CliSAP successfully finished in 2018. Climate research continues in the Cluster of Excellence "CLICCS".

Energy from the Desert: A Discussion of the Desertec Project


Approximately 500 people attended a podium discussion yesterday put on by the University of Hamburg and DESY as part of the "Hamburg Contributions to Sustainability" series. On the topic "Energy from the Desert - New perspectives for a sustainable partnership with North Africa," experts debated the sustainability and security of the desert energy project.

A lively discussion took place between Gerhard Knies, co-founder of the Desertec Foundation and "father of the desert energy idea," climate scientist Mojib Latif from the IFM-Geomar in Kiel, Jürgen Scheffran, who researches climate and security at the KlimaCampus in Hamburg, Helmut Dosch, the Chairman of DESY´s Board of Directors, Abdelaziz Bennouna from the National Center for Research and Technology in Morocco, as well as Kirsten Westphal from Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik in Berlin.

"The deserts of the world take in six hours more energy from the sun than humanity uses in a year," clarified Gerhard Knies from Desertec in explaining the project´s basic idea. If we could manage to use only a small percentage of the world’s desert area for energy production, the world´s energy hunger would be satisfied. From a climate protection perspective, the dimensions of the project are interesting: climate researcher Mojib Latif emphasized that "if we still want to reach our two-degree-goal to limit the effects of climate change, then we´ve got to get going."  

But what effects would such a concept have on the states of North Africa? Jürgen Scheffran and Kirsten Westphal agreed that such a project offers an opportunity for the stabilization and development of civil-society in this region. Criteria for environmental and social sustainability as well as participation would nonetheless have to be satisfied first. "This cannot simply be done ´top-down.´ It also has to happen ´bottom-up,´" said Scheffran.

A lack of trust and fear of an energy-based neocolonialism could be potential conflict points between European and African states. On this point Helmut Dorsch pointed to the role of science, which in the context of a project in which countries in large part work together, has a universal language and can advance scientific exchange. Abdelaziz Bennouna emphasized the hope he has for North African states in light of this project – he is hoping it would bring about a real partnership, "unlike with oil."