As part of the ongoing effort to decarbonise Europe’s power sector, Desertec has announced that it will begin supplying power to Europe within five years by using concentrating solar power (CSP). Comprised only of European companies with EU funding, the project looks to bring limited benefits to North Africa and nearly none to sub-saharan Africa.
To gather the vast quantities of solar resource necessary for profitable generation, Desertec has employed the rarely used ‘finders keepers’ tactic as legal and moral justification for land grabbing. “This region is ideal for concentrating solar power, and until now they [Africans] didn’t know what to do with the desert. We realised the potential so we think we should have the right to use it” said one Desertec official. Following the precedent set by Europe in the late 19th century, the EU and Desertec are looking to carve up much of north africa for CSP development, with nearly all generated electricity being exported to the EU.
Jamie Watson, a communities development manager for the project said, “The local communities are really used to it [resource exploitation] and tend not to put up a fight”.
Chris Rhodes of Forbes writes, “The location is logical, since the Saharan desert is virtually uninhabited and is close to Europe”. One Desertec insider speaking off the record agreed adding, “and that’s what makes this project so ideal. There’s no one around to put up a fight and it’s geographically easy for us [EU] to take what we want.”
large-scale projects, such as Desertec, tend to bring many additional benefits as well. Worker and infrastructural requirements bring much-needed stress to the local environment as thousands of highly skilled European and American workers would be imported to the region. Desertec officials have also employed the rarely cited ‘we are just trying to help’ clause. As Desertec’s website claims, “since the effects of climate change [have been] caused by Europe…it is only fair if Europe promotes the introduction of renewable energies in [the region].”
For now, the Desertec project is on track for timely completion and will begin exporting Africa’s solar resource out to Europe within the decade.