Former Desertec members ‘continue to back desert-based solar’

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Two of the former shareholders in the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii) have said they will continue to invest in the region despite leaving the project.

Speaking for the first time since it emerged earlier this week that the Dii had lost most of its backers, Munich Re and Deutsche Bank said they both continued to have an interest in the Middle East and North Africa, where the Dii was looking to link large-scale renewable energy projects to Europe.

When the news broke on Tuesday that Dii was changing its focus after losing most of its backers, the organisation’s chief executive Paul van Son was quoted by Reuters citing a lack of interest in the region among companies as a reason for their departure.

Speaking to PV Tech, Stefan Straub, Munich RE’s renewable energy spokesperson, said the reinsurance firm had stepped aside from the project to allow the Dii to progress into its next phase with a more established team.

“The concept phase is closed and something new needs to be developed. The three main companies that remain in Dii will continue this development as they are industrial companies and project leading companies, which we are not.”

But he added that Munich RE was not done with projects in the region, as it just reinsured Noor 1, one of the biggest solar projects in North Africa, which also happens to be run by ACWA Power, one of the remaining shareholders in Dii. “Of course we still support the idea to have solar power developed in the desert regions,” said Straub.

“This is a place where Deutsche Bank wants to be. I think what Paul said was not directed at Deutsche Bank,” added Klaus Thoma, a spokesman for Deutsche Bank.

But according to a spokeswoman from Terna Energy, a fellow former shareholder, the decision to leave the project was not made suddenly, but quite some time ago.

“It has been a long time the whole 20 partner team has not been doing things,” she said.

She also said the company’s strategy and circumstances had changed since the Dii began, which echoes E.On’s reasons for its departure from the project earlier this year in April. In May, CSP Today reported that both the Dii and E.On admitted that the need to export energy to Europe was “over-estimated”.

“Terna Energy is no longer interested in solar energy being imported into Europe,” said the Terna Energy spokeswoman.

Apart from Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power, the remaining two backers of Dii will be Germany’s RWE and China’s SGCC. The organisation will continue in more of a consultative capacity.

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