The DESERTEC Foundation, the body behind an ambitious plan to power Europe with huge renewable energy plants in the deserts of North Africa, has quit the industrial consortium seeking to implement the vision.

In a strongly worded statement the foundation said numerous “irresolvable disputes” had emerged with the Desertec Industrial Intiative (Dii), the industry group working to deliver the plan in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

The foundation singled out future strategy and the “managerial style of Dii’s top management” as the areas that had become the biggest sources of contention between the two bodies.

Founded in 2009, Dii is a high profile conglomeration of some of the biggest names in renewable energy and finance, including First Solar, ABB and Deutsche Bank. The body’s mission was to promote the construction of vast solar and wind plants in the desert and link them to European electricity grids through new intercontinental power networks.

But since the end of last year Dii has been in visible trouble. In November the Spanish government failed to attend the official signing of an agreement other EU member countries over plans to build a Desertec ‘reference’ wind and solar project in Morocco.

This was followed by a series of high profile departures from the consortium, including Bosch and Siemens.

DESERTEC Foundation said it wanted to avoid being “dragged into the maelstrom of negative publicity and disorientation of the industrial consortium”.

“The dispute at the management level has already led to resentment among the partners of the Desertec Foundation and it negatively affects our reputation and trust. This is what the Desertec Foundation intends to avoid,” the statement said.

Thiemo Gropp, director of the DESERTEC Foundation, acknowledged the challenges Dii had had to face in implementing the Desertec plan.

“It was always clear to us that our idea of producing electricity from the deserts on this earth was never an easy task and will always face extreme challenges. The employees of Dii have contributed enormously to the global transition towards renewable energy.

“However, after many months filled with a lot of discussions we had to conclude that the DESERTEC Foundation needs to preserve its independence. This is why Dii and DESERTEC Foundation will go separate ways which does not exclude future cooperation.”

It was unclear where the foundation’s decision to leave Dii will leave the consortium.

The foundation’s statement pointed out that it rather than Dii is the “sole owner” of the “Desertec” brand name and concept, raising questions over Dii's ability to continue functioning without the foundation's support.

PV Tech has contacted Dii for comment on the foundation’s departure.

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