A new university degree program is being funded with more than 3 million euros by the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany, and additional support from the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Eu. RE-Generation MENA will initiate master degree programs in renewable energy, training technical personnel in a way that helps the young people of North Africa benefit from the enormous scaling up of solar power that Desertec will bring.
By 2050, Desertec is expected to be able to deliver 15% of the European Union’s energy demand. Plans are at an extremely early stage and a huge infrastructure investment will be required to make the scheme feasible, but among the first steps are the plans for tertiary-level degrees in renewable energy to be made available at local universities.
The unrest in North Africa and the Middle East has shown how important it is to address the skills gap and provide the means for participation, employment and prospects to young people. (What is the Future of MENA Solar Energy With the Region in Chaos?) So degrees will be offered in universities thoughout the MENA region that enable more focus on this kind of innovation and ensure that local jobs, and well-paid ones are created by the visionary project of Desertec.
As an example of the sort of innovation needed, researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed a world-changing improvement in transmission over long distances ( Tel Aviv University Invents 40-Times Better Electricity Transmission) exactly the kind of technological development that is needed by Desertec, which will require unprecedented long-distance transmission on HVDC (high voltage direct current) lines from North Africa to Europe.
“The objective is to focus on a greater involvement of students in Egypt and Tunisia, equipping them with the skills to contribute fully to the democratic process and to demand the necessary conditions for the expansion of renewable energies,” says the German-Egyptian Nagi Siam, head of the project at Desertec Foundation.
Support comes from the Desertec University Network, a network of around 20 universities in North Africa and the Middle East committed to the development of know-how and the implementation of programs related to renewable energy.
A power grid connection already exists between Spain and Morocco, and one of the first tangible realizations of the large-scale export of renewable electricity from desert regions will be solar power from the deserts of North Africa. But without the infrastructure of local expertise, the plan could falter, and become yet another dismaying example of neo-colonial exploitation.