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The transition to renewables has already begun. There are thousands of megawatts of wind, photovoltaic and concentrating solar power capacity already delivering power in the Middle East, in North Africa, and in Europe.
For reasons like climate protection, energy independence, or the plummeting price of power from some renewable technologies, more and more countries are turning to a clean energy future.
In the MENA region, Morocco has plans to install 2GW of wind and 2 GW of solar by 2020. The first part of the 500 MW Ouarzazate solar complex is already on its way. Solar plants are cropping up in Jordan. Saudi Arabia is targeting 41GW of solar by 2032 including 25 GW of concentrating solar power.
In the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi has announced hundreds of megawatts of solar projects and set a 7% renewable energy target for 2020. By 2030, Algeria plans to install 22GW of renewable power generating capacity, of which 12GW is intended to meet the domestic demand and 10GW destined for export.
Wind farms are already operating and many more are being constructed across North Africa. In Tunisia, the first project endorsed by the DESERTEC Foundation, a 2GW CSP plant called TuNur, is moving forward and the Tunisian government is now considering a draft law to allow foreign companies to produce power for export in the country for the first time.
Despite ongoing economic difficulties in Europe there are bright spots here too.
Interconnectors under the North Sea are operational between the UK and both France and the Netherlands.
Denmark has announced a plan to completely kick the fossil fuel habit with a 100% renewable energy supply by 2050. The IEA has praised the plan as clear, pragmatic, and flexible. Renewables provide an ever higher proportion of energy demand in Germany. The indications are clear. We can do this!
However, the whole region needs to move much more quickly and intelligently. The IEA warned last year that taking the wrong decisions on our energy supply in the next five years would lock-in carbon emissions, leaving us unable to prevent dangerous climate change.
We simply cannot afford to let this happen. The EU can help this process by establishing the right frameworks. An international agreement that establishes a stable regulatory framework for a truly regional energy market would unleash hundreds of billions in investment in the coming decades.
This would enable North African countries to meet growing domestic energy demand with clean power and help Europe meet its targets for renewables and emission reductions more affordably.
Thiemo Gropp is the director and co-founder of the DESERTEC Foundation, a non-profit organisation that is seeking the world wide implementation of the ‘DESERTEC Concept’. This is a solution to provide climate protection, energy security and development by generating sustainable power from the sites where renewable sources are at their most abundant.