RAnsom stats #2


Renewable Energy, North Africa and You


In the not too distant past, many thought it was only a matter of time until North Africa got on the solar power party train and helped provide us Europeans with a sizeable chunk of our energy.  Working to an estimated 400 billion cost, the German based not-for-profit organization Desertec launched a project to pipe clean solar power from the Sahara Desert through a grid in the Mediterranean and on to Europe.


So far so good, especially when you think as little as 0.3 per cent of the sunlight falling across the Sahara could meet all of Europe's energy needs. A little more and you could provide energy for all of Africa as well. Pretty impressive when you think renewable energy's share of the UK's electricity mix was just 9.6 per cent in the second quarter of 2012, gas accounting for 29.8 per cent, coal at the top with 36.1 per cent – sadly it's highest second quarter share in 14 years –  and nuclear at 21.9 per cent. You can check out the full stats here and here.


Sadly the Desertec folks have hit a snag. Despite initial support from the likes of Angela Merkel and pals, political support has waned – at the third annual Desertec conference in Berlin's Foreign Ministry, not a single German cabinet minister turned up – and backers such as Siemens and Bosch have walked away. Add to this the initial pilot being shelved and things aren't looking so good right now.


Whilst there are many contributing factors which are covered in better detail here,the reasons for the delays are pretty clear. Renewable energy projects are pricey affairs, especially in contrast to traditional fossil fuel plants, not to mention they often require government subsidies of some kind. Sadly both traditional fossil fuel plants and other renewable options – check out the offshore wind farms being constructed in the North Sea for instance – are cheaper options. All this means that in the battle of euros vs renewable energy, Desertec's North African solar thermal dream will always lose.


Here's hoping this isn't the last we see of Desertec and this ambitious, possibly life changing project.


Thanks to Speigel.de and DECC for the additional stats and info and Monocle for the heads up on this fantastic project. Not to mention the Guardian Energy which I'd highly recommend you all check out on a regular basis for all things Energy related.

Ian Pither (Resident R$N Statistician)