Where is the Desertec project for the production of renewable Energy in the Sahara ?

Eight years after its launch, the programme Desertec renewable energy production in the Sahara seemed to be stuck in the sands of the desert. It is nothing, according to Charles Ifrah, the president of the Desertec Alliance, who explains to Batiactu the evolution of the project now focused on the electrification of sub-saharan Africa. Maintenance.
Initially born as a vast programme of construction of solar power plants and wind farms in the deserts of the mediterranean region, the programme Desertec is lost en route. Internal dissensions between the industrial partners and the foundation responsible for the project, had led, in 2013, a spin-off and the creation of DII, the initiative dissenting gathering companies, mainly German. Since then, Desertec was revived in choosing a new president for his Alliance, in the person of Charles Ifrah. He tells us : “We are no longer MedGrid (vast network of electrical trans-mediterranean, editor’s note). This vision pv production exported to Europe is exceeded. Desertec, a network of focused work on the sub-saharan Africa, with two components : the strengthening of infrastructure networks and the development of standalone solutions, off-grid, linked to agriculture stations to increase the resources“.
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A model of sustainable local development


According to the president, the issue would no longer technical but purely financial : “The missing link is the economic viability. The banks were not“. Hence the creation of a cluster with the european investment Bank (EIB), the african development Bank (AFDB) and fund investments. “We are working on a model small-scale, cost-effective, quickly“, says Charles Ifrah. “The development of projects average capacity is limited by the networks that there is a need to strengthen. On the home consumption, it is necessary to replace the generators by the hybrid with the photovoltaic cells, where solar power can represent up to 80 % of the production, which is more environmentally friendly and more economic, “he continued. The market would be huge : Nigeria, first power on the continent, would be in itself a potential of 70 million groups to replace ! “The other revolution will be the storage of electricity, which will allow for the generalization, the democratization of solar energy“, states the president.


Care Centre funded by the Institute Loris Azzaro, example of reuse of a container © Institute Loris Azzaro


The first concrete project of Desertec is based on the use of containers in maritime rehabilitated and equipped with photovoltaic panels. Deployed in the african villages, they allow you to produce the energy used to transform the agricultural production or to put in place projects of fish farming, handicrafts, services or industry. Of what to develop local activities and create co-ops operating. “The drivers have been tested in Kenya, Mali, Senegal and Côte d’ivoire. The first phase focused on six countries and 30 units“, we he says. The objective would be to multiply by 100, this number in 3 or 4 years…


The real problem : funding.
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When asked about the possible synergy with the initiative of Jean-Louis Borloo to electrify Africa, Charles Ifrah responds : “It has mobilized political figures of the african and French of all edges, and formed a conglomeration of a variety of supports. But there has been no realization, no bottom has been lifted and the relay was passed to the Africans themselves. It was economic diplomacy“. The leader of the Desertec Alliance conjures up another plan, the Africa Power Vision, “a real engine, with a program, action plans and capacity-concrete“, where the initiative of Barack Obama’s “Power Africa”. The introduction of a tax of 0.1 % on global financial transactions would, according to him, to raise 200 billion dollars each year, allowing the financing of all power projects, water treatment, education, care and power in Africa.


He said : “For the stations, autonomous solar for rural areas off-grid, at a cost of € 30,000, € 10,000 are made by investment funds and € 5,000 per micro-credit. Desertec intervenes in support“. The president of the Alliance believes that this model of collaborative, with co-financing local, is economically viable and that it is necessary to work on the mediation and collaborative south-south. For him, the next big challenge, after the electrification of the continent, will be the question of the management of waste, including millions of tons are produced each year, without a solution treatment.

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