Desertec chief: Split was culmination of simmering dispute

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

The split between the two bodies that had jointly been working to realise the ambitious Desertec renewable energy vision was the culmination of a long-running dispute over the project’s strategy and governance, it has emerged.

Yesterday, the DESERTEC Foundation, the body that originally devised the concept to power Europe with renewable energy generated in North African and Middle Eastern Desert, revealed it was quitting the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii), a consortium set up to deliver the vision.

Speaking to PV Tech, Thiemo Gropp, co-founder of the DESERTEC Foundation, said the foundation had had long-standing issues with the Dii’s governance.

“The governance issue is that here’s an entity that’s rather difficult to control and to manage and to come to clear decisions and to take decisions. And so if there’s a dispute it’s going to be difficult to solve this. And for about the last year there’s been a heavy dispute going on, and to solve this was difficult under this governance framework.”

Gropp would not disclose the exact nature of the dispute, but said it had been exacerbated by the two bodies’ disagreements over the strategy for the project. He said the foundation team had read a recent newspaper article quoting the Dii claiming that consortium’s strategy of exporting renewable energy generated in North African and Middle Eastern deserts to Europe via new power grid links had been downgraded.

“No one can say for definite which is the right strategy to move forward with. But we were quite unhappy to read in a newspaper a couple of weeks ago that the Desertec concept has changed and that the export option to Europe was cancelled, because we’d never said that and the concept hadn’t changed, and it wasn’t the duty of industrial shareholders to change the concept. So that’s why we decided to step back and why we have to pull out the name and concept to avoid further damage.”

Gropp said he was unsure what would happen to the Dii consortium as the foundation owns the Desertec name and concept.

“We are a small foundation, they are a huge consortium, so they can do a lot, and they can do it under a different name,” said Gropp.

“We’re not sure what will happen and what will be decided within Dii about how they clear up this situation. We would be happy if they move on and even more happy if they move on in the right direction, but I cannot predict what will happen.”

A spokesman for Dii said the consortium was “not happy” about the foundation’s departure from the partnership, but said it would “respect” the foundation's decision.

He insisted that ‘Desertec’ name was “not essential” to the work the consortium is doing and that the body would continue to use its registered name of ‘Dii’.

And he said the split would “not alter” Dii’s plans to harness the renewable energy potential of desert regions.

Meanwhile Gropp said he was “confident” the Desertec movement would survive the spat with Dii.

“This idea has been going on for last 25 years and the last 10 years under the Desertec name. So it will move on: its civil society-driven, it’s supported by many organisations around the globe, in Souteast Asia, in North Africa, in the Middle East and so on, so we’re confident this won’t stop it.

“But of course, yes, this is creating some turbulence and we would be happy if it went the other way. In general we’re not so pessimistic, but we are looking for other supporters; we have some more industrial supporters and supporters from other organisations from other areas. But of course we have to restart a few things. I would say the collaboration with Dii was 20-30% of what we do, so there’s a gap now of course.”

And he said the concept remained valid, despite some criticism in the run up to the split with Dii that the notion of importing renewable energy generated in the deserts of another continent was an outmoded one.

“We think or hope that the fate of Desertec will not be decided only in this most complicated region [Europe/MENA]. So there are places like Saudi Arabia that can move on basically in their own country, China, Australia, South Africa and Chile too.

“It’s technically feasible, it’s financially feasible; politically and regulatorily it’s quite challenging, but it’s possible. It’s not a question of can we do it or is it possible; it’s a question of whether we’re willing to do it. I don’t have the answer, but that’s our job and that’s what we’re working on.”

1 December 2021
Join this virtual conference on 1-2 December 2021 for expert presentations covering PV Module Technology, Supply & Site Optimisation for Utility-Scale. Delegates can access streamed presentations, session recordings and chat/messaging tools to connect with fellow delegates and speakers. Speakers include leading developers, manufacturers, testing and research institutes, including: NREL, Silicon Ranch, Sonnedix, Heliene, Powertis, LONGi Solar, JinkoSolar, PVEL, Risen Energy, Seraphim, STS, Trina Solar, Eternalsun Spire, QEERI, Fraunhofer, Estuary Capital Partners, VDE, First Solar, Longroad Energy, Powertis and DNV Energy Systems
2 December 2021
Intersolar is the world’s leading exhibition & conference series for the solar industry. As part of this event series, Intersolar India in Mumbai is India’s most pioneering exhibition and conference for India’s solar industry. It takes place annually and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. Since 2019, Intersolar India is held under the umbrella of The smarter E India – India’s innovation hub for the new energy world.
9 December 2021
The Smart Energy Council is hosting Australia’s second Virtual Smart Energy Conference and Exhibition on Thursday, 9 December 2021. This event will show that the industry powers on despite COVID-19 and we are standing together undeterred in spirit. Bringing our global community together using the latest technology.
13 January 2022
Intersolar North America and Energy Storage North America “Come Together” for the first time in Long Beach, CA—connecting installers, developers, utilities, technology providers, policy makers, and key stakeholders from around the world to advance the clean energy future. With best-in-class conference programming, integrated exhibits and pavilions, and the live Solar Games installer competition, #isnaesna21 will showcase the industry trends, innovative solutions, and emerging talent transforming the solar, energy storage, and e-mobility markets. Register today to redeem our exclusive offer for PV Tech readers—free expo hall or 20% off full conference pass.
1 February 2022
As Solar Finance & Investment enters its ninth year, we sit on the cusp of a new power market with solar at its heart. The 2022 edition of the event will build on our years of expertise and relationships to bring investors and lenders together with top developers. Connect with leaders in the field and use exclusive insights to drive investment and development decisions for the future. Meet new and existing project partners at the largest gathering of European solar investors and lenders.
23 February 2022
Held annually since 2016, the Energy Storage Summit Europe is the place to be for senior stakeholders in the European storage industry. Designed to accelerate deployment of storage, we examine evolving chemistries, business models, project design, revenue stacks and use cases for storage. The 2022 edition will include exclusive content around longer duration solutions, energy strategies for wide-scale deployment of EVs and "EnTech", the event which sits at the intersection of digitisation, decentralisation and decarbonation of the power system. Come to meet TSOs, DSOs, Utilities, Developers, Investors and Lenders and leave with new contacts, partners and a wealth of information.

Read Next

November 30, 2021
Solar EPC company iSun is investing in US commercial PV project developer Encore Renewable Energy as part of efforts to accelerate its geographic expansion.
November 30, 2021
The CEO of Hevel Group, Igor Shakhray, will leave the company to become CEO of Unigreen Energy, a silicon wafer and cell manufacturer, which is owned by Hevel majority shareholder Ream Management LLC
November 30, 2021
South Korean LG Electronics has announced a series of new appointments as it aims to target greater growth and customer satisfaction moving into 2022, while also elevating certain critical departments to division level in order to supply them with greater resources
November 30, 2021
Solar risk manager kWh Analytics has launched a new offering that it says allows PV project owners to receive upfront payments in return for maintaining asset performance.
November 30, 2021
‘Solar Module Super League’ (SMSL) member Canadian Solar has raised US$150 million through a share offering, with proceeds set to help the manufacturer expand its energy storage arm.
November 29, 2021
Commercial and industrial (C&I) solar developer Altus Power will offer distributed renewables and energy storage solutions through a new partnership with energy major Shell.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021
Solar Media Events
February 1, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal