All but three shareholders of the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii) have quit and the group is now to become a consultancy firm, following a meeting in Rome.

The company said future “core shareholders” would include “ACWA Power (Saudi Arabia), RWE (Germany) and SGCC (China)”. But in a briefing with journalists following the announcement, it became apparent that these will be the only three shareholders.

"Costs were very high and some companies said we're not that interested in the Middle East and North Africa," Paul van Son, CEO, Dii was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The group was launched in 2009 to deliver the Desertec plan to link solar energy in the Middle East and North Africa to European grids. Its objective was to generation 15% of Europe’s energy demand.

The current Dii shareholders have now decided Dii will focus on providing consultancy services to its shareholders to facilitate and support “concrete project activities in the Middle East and North Africa as a service company”.

"When Dii started five years ago, renewable energy played only a minor role in the Middle East and North Africa. This is completely different today,” said van Son in a statement.

“Around 70 projects have now been implemented or are under construction. During these five years Dii has helped by conducting fundamental studies, developing country specific strategies. This phase is now complete and we are adapting to new requirements,” he added.

Dii believes there is potential for 35GW of renewable energy capacity by 2020 and expects the demand for electricity to quadruple by 2050 in the MENA region.

Dii and the foundation behind the Desertec ‘vision’ split acrimoniously in 2013 after what was called a “simmering dispute”.

This story was updated to clarify the extent of the changes for Dii and its remaining shareholders.