afrol News, 16 March - A giant Sahara sun power project, which could provide Europe with 15% of its electricity needs, is criticised for not revealing where it plans to establish its pilot project. Human rights activists fear Desertec is eying Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara as its location.
The Germany-based Society for Threatened People (GfbV) is demanding that Desertec CEO Paul von Son reveals where the giant scheme's pilot project will be located. Mr von Son has held talks with the Moroccan Energy Ministry about the start-up of the first phase of the euro 400 billion initiative.
In interviews with the German press, the Desertec leader only has revealed the pilot project would be located in a coastal area of Morocco, not deeply into the Sahara desert.
Ulrich Delius, Africa researcher at GfbV, says he fears that this could only mean a location within the Moroccan-occupied territory of Western Sahara, "because only there, there still exist larger unexploited areas close to the coast." Most of the proper Moroccan coast is densely populated or reserved for tourism development.
The German rights group is now asking politicians supporting Desertec to make sure the energy consortium does not establish solar energy plants in Western Sahara. Desertec's supporters include German Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle and Professor Klaus Toepfer, the former director of the UN's Environment Programme (UNEP).
Mr Toepfer earlier this month agreed to an appointment as "strategic adviser" to Desertec. He is to assure the giant project is to benefit of participants in Europe, but also in the Middle East and North Africa. "It is vital to guarantee that the countries in which electricity is produced from renewable energies also benefit in no small measure. This will be my role," Mr Toepfer said upon his appointment.
Minister Brüderle earlier this month had promised Desertec massive support through its export promotion programmes. The Desertec consortium includes Germany's most known giant companies, such as Deutsche Bank and Siemens and the country's leading energy companies E.on and RWE. Also Swiss-Swedish ABB is on the team.
Desertec plans to install large numbers of solar panels in large parts of the Sahara desert in a giant scheme that aims at producing up to 15 percent of Europe's electricity needs. Plans are for landing power in South Spain, meaning it needs to pass from Morocco over the Straight of Gibraltar.
Since the launch of Desertec's plans, wide support has been gained for the project in Germany. But the company has so far revealed little of its concrete localisation plans. Original ideas indicated that primary solar production sites could include Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and even Libya.
But among the closest localities connected to the electricity grid is Western Sahara. GfbV now asks Minister Brüderle to make German government support for Desertec dependent on a guarantee the Moroccan-occupied territory will not be exploited.
"So far, the German federal government has been conscious not to support investments and projects in Western Sahara," the organisation wrote to Mr Brüderle. "Respecting international law and the right to self-determination of the Sahrawis means that this careful German policy towards Morocco should be continued," the letter concludes.
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