Op Ed: Euro Troubles Delay Desertec

solar power, solar energy, clean tech, desertec, EU, Spain, MoroccoOver the past week, there has been much fanfare and reporting on Spain’s surprising absence from the signing of the first Desertec project, leaving many to question if Spain was pulling out altogether from the project. Certainly, it was not the right move by Spain to simply not show up at the signing event, but it does not mean that the country is going to give up its role as a major player in North Africa’s, and arguably the world, most ambitious solar energy project.

A quick call to the Spanish authorities reveals that the government is dealing with the Eurozone crisis and does not have extra funds to be part of the initial phase of Morocco’s Desertec solar project, which aims to deliver renewable energy to Europe. The first Desertec project between the EU and Morocco is consequently under threat as Spain had been an instrumental partner in the project.

Officials from France, Italy, Luxemborg and Malta were in Berlin last week with Moroccan representatives to ink the deal that would begin the process of developing a 100MW PV power plant, 100MW wind power plant and 150MW CSP power plant to export electricity to Europe.

Spain is seen as a key participant in the Desertec project since a major transmission line connecting North Africa to Europe would need to go through that country before reaching the rest of Europe. Now the signing is on hold and the Moroccan government is frustrated that it could dampen the overall make-up of the solar energy project.

When I spoke to Spanish officials this week, they were clear that they were not pulling out of Desertec. It’s all about the economy for Spain. Currently, with the country facing potential austerity measures, the government probably cannot put money towards this project. Like other European partners, excluding perhaps Germany, the crisis on the continent is going to see investments abroad stalled.

At the end of the day, we must all take a wait and see approach to this project.

With Europe struggling across the continent economically, there might not be sufficient funding for projects outside their borders. Is Europe turning its back? It doesn’t seem likely. They must rectify the situation at home before committing their money to projects that are future-looking. Desertec is likely to be successful eventually, and Spain will be a partner. Right now, no. But in the future, definitely.

Image: solar field at sunset, Shutterstock

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