Arab countries urge solar future
July 8, 2007, Vanya Wlaker-Leigh - Times of Malta
Arab energy ministers and some EU politicians
attending a high-level conference in this desert oasis
town flanked by the ruins of a vast Roman city, announced
support for a revolutionary renewable energy electricity
supply system proposed by Germany to link both areas.
The Damascus Declaration adopted here
on June 24 by them as well as the several hundred
participants (scientists, industrialists, civil servants)
at the Fourth Middle East and North Africa Renewable
Energy Conference (MENAREC4) advocated "large-scale
renewable energy systems" which would permit solar
electricity to the EU. All nations were invited to
set national renewable energy targets, and donors
were asked to massively increase related assistance.
With the German government as a leading
sponsor, the conference - comprising 34 national delegations,
19 international organisations, 60 technical presentations
and an exhibition - was entitled "The Way Forward
for Renewable Energy development and Technology Transfer:
The Syrian Minister of Electricity,
Dr Ahmed Khaled Al Ali, told The Sunday Times that
he would transmit the declaration to the forthcoming
Conference of Euro-Mediterranean Ministers of Energy
expected early next year. (A Commission spokesman
stated here that on-going discussions for this ministerial
included a focus the need for a greater Euromed Partnership
focus on renewable energies, energy efficiency and
Responding to a brief sketch of EUROMEDITI,
Malta's regional technology initiative, Dr Al Ali
(who had not heard of it) said that "such a centrally
located platform could certainly play an important
role in disseminating renewable energy technologies
in the Mediterranean."
After the inaugural speech at the conference
in Damascus on June 21 by Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad
Naji Al-Otari, Germany's Environment Minister Sigmar
Gabriel stated that "continued world population growth
and climate change are twin global challenges with
huge energy implications. The EU Spring Council proved
that there is political will to set targets for renewable
energy use, but this must be backed by policy instruments
which include phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels,
as well as building cross-border links for electricity
While indicating that 'new thinking'
was emerging, Mr Gabriel added that "we now need much
less focus on new oil and gas pipelines. If the issue
of renewable energies is not placed high on the agenda
of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and other donor
meetings it will not become an EU co-operation priority."
"A German Aerospace Centre study has
shown that solar thermal power plants located in the
Arab countries could make a significant contribution
to future EU energy supplies. Single plants are already
under construction in Morocco, Algeria and Egypt and
planned for Libya and Jordan."
Entitled 'Trans-Mediterranean Interconnection
for Concentrating Solar Power (Trans CSP)", the study
advocates an integrated EU-MENA energy system which
would ensure by 2050 that 80 per cent of the two regions'
electricity supplies would be derived from renewable
sources, the balance from fossil fuels but with no
role for nuclear energy.
Arab CSP plants (comprising desert-based
arrays of curved mirrors reflecting solar radiation
on to either absorber tubes or towers) would supply
national demand for power, heating and cooling while
also exporting electricity to the EU via trans-Mediterranean
High Voltage Direct Current transmission lines, to
be connected to existing EU grids. Renewable energy
produced in Europe - whether from CSP plants in the
south as well as wind, geothermal, hydropower and
biomass - would also be fed in to the new system.
Large-scale CSP-powered seawater desalination
(Aqua CSP) could be associated with the new EU-MENA
system; solar energy received on each square kilometre
of desert land can be used to generate electricity
to desalinate 165,000 cubic metres a day (or 60 million
cubic metres a year). Rapid introduction of this technology
could terminate unsustainable regional water resource
use by 2030, the study finds.
Malta could perhaps be linked to the
proposed connection bringing solar electricity produced
in Libya to Italy, Dr Franz Trieb, co-ordinator of
the Trans CSP study told The Sunday Times. Due to
Malta's space constraints, another alternative to
a ground-based field of mirrors could be the linear
'Fresnel' technology, with solar reflectors placed
flat on large roof areas and focused on overhead absorber
Presentations during the conference
from three regional offices of UN organisations indicated
patchy and widely disparate patterns of renewable
energy development in Arab nations, facing a host
of policy and administrative barriers - including
highly subsidised cheap electricity competing with
renewable technologies as well as the lack of adequate
fiscal incentives to consumers for their installation.
Present flows of foreign technology and finance were
also way below needs.
However, several speakers emphasised
that the previous 'fear and distrust' of renewable
energies on the part of oil producers had changed
into a realisation that they were an essential component
of their national energy supplies, as well as a global
strategic option for both extending the life of oil
reserves and reducing carbon dioxide emissions and
thus combating climate change.
Two regional expert meetings paralleled
the main conference. A capacity-building workshop
was held under the on-going MED-ENEC project on energy
efficiency in the construction sector managed by the
German GTZ technical assistance organisation and financed
by the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership's MEDA fund.
The region's building stock is estimated to account
for between 25 and 45 per cent of final energy consumption.
The second meeting was the 10th AGM
of MEDENER - the network of the National Mediterranean
Centres for Renewables and Energy Conservation - comprising
five EU and seven south Mediterranean members. There
is no Maltese member.
One of the half dozen NGOs in attendance,
the Malta Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energies
Association (MEEREA), was represented by a board member
who was a guest of the Syrian government. ___________________________________________
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