This is the question posed by Amy Myers Jaffe at The Energy Collective and she thinks the answer may be “yes”.

We previously wrote about the potential for North Africa solar energy to supply electricity to Europe here. (Europe Covets the North African Desert)

Ms. Jaffe points out that despite its promise, the current unrest in many North African and Middle East countries is increasing uncertainty and could scare European investment away.  Moreover, given the massive scope of the funds to build the solar operations and the vast size of the project, will consumers pay a higher price for this energy source?

Over the last few years, North Africa has been heralded by clean energy advocates as the future of solar electricity production and the solution to the electricity needs of the Mediterranean and, perhaps one day in the coming decades, all of Europe. As the region faces a seemingly endless surge of uprisings and social protests, though, the risk associated with multi-billion dollar investments in the Sahara’s nascent industry is rising.

Massive capital investment is required, the technology is rapidly changing, and the exorbitant prices of solar electricity mean it cannot truly compete in a free market environment. A closer look at North Africa’s peculiarly structured national projects leaves one to wonder where the electricity will be sold, how it will be transmitted, where it will be transmitted, how quickly the CSP-PV cocktail will become outdated, and what precisely will induce consumers to pay over 10 cents more per kilowatt hour for their electricity.

Notwithstanding the potential loss of European investors, she does make that point that there is an electricity deficit in North Africa now and some plans for developing solar power to meet African needs are moving along (Egypt, Morocco).   If so, maybe it is time that Africa forget about the Europeans and let local governments find regional firms to complete the task.

 

 

 

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