Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Mediterranean Solar Plan gets green light
Sometimes certain decisions are determined in the international political arena that are seismic in their potential for shaping our future yet remain largely under the radar of general public knowledge. Of course CSP being my bag, means I am here to bring you the latest sunny developments - and the future is indeed looking bright.
In Paris on Sunday 13th July at the Heads of State Summit, a formal declaration launching the Union for the Mediterranean was issued, laying out the goals and workings of the 43-member organisation. One initiative in particular holds huge promise - the formal endorsement of the Mediterranean Solar Plan, which was presented by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Even Gordon Brown has backed the Solar Plan, stating at the conference: "in the Mediterranean region, concentrated solar power offers the prospect of an abundant low carbon energy source. Indeed, just as Britain's North Sea could be the Gulf of the future for offshore wind, so those sunnier countries represented here could become a vital source of future global energy by harnessing the power of the sun. So I am delighted that that the EU is committing at this summit to work with its neighbours - including Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and the League of Arab States - to explore the development of a new 'Mediterranean Solar Plan' for the development and deployment of this vital technology from the Sahara northwards.".
According to the International Energy Agency in it's recently published Energy Technology Perspectives 2008 - Scenarios and Strategies to 2050, on top of the investments in the Business-as-usual scenario, total additional investment needs for the period 2010-2050 amount to USD 45 trillion. The average year-by-year investments between 2010 and 2050 needed to achieve a virtual decarbonisation of the power sector include, say the IEA, the build of 215 million square metres of solar. Others technologies proposed to achieve 50% cuts by 2050 include 55 fossil-fuelled power plants with CCS, 32 nuclear plants and 17 500 large wind turbines as well as widespread adoption of near-zero emission buildings and, on one set of assumptions, deployment of nearly a billion electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
The Union for the Mediterranean agreed that the recent activity on energy markets in terms of both supply and demand, confirms the need to focus on alternative energy sources. Market deployment as well as research and development of all alternative sources of energy was declared a major priority in efforts towards assuring sustainable development. The Secretariat is now tasked to explore the feasibility, development and creation of a Mediterranean Solar Plan. It is expected that 20GW of CSP will be constructed by 2020, with electricity exports transmitted into Europe, and exponential growth thereafter.
The political will is now in place for the deployment of CSP plants in the Sahara Desert, with transmission of it's clean electricity into Europe. It's nemesis will of course be nuclear. But CSP has many advantages over nuclear: rapid construction times (3 years versus 10 -20 years), low environmental impact (even positive environmental impact can be achieved where desalination is incorporated in the plant, thereby providing water for both human consumption and agricultural use), unlimited availability of resource (in any given 2 week period, deserts receive the same amount of energy from the sun as is contained in all nuclear fuel reserves), lower security and terrorist risk (compare the bombing of a nuclear plant to the taking out of a bunch of mirrors in the desert - transnational devastation versus 7 years bad luck). Let the race commence.