorously, to work with its international partners to remove overt and hidden subsidies for non-renewable sources of energy, to ensure that a proper price is paid for carbon dioxide emissions, to provide a system of support for renewable energy technologies that is harmonised across the region, to support existing moves to develop a single market for electricity throughout the EU, to extend that single market to EUMENA, and to put in place appropriate mechanisms for upgrading the transmission grid throughout the region.

As of 2009-02-14, it had been signed by 93 MPs.

2008-11-19 In a debate about the Stern Report, Charles Hendry MP, shadow energy minister, said:

... People talk about the costs of combating climate change, but every time I talk to business it says that this as one of the most exciting opportunities they see. We can even see that in the energy approach and in the contribution that solar power can make, for example, as a huge amount of expertise and genius is being put into bringing down the cost of solar power. Such action goes directly against the argument that my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) made, as the implications of developing solar power for the poorest people on our planet are massive. We can use the power of the sun in the Sahara through concentrated solar power to make endless, cheap energy available to people in sub-Saharan Africa, and there is also scope for the desalination of water, which could make a fundament improvement to their quality of life.

2008-11-04 Dr Howard Stoate MP asked two parliamentary questions about the Desertec concept:

Renewable Energy: Distribution

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of proposals to create a high voltage direct current supergrid covering Europe, the Middle East and North Africa as a means of allowing renewable energy from a variety of sources to be transmitted across the region in a secure and cost-effective fashion; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The idea of a ‘Plan Solaire’ involving a supergrid that would cover North Africa and the Middle East as well as Europe is interesting. We will wish to explore how such a scheme might promote the EU’s objectives for security of energy supply and meeting renewable energy targets. We are awaiting detailed proposals before making an assessment. The cost of building the high voltage direct current grid that would be a necessary part of such a project, as well as the security of any such installation over such large distances, would be key issues in any assessment.

Solar Power: North Africa

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what steps he is taking in conjunction with EU partners to help promote and facilitate the development of Concentrated Solar Power stations in the desert regions of North Africa; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The UK supports article 5(9) of the draft EU Renewable Energy Directive, which allows renewable energy generated by new installations outside the EU, to count towards member state renewable energy targets if it is consumed within the EU. We also support the intention that the directive should incentivise deployment of renewable technologies, outside the EU as well as inside.

Concentrated solar power stations based outside the EU might be an effective way of meeting some of our renewable energy needs, although a number of issues, including the cost of building the high voltage direct current grid that would be a necessary part of such a project, as well as the security of any such installation over such large distances, will need to be discussed and addressed.

2008-07-25 Dr Howard Stoate MP posted Early Day Motion (EDM) 1871 07-08 on 2008-06-24:

CONCENTRATED SOLAR POWER AND THE CREATION OF A HIGH VOLTAGE DIRECT CURRENT GRID

That this House notes that Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technology, a means of capturing solar energy from deserts, has the potential to generate a substantial proportion of Europe's future electricity needs; notes that it would be feasible and cost-effective to transmit energy derived from desert based CSP plants in North Africa to Europe via the creation of a high voltage direct current (HVDC) super-grid, as this would restrict transmission losses to just three per cent. per 1,000 km; further notes that the cost of collecting solar thermal energy equivalent to the energy output of one barrel of oil is currently about US$50 and is likely to fall to around US$20 in the future, which is substantially less than the current world price of oil; welcomes the work that has been done by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Co-operation (TREC) in promoting the development of CSP and an integrated Europe and North Africa-wide HVDC super-grid; and calls on the Government to endorse TREC's proposals formally and to work with its international partners to advance the concept.

By late November 2008, the motion had been signed by 62 MPs.

2008-06-25 Nigel Evans, MP for the Ribble Valley asked a parliamentary question about concentrating solar power in relation to international development. Here is an extract from the relevant section of Hansard:

Mr. Nigel Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the potential of concentrating solar power technology to assist the fulfilment of the millennium development goals in the middle east and North Africa.

Mr. Gareth Thomas: The Department for International Development (DFID) supports the use of concentrating solar power technology where appropriate as part of low carbon development ways to achieve millennium development goals (MDGs). DFID has not made a direct assessment of the potential of concentrating solar power technology to assist the fulfilment of the MDGs in the middle east and north Africa.

DFID provides core funds to key multilateral institutions including the European Commission, World Bank, International Finance Corporation and the European Investment Bank. These multilaterals are best placed to assist the region given their extensive experience and expertise in renewable energy, and the large financial resources they can provide directly and lever from others. For example, the World Bank has conducted an assessment of the World Bank/global environment facility strategy for the market development of concentrating solar thermal power, and is currently supporting solar thermal projects in Morocco and Egypt. The European Commission's Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF) is currently conducting a feasibility study for a concentrated solar power plant in Tunisia.

2008-02-28 Adjournment debate on "Concentrated solar power" in the House of Commons in the UK Parliament:

2008-02-27 In a speech in the House of Commons, Nick Hurd, MP for Ruislip-Northwood, said:

.... Thirdly, I want to consider the opportunity for the EU and the member states to do more together. It is clear from the development of technology that much goes on in small silos, including carbon capture and storage, concentration of solar power and long-distance ultra-high voltage power lines. Those technologies are enormously important matters on which member states should work together if we are not to lose the commercial market opportunity to the United States and other countries.

2008-02-08 Bring me sunshine (MP3, 11.4 MB, BBC Radio 4, Costing the Earth, 2008-02-08 21:00). This radio programme about solar power includes a good section about the Desertec proposals. Speaking on the programme about the proposed HVDC supergrid and the possibility of importing solar power from desert regions, Malcolm Wicks MP, UK Minister for Energy, said: "I think it is an exciting prospect ... I am very interested in that .... We have got to think in revolutionary terms ..." although he did express some doubts about costs and security of supplies. On those two points see The cost of building a large-scale HVDC transmission grid and CSP: security of supply.

2007-12-19 A reason to be positive about the environment, poverty and war (Lynne Featherstone blog). Lynne Featherstone is the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green in the UK. In this blog she writes very positively about the Desertec concept.

2007-11-27 The Earl of Liverpool took the opportunity to mention CSP again in the House, as the Climate Change Bill had its second reading on the 27 November:

... I should also mention briefly CSP—concentrated solar power. I shall not weary your Lordships too much with this detail today, as I referred to it in the energy debate on Thursday 12 July last. This technology has the potential to supply sufficient electrical power for the whole of Europe if 80-odd square miles of the Sahara desert could be utilised. The German Government commissioned a detailed study into this and was favourably impressed. Will the Minister kindly answer the question that I put to his ministerial colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Jones of Birmingham, during that debate, and to which I have so far received no reply? I asked,

whether the Government have given proper consideration to this technology and whether there has been any exchange of views with the German Government".—[Official Report, 12/07/07; col. 1539.]

I now ask, if not, please will they undertake to do so?

Note: The reference to "80-odd square miles" as the area of desert needed to power Europe is not right. It is probably a misreading of the calculations by researchers at the German Aerospace Center that, if it was covered with CSP plants, an area of desert measuring about 127 km by 127 km could produce as much electricity as Europe was consuming in 2004. That is an area of 16,129 km2 which is 6,227 square miles, about 12% of the area of England (50,351 square miles).

2007-07-12 The Earl of Liverpool, in a speech to the UK House of Lords, said:

I turn to three methods of electricity generation that have zero carbon emissions. The first is CSP, which stands for concentrating solar power. This is a mature and proven technology, which has been operating in California since 1985. A new plant went on stream in Spain two months ago and another one is planned for Sicily. CSP is the technique of concentrating sunlight using mirrors to create heat and using that heat to create steam, which then drives turbines and generators, just as a conventional power station does. Solar heat can also be stored in melted salts, enabling electricity to continue to be generated during the hours of darkness.

I hear siren voices asking of what relevance that is to us, particularly given the summer that we are having, but it has great relevance because of the recent development of highly efficient transmission lines, called HVDC, which have transmission losses of only 3 per cent per 1,000 kilometres. That would mean that we could receive electricity from the Sahara Desert with only 10 per cent loss of power. The amazing thing is that, if a CSP farm measuring 80 square miles was established in the desert, it could produce enough electricity to satisfy the entire needs of the whole of Europe. The Germans were sufficiently interested to commission a report, the TRANS-CSP study, which estimated that electricity imported from north Africa and the Middle East could become one of the cheapest sources of electricity for European countries, allowing us to make deep cuts in CO2 emissions and negate the need for nuclear power. My question to the Minister is whether the Government have given proper consideration to this technology and whether there has been any exchange of views with the German Government.

2007-03-05 Parliamentary question by Jon Trickett MP:

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the merits of using concentrated solar power as an alternative energy source for the future; and if he will make a statement.

In a written answer, Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State for Science and Innovation, said:

The Government have not made any assessment into using concentrated solar power to help the UK meet its long-term energy requirements. Using concentrated solar power would require the transfer of electricity generated from hotter climates to the UK. There have been early studies into this energy source (www.dir.de/tt/trans-csp) however, there are a number of technical challenges, which would need to be addressed. The economics, in particular the amounts of energy required to justify the investment in the High Voltage Direct Current link, needs more work. There would need to be a massive source of surplus electricity to make this worthwhile and considerable investment. The Government do not consider this technology a priority for further work.

Comments: see below.

2006-12-11 Parliamentary question by Dr Howard Stoate MP:

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment his Department has made of the feasibility of using overseas-based concentrated solar power plants to help the UK to meet its long-term energy requirements.

In a written answer, Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry, said:

The Government have not made any assessment into using overseas-based concentrated solar power plants to help the UK meet its long-term energy requirements. However, the economics, in particular the amounts of energy required, to justify the investment in the High Voltage Direct Current link required needs more work. There would need to be a massive source of surplus electricity to make this worthwhile and considerable investment.

Comments:

  • It is misleading to describe the TRANS-CSP and MED-CSP reports from the German Aerospace Centre as “early studies”, with the implication that they are merely preliminary. They are amongst the most thorough and professional reports on future energy supplies relating to Europe and the UK that are available.
  • Regarding the economics of CSP and the TREC proposals:
    • These things have been examined in great detail in the TRANS-CSP and MED-CSP reports. The Government should demonstrate that it is taking the proposals seriously.
    • The TRANS-CSP report calculates that CSP is likely to become one of the cheapest sources of electricity in Europe, including the cost of transmission.
    • Speaking about CSP at the Solar Power 2006 conference in California, the US venture capitalist Venod Khosla said “... we are poised for breakaway growth—for explosive growth—not because we are cleaner [than coal-fired electricity] but because we are cheaper. We happen to be cleaner incidentally.”

2006-11-27 Lord Newby, in a speech to the UK House of Lords, said:

… we can take the lead in assisting developing countries to adopt more sustainable levels of energy use, and, indeed, to adopt more sustainable levels of energy generation for the world at large. Reports in today’s papers demonstrate how concentrated solar power, for example, has the theoretical potential to generate enough energy for the entire world’s needs from an area covering just 0.5 per cent of the world’s hot deserts. That is the kind of new technology we should be championing.

The proposed European supergrid and a single European market for electricity

2009-03-12 From Hansard:

Renewable Energy: EC Action

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Southampton, Test of 22 January 2009, Official Report, column 886, on a European supergrid, what recent assessment he has made of the merits of a pan-European supergrid; what estimate he has made of the likely annual cost of such a supergrid; and what assessment he has made of its likely effects on security of supply. [253797]

Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding reply 4 February 2009]:DECC officials are currently in discussion with the European Commission and other European countries on proposals for a supergrid linking offshore wind projects in the North Sea. This would be a major, long term but expensive project.

We are currently putting in place a new regulatory regime to connect to the GB Grid up to 33GW of renewable offshore generation needed in to meet our renewable energy targets. The cost of offshore connections for these projects alone is estimated to be up to around £15 billion - more than twice the value of the onshore grid.

A cost-benefit analysis DECC has undertaken on the optimal design of offshore transmission systems:

www.sedg.ac.uk

shows that the most economic connections for those offshore wind farms are direct connections to the nearest shore involving little extra cable capacity. This was supported by the recent study prepared by National Grid for the Crown Estate, on grid connections for round three offshore wind projects:

The UK supports further energy market integration by enabling greater cross-border electricity trade, which should also increase security of supply. However, it should be for the market to decide, based on the most economically efficient solutions.

2009-01-22 From Hansard:

European Supergrid

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): What discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on proposals for a European supergrid.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Mr. Mike O'Brien): Departmental officials have had discussions with the European Commission and other European countries about improved grid connections for offshore wind and to link up to European grids. A European supergrid is a big, long-term, interesting but expensive concept.

Dr. Whitehead: I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. He will be aware of the proposals for North sea grid interconnectors using direct current cables and for wider connections using such cables across the whole of Europe to connect various forms of renewable energy together. Is he willing to meet representatives of the European e-Parliament, who are promoting that latter initiative in order to connect the whole of Europe’s renewable output for resources delivered across Europe as a whole?

Mr. O'Brien: In principle, I am happy to meet those representatives. However, in terms of linking up renewables, particularly wind power, to the UK, we have a massive programme to link up to 33 GW of electricity, at a cost of about £15 billion. The cost is already substantial, so I would not want my hon. Friend to think that we are other than cautious about this. As a long-term concept it is interesting, but in the short term we must focus on the things that are more at hand: getting offshore wind farms properly connected to the UK, so that we ensure that we get the electricity generated here.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): Is the Minister aware that more than 600 wind turbines have either been completed or are planned for sites in the Wash and along the Norfolk coast, and that those could be linked up to a supergrid? Is he aware that those offshore wind farms command widespread public support, in complete contrast to the small clusters of onshore ones, which do a huge amount of damage to the environment and are very unpopular?

Mr. O'Brien: It is the case that we will need both onshore and offshore wind power in order to ensure that we reach the level of capacity that we need for renewables—I see some nodding of heads on the Conservative Front Bench. The hon. Gentleman has to appreciate that although those who oppose onshore wind farms are often speaking for some of their constituents, there is a national objective of ensuring that we develop the wind and renewable generation capacity that this country needs. That means that we need to continue to develop both offshore and onshore wind power.

2009-01-28 Nigel Evans MP has tabled two questions for written answers:

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, pursuant to the Answer to the hon. Member for Southampton, Test of 22 January 2009, Official Report, column 886, on a European supergrid, what recent assessment he has made of the merits of a pan-European supergrid; what estimate he has made of the likely annual cost of such a supergrid; and what assessment he has made of its likely effects on security of supply.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, pursuant to the Answer to the hon. Member for Southampton, Test of 22 January 2009, Official Report, column 886, on a European supergrid, what discussions he has had with Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers on the international cooperation required for such an infrastructure project.

2007-02-07Alan Whitehead MP pressed the Prime Minister about a European supergrid. His speech included a description of some of the advantages of a European supergrid and some of the political barriers to be overcome.

2007-01-08 Parliamentary question by Dr Howard Stoate MP:

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research his Department has carried out into the feasibility of constructing a high-voltage direct current grid across the European region to enable the long distance transport of clean energy.

In a written answer, Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry said:

While my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is aware that a number of academics, entrepreneurs and manufacturers have proposed an overarching ‘European DC supergrid’ as a means of connecting offshore wind farms in particular to existing AC power systems, no specific research into this concept has been carried out by the DTI.

2006-10-30 In a debate about energy supply, Alistair Darling MP, Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry, said:

… some action taken by member states has verged on the protectionist. In some cases, it has been downright protectionist. That is regrettable because a single market should be just that. There should be a liberalised market for energy because that is the only way of benefiting both domestic and industrial consumers. We will do our best to ensure that there is such a market and I think that the Commission will enforce it rigorously. I just hope that the Governments of other member states also see the wisdom of liberalised markets so that we can get lower prices in the long term.

2006-06-16 There were speeches about the proposed supergrid by Alan Whitehead MP, Philip Hollobone MP, and Malcolm Wicks MP (but the text of these speeches appears to be no longer available in Hansard).


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