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.”

26 January 2022
Join this free webinar for our analysis of the growth of N-Type technology including; new capacity expansions and production output. We'll also be looking at the global manufacturing footprint with forecasts on how much product will be made outside of China this year and which companies are driving technology change across the crystalline silicon value chain.
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.
7 March 2022
Take your chance to join the most powerful platform in the MENA region. Middle East Energy (MEE), Intersolar, and ees, the leading energy exhibitions are joining hands to co-deliver an outstanding renewables and energy storage event at Middle East Energy 2021. Renewables and energy storage at MEE is the largest gathering of solar and renewable energy industry professionals in the Middle East & Africa, offering the most effective trade focused platform to international manufacturers and distributors looking to meet regional buyers.
8 March 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 March 2022
When it comes to storage, the US market exceeded a gigawatt of advanced energy storage installations (weighted towards lithium ion) at 1.46 GW, more than the previous six years in total! An exponential growth rate could see the market hit 7.5 GW p.a. by 2025. The summit will provide a wealth of content around this vital piece in the US power puzzle, with sessions dedicated to explore how companies are making money from batteries, the latest chemistries and their applications as they apply to different use-cases. We ask how investors can match ESG criteria to batteries and we will bring case studies of successful deployment and project execution onto the stage to examine how you can ensure your own projects are successful.
29 March 2022
Now in its 10th sell-out year, Large Scale Solar returns to Lisbon in 2022. We are excited to gather together face-to-face with the European solar industry as we provide unique and exclusive access to a powerful selection of the market's key stakeholders. Join this elite summit to find out how the market is maturing, which new markets are becoming more exciting, how technology is evolving and who's driving the market forward into the 2020s. Always senior, packed with developers, EPCs, utilities and investors this is the event for companies serious about European solar PV.

Read Next

PV Tech Premium
January 18, 2022
Solar project developer Eco Energy World is aiming to “aggressively” grow its US PV pipeline after formally entering the market last week and intends to replicate the cheaper engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) costs it sees in Europe in the country. PV Tech Premium speaks to CEO Svante Kumlin to find out more.
January 18, 2022
PV inverter specialist Huayu New Energy has upgraded its portfolio of single-module microinverters, launching them in the Brazilian market this month.
January 18, 2022
Trina Solar’s tracker manufacturing unit TrinaTracker has launched a 1P single-row tracker, dubbed Vanguard.
January 18, 2022
Spanish solar company Soltec Power Holdings, through its subsidiary Powertis, has sold a controlling stake in 421MW of its solar PV projects and 90MW of energy storage in Italy to German investment firm Aquila Capital under a co-development agreement.
January 18, 2022
Solar tracker manufacturer Soltec has signed contracts to supply 610MW of its SF7 bifacial trackers to Enel Green Power for use in two PV plants in Peru and Colombia.
January 18, 2022
Prefabricated solar solutions manufacturer 5B is looking to improve the scalability and cost of its technology through an AU$33.4 million (US$24 million) innovation programme and support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
January 26, 2022
Free Webinar
Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 8, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal