Renewable energies as a perspective for the maghreb

renewable energies as a perspective for the maghreb

Outline of ideas for a possible electricity infrastructure involving europe and the entire mediterranean region. The squares in the sahara illustrate the area that would be necessary to meet the world’s electricity needs with solar thermal power plants (18.000 twh.200 twh. Mena (middle east and north africa, ca. 600 twh. Image: desertec.Org

The energy and climate weekly: renewable energy can provide development impetus and opportunities, supporting democratization processes in the long term.

In terms of energy policy, the countries of the southern mediterranean have so far been perceived mainly as energy suppliers to europe. The desertec project focuses on the exploitation of renewable energy potentials – wind energy in morocco and large-scale photovoltaic plants and parabolic trough power plants in the interior of the country. Because north africa has a lot to offer in this respect, what europe liked to have: a lot of flat land, a lot of wind and a power supply with an average of 2000 kwh.

In addition, the proportion of direct solar radiation is much higher, which makes the construction of powerful solar concentrator power plants with parabolic troughs or mirrors possible and thus extends the solar energy production into the night hours. In the maghreb, small decentralized plants for rural electrification are just as much an option as solar and wind power plants on a power plant scale – and both are needed.

Breaking out of postcolonial structures

From a previous european energy perspective, three countries of the maghreb in particular play a rough role. Morocco, tunisia and algeria, because their geographical location makes it easiest to connect these countries to europe via high-capacity direct-current (dc) cables. A line already exists between spain and morocco. Four more lines are also being planned between spain, italy, algeria and tunisia.

Desertec therefore sees the democratic upheaval in the maghreb as an opportunity. Paul van son, head of the desertec project company dii, says: "policy changes can also boost renewables by creating jobs and advancing industrialization."

The much vaunted "political stability", because of which the autocratic regimes in north africa have been well-liked by western politicians up to now, was above all an era of stagnation, corruption and lack of opportunities for all those who did not belong to the clientele of the respective regimes. The supposedly stable governments were thus also a factor of uncertainty in terms of technical cooperation. Democratic change and plural decision-making and development structures can change this.

A look at their trade relations to date, which have been anything but good neighborly, let alone pan-arab, shows just how much the governments of the maghreb states have been cooking in their own juices and were primarily concerned with maintaining their own power. Trade between morocco, algeria, tunisia, libya and egypt accounted for only about three percent of the region’s total goods turnover in 2007. Quasi post-colonial commodity relations with europe still prevail, with raw material exports and hardly any processing industry.

Using renewable energies locally in the maghreb countries

To a certain extent, desertec also represents thinking in old patterns of relationships. Just as natural gas and oil have been imported up to now, in the future it will be electricity from the northern sahara. The project is also an escape from the long and complex task of building a sustainable renewable energy supply with its own resources, even under an often cloudy central european sky. In this respect, desertec also offers local politicians a kind of escapism and excuse for why it is now absolutely necessary to extend operating times, cut energy prices for renewables, or why power grids are suddenly no longer powerful enough to absorb more wind and solar power.

And just as the return to centralized supply structures in our country does not bring about change, the countries of the south also need their energy primarily in their own countries themselves to build new local (supply) structures. The north can play a constructive role, especially in technical cooperation, for the mutual benefit of new structures and cooperative ventures that go far beyond mere energy exports. And thus give the people in the maghreb, many of whom are already well educated, prospects in their own countries.

Renewable energies as a perspective for the Maghreb

Many people in the countries of the maghreb are well educated. The literacy rate is between 48 and 79 percent. But the prospects for the future have so far been miserable and thus offer few prospects in their own country, especially for the young. Gross domestic product per capita is far below 5 % everywhere.000 us $.

In addition, energy consumption in the countries of the maghreb is currently increasing by a good 5 percent per year (electricity consumption by 8-9 percent) and 96 percent of it is based on fossil fuels, especially oil. This is a further argument that the excellent conditions for renewable energy production in the developing democracies of the south should be harnessed for local needs as a priority. For jobs and income, educational prospects, electrification of off-grid regions with decentralized power grids based on island systems (also for radio-based communication), for more independence from their own dwindling oil reserves and a secure water supply.

Renewable energies can thus provide the energy supply and the prospects for many people in the maghreb, who today still cling to a dream image of a golden europe, because their own countries have so far offered them hardly any prospects for the future.

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