Libmonster ID: JP-1303
Author(s) of the publication: A. Y. NOSKOV
Educational Institution \ Organization: Institute of Africa, Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: solar energy, European Union, North Africa, Union for the Mediterranean, investment

The countries of North Africa have a huge potential for the development of solar energy. And it is natural that this is of interest not only for their governments and business communities, but also for foreign investors.

The energy of the sun's rays warming the Sahara Desert, according to some scientists, is able to meet most of the energy needs of mankind, 1 since the average value of the energy density of solar radiation here significantly exceeds the same indicator even in the southern countries of Europe.

Global interest in solar energy in the world is steadily growing, which is dictated by the development of technologies and a reduction in the cost of its production. Interest in the sector is significantly fueled by high prices for traditional energy carriers, which have remained so in recent years. The leaders in solar energy production and related technologies are the EU, USA, Japan and China.

Professor of Economics at the National Defense University of the United States P. Sullivan in an interview with Al-Arabiya channel on December 21, 2013 noted, in particular, that attracting investment in solar energy in Egypt will lead this country away from instability, accelerate economic growth, and clean electricity will facilitate the solution of social problems, since access to it for the population will expand, it will increase the country's investment attractiveness in the eyes of foreign investors 2. It is noteworthy that in the same interview, he hopes for investments from Western countries, which can make a great contribution to the development of the sector based on a combination of monetary and technological components, which financial investments from the Persian Gulf countries are not able to do.


In recent years, North African countries, despite their relatively modest achievements in the solar energy sector, have shown a trend of increasing attention to the industry.

In 2008, the Egyptian Parliament adopted a development strategy that stipulates that renewable sources will account for 20% of the country's total electricity production by 2020 - 12% of which is wind power, and the remaining 8% is from other sources, including solar power3.

Currently, two projects have been implemented. The first is the Kuraimat hybrid power plant (powered by gas and solar energy) 90 km from Cairo with a capacity of up to 150 MW, where the share of energy produced by the sun is 25-27%4. Construction of the station was carried out from September 2007 to July 2011 by the Spanish company Iberdlora, with loan financing provided by the World Bank ($50 million) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency ($190 million)5.

The second project is the solar electrification of two remote villages in the Siwa oasis in 2010, based on an agreement signed by the Italian Government and the Egyptian Ministry of the Environment for a grant of 400,000 euro6.

Another way to use the sun's energy in the Land of the Pyramids is to desalinate water and extract it from underground wells using equipment that uses solar energy. The largest manufacturer of such equipment in Egypt is KarmSolar, founded in 2011. She doesn't have many projects yet, but she is the first in North Africa in the list of achievements.

page 45

a pumping station that runs exclusively on solar energy (the total capacity of the batteries is 30 kW), as well as international recognition - prizes in attractive business plan competitions 7.

Algeria also has some achievements in solar energy. In 2011, a hybrid power plant with a capacity of 146 MW was put into operation in the town of Hassi Rmel, in the vicinity of which the country's largest gas field is located, of which solar energy accounts for 25 MW (17%). New Energy Algeria (NEAL), a subsidiary of oil and gas giants Sonatrach and Sonelgaz, has been building it for 4 years, with a total investment of $350 million.8 In addition, a project to electrify 20 villages in the south of the country using 9 solar generators has been successfully implemented. In the Ruiba municipal district of Algeria province, Sonelgaz has established the production of solar panels.

Further development of the industry is planned. The Algerian government has adopted a long-term program to expand the production of renewable energy sources, which implies investing $60 billion in the industry until 2030. to increase the capacity of renewable power plants to 22 GW 10. Of this amount, 10 GW will be allocated for export to the EU11.

A total of 67 stations are to be built under the program, of which 27 are photovoltaic (powered by solar panels), 27 are hybrid (gas and solar rays), 6 are solar thermal, and 7 are wind. Among the planned projects, it is planned to put into operation in 2016 a thermal solar power plant in the province of El Oued with a capacity of 150 MW12. Thus, Algeria is making efforts to produce solar energy, both for domestic consumption and for export abroad, relying not only on foreign investment, but also on its own forces.

Tunisia's plans are no less ambitious. Since 2005, the country has launched the government-approved Solar Energy Program (PROSOL). The program includes 40 projects for creating renewable power plants and laying a 400 kW cable under the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. The program is planned to be implemented jointly with Italian companies. In 2009, the Government of the country adopted another document - the Solar Energy Development Plan, on the basis of which part of the Desertec Industrial Initiative project should be implemented (see below). The project involves the large-scale construction of power plants in North Africa and the Middle East, using solar, wind, water and biomass processing for subsequent energy production and sale to EU countries. The implementation of the plan is scheduled to start in the first half of 2016, with 40% of the investment coming from the government, with the rest coming from the private sector.13

But the most widespread development of solar energy is probably in Morocco. The energy situation in the country is significantly complicated due to low energy reserves. The industrial value of numerous but low-power layers of hard and brown coal, anthracite is limited, for which Morocco occupies one of the leading positions on the African continent in terms of reserves of bituminous rocks, but so far their extraction and use have not become widespread.

Up to 97% of Morocco's demand for certain fuels is still provided by supplies from abroad, 14 while the Government predicts that domestic energy demand is expected to double by 2020 and increase more than 5 - fold by 2050. Morocco's goal is to reduce its dependence on energy imports. In this regard, by 2040, 40% of electricity production should be achieved from renewable sources, including 18% from solar energy.

In 2009, the Moroccan Government announced its intention to build a network of power plants with a total capacity of 2 GW by 2020. The implementation of this plan is entrusted to the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN)15.

A lot of work on providing solar panels to households is carried out in remote settlements that are not connected to the power grid. Today, Morocco has the lowest level of access to electricity among all North African countries. As recently as 1996, 78% of the inhabitants of Moroccan villages did not have access to electricity. Since that time, the country has started electrifying rural localities 16.

For 5 years under this program, TEMASOL (which includes the Moroccan National Energy Office, French companies Total and Electricite de France)electrified, mainly in the northern provinces of the country, 24.8 thousand households (170 thousand inhabitants) using solar panels 17. Funding was provided by the state, as well as at the expense of the population. By 2018, the company has planned to electrify another 26 thousand households 18.

In addition to TEMASOL, smaller companies also conduct similar business in Morocco. More than 50 thousand farms are equipped with solar panels in the country, and their number is constantly growing. However, this figure is very modest, because there are more than 3 million households in rural areas of the country.

Japanese companies are starting business in Morocco's solar energy sector (construction of a small $7 million plant in Assa Zak province, negotiations are underway on other projects).

page 46


Total capacity of photovoltaic * stations by region (MW)

















Asia-Pacific Region








America (South and North)
















Middle East and Africa








Other countries
















* Photovoltaics - a method of direct conversion of sunlight into electricity using devices containing photosensitive elements (author's note).

Source: European Photovoltaics Association -

A number of small projects have been implemented in Libya. In 1976, an oil pipeline from the Dahra field to the Sidra port was equipped with solar panels designed to power the alarm system. In Zella, solar panels were used to power a local radio station, and several solar-powered pumping stations operated in different cities.

In the early 2000s, interest in the development of renewable energy significantly increased both on the part of the authorities and on the part of foreign investors, primarily British ones. In 2003, small projects were implemented to electrify remote settlements: in total, more than 150 mini-stations with a total capacity of 125 kW were installed, as well as more than 2000 solar water heaters and 35 solar pumping units. The amount of capacity that produced energy from the sun in Libya, before the known events, was 5 MW.

North African countries are also taking measures to develop the sector by supporting small businesses. Thus, at the end of 2012, Egypt adopted a law exempting a number of goods related to the development of renewable energy systems from customs duties and sales tax.19

In Tunisia, the adopted development program implies the promotion of solar energy with financial and fiscal support, which involves loans to the population, in which the state pays up to 20% of the cost of solar water heaters. Their acquisition reduces the impact of power outages and is often the only way to ensure access to electricity in remote and sparsely populated villages.

Despite the adopted programs, the level of solar energy development in North African countries today significantly lags behind the same indicator in other regions. However, this situation is typical not only for North Africa, but also for the whole of Africa, as well as for the Middle East (see Table).

The main reason for this is low attractiveness in terms of potential profitability.

Of course, solar energy has made a big leap in development. The cost of its production over the past 40 years has decreased by 20 times, reaching $0.21 per kWh (although only the American company First Solar, one of the world leaders in the industry, has been able to achieve such success). But even these prices are several times higher than similar indicators of the cost of electricity produced from other sources (gas, coal, nuclear fuel), yielding even to wind power.

The sector's relatively successful growth rates in Europe, and in recent years in China and the Asia-Pacific region, were made possible largely due to greater government support (for example, in Germany, until recently, the government compensated manufacturers for up to 70% of their costs) and the availability of highly developed technologies, which the Southern Mediterranean countries cannot provide to their producers. In addition, the prices of traditional energy carriers, as well as electricity prices, for consumers in some European countries are significantly higher than similar prices in other countries due to low reserves of their own raw materials, which contributes to the profitability of solar energy producers. That is why the production of solar energy, from the point of view of economic efficiency, is currently more relevant only in the absence of other sources or a great distance from them, on the territory of the Russian Federation.-

page 47

for example, in the case of remote settlements.

With the exception of Morocco, only hybrid power plants are currently being built in North Africa, which remain more profitable than solar-powered stations. As for the Moroccan projects, their existence is due to the difficult situation with their own resources.

In our opinion, the development of solar energy in North African countries in the coming years will not have broad prospects without the support of governments or large financial and technological investments from foreign investors.


The Desertec Iindustrial Initiative (DIP) project was the culmination of interest in exploiting the "solar" potential of North Africa. In 2009, the DII Gmbh consortium was formed to implement it21.

The project's history goes back to 1986, when the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster forced scientists to think about finding safer ways to produce energy. Then the German scientist G. Knies, analyzing the solar potential of the Sahara, concluded that for 6 months the Sahara receives more energy from the sun than is consumed by all mankind during the year.

The research lasted for about 20 years before it was taken seriously. 22 In 2003, at the initiative of G. Knies, the Club of Rome*, together with the National Energy Research Center of Jordan, founded the Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation. In January 2009, this body was transformed into the Desertec Foundation, a non-profit organization with the aim of helping scientists and economists in the Mediterranean countries who are developing the Desertec idea.

The project is to be implemented by the DII GmbH consortium established in the same year. It includes 19 shareholder organizations, including the American First Solar, the Italian Tenia, the German Deutsche Bank, Schott AG, and others. 23

In November 2011, at the DII conference in Cairo, it was decided to implement the first phase of the project - the construction of a network of solar power plants in the Moroccan city of Ouarzazate on an area of 12 square kilometers, with a capacity of 500 MW and a cost of $ 2 billion. euro 24. This power plant network is one of five planned electricity networks in Morocco (Ouarzazate, Boujdour, Fum el Oued, Sebhat Taha and Ain Beni Mathar) with a total capacity of 2 GW by 2020.

At the end of 2011 The World Bank approved a $ 297 million loan. EUR 25 for the implementation of the first phase of the project. A year later, a financing agreement of 300 million euros was signed by the European Investment Bank, the German Development Bank KfW, the French Development Agency 26. The African Development Bank also agreed to participate in the financing of the construction.

In May 2012, DII and Moroccan MASEN signed a memorandum of understanding. In September 2012, the Saudi company ACWA Power (a member of the DII Gmbh consortium) won the tender for the construction of a power plant in Ouarzazate 27. Finally, in May 2013, its construction was started. This is a kind of key event in the history of Desertec, symbolizing the transition from words to deeds.

Initially, in the mid-2000s, many analysts viewed the idea of Desertec as fanciful and impossible. But almost immediately, large German companies showed great attention to it. Subsequently, the accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011 contributed to an increase in interest in the project. Public opinion in the EU countries on the development of nuclear energy has become more negative. Some well-known political figures, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. President Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker spoke about the need to reform the energy strategy and significantly reduce the number of nuclear power plants.

In our opinion, with such trends, the development of alternative energy sources should be widespread and developed in the EU countries, including through the implementation of the DII project. On the other hand, at first the idea of this project did not find understanding in the League of Arab States (LAS). Back in 2009-2010, before the events that are now called the "Arab Spring", scientists and business representatives expressed concerns about possible political difficulties: interaction between the authorities and the population of the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, the threat of terrorism, and contradictions between individual countries in the region. The Arab Spring has only exacerbated these concerns.

Even if the project is technically successful, it is impossible to be sure that energy will be delivered (and whether it will be delivered at all) to European (non-African and non-domestic) customers at an acceptable price over the next few years. In the event of political complications, the continuity of supply may be compromised.

There were also political contradictions in the countries of the European Union. Britain reacted with restraint to the project.

All these factors have caused and continue to cause doubts among analysts and experts. However, the Desertec project continues to exist, with governments and international organizations paying attention to it.-

* The Club of Rome is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1968 that unites representatives of the scientific, financial, political and cultural elite. The main goal of the club is to organize and assist in conducting research on a wide range of issues, mainly in the socio-political field.

page 48

the quality of the organization remains high, and practical work has begun.

As an alternative to the idea of Desertec, we can consider the joint Japanese-Algerian plan Sahara Solar Breeder Project (solar reactor project in the Sahara), the idea of which was developed jointly by the University of Tokyo and the University of Science and Technology Oran. The project idea is the construction of a large number of solar panels and solar collectors in the desert, devices that store electricity, the construction of means of its delivery, as well as the construction and construction of capacities for the production of silicon from sand, including for the production and maintenance of solar panels.

This ambitious idea has many unresolved issues, both technical and economic, but interest in it remains both in Japan and in some other countries, including the United States. In 2012, the Desertec Foundation and the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding 28, which indicates the possibility of some kind of cooperation in the future and work based on joint efforts of Japanese and European companies.

the prospects

There are prospects for solar power development in North Africa, but their scale and success depend on a number of factors, including, to a large extent, on the development of technologies in the coming years. Many analysts agree that the cost of producing solar electricity should be equal to the indicators of gas and even nuclear power over the next 10 to 15 years (the world's largest producer of solar energy, the American company First Solar, stated that it would be able to achieve this already during 201429).

The main and constant advantage of North Africa is the huge energy of the sun's rays, which is able to produce more electricity than in other regions. However, with today's profitability indicators in the short term, the main advantages of solar energy for Europeans will be mainly due to the environmental component, as well as the desire to reduce energy dependence on external suppliers, including Russia.

Against the background of the complex military and political situation in the Southern Mediterranean countries, these advantages are not sufficiently justified due to the high risk and high cost. Therefore, the task of developing solar energy in the region on its own and by attracting external investors, first of all, falls not on business structures, but on the governments of North African countries. It is their activity that will determine the development of solar energy in the countries of the region as one of the pillars of economic growth.

1 Sun cheaper than oil. Franz alt, article 141, 2006 - late=article_detail.html&flash=true

2 Clean energy investment could steer Egypt past instability // Al-Arabiya, 21.12.2013 - 2013/12/21/Clean-energy-investment-could-steer-Egypt-past-instability.html

3 Al-istratijiya li al-taqa al-mutajdada fi misra (Renewable Energy Strategy in Egypt) - Arabic/page61.htm

4 At-taqa al-shamsiyah al-duiyyah fi misra (Photovoltaic solar power in Egypt) - htm

5 Iberdrola Fires up ISCC in Egypt, at Last -

6 Qahrabat qaryatin naitin bi wasat nizam al-hilaya al-futu-faltiya bi waha Siwa-Matruh Governorate (Electrification of two remote villages using a photovoltaic system in the Siwa - Muhawiz Matruh oasis) -

7 KarmSolar projects -

8 La premiere central hybride algerienne inauguree aujourd'hui a Hassi R'mel -

9 L'experience des 20 villages du sud algerien -

10 Construction of 20 solar power plants to be completed in Algeria in 2014 -

11 Le programme des energies renouvelables -

12 The first solar thermal plant into service by 2016 // Sonelgaz CEO, Echorouk from 2012/01/23 - ara/articles/106646.html

13 Tunisia announces 4th Desertec deal and 2 GW of Solar! -http://www.greenprop

14 Ekonomicheskaya infrastruktura stran Afrika [Economic infrastructure of African countries], ed. by E. V. Morozenskaya, Moscow, IAfr RAS, 2012, pp. 87-88.


16 ONE-rural electrification and smart metering

17 Temasol: providing energy access to remote rural households in Morocco - Morocco_Temasol_2011.pdf

18 Moroccan poor leapfrog fossil fuels - Switch on the Sun - un

Waled Abu Al-Khair. 19 Solar power gains popularity in Egypt // Al-Shorfa. 07.19.2013.

20 Price of the sun. Ведомости, N 105 (2871), 10.06.2011 -


22 Could the desert sun power the world?


24 Could the desert sun power the world? ...

25 Ouarzazate solar plant receives World Bank boost - 11/18/newsbrief-07

26 Ouarzazate solar project receives funding boost 11/20/newsbrief-05

27 Morocco's solar power industry on the rise - Ouarzazate mega-project launched - alternative_energy/1601


29 Price of the sun...


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