Tag Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Solar link will bridge Mediterranean

EMBARGOED until 2300 GMT on Monday 15 April Renewable energy is rapidly becoming a much more serious possibility, as novel technologies come of age and offer the prospect of a new relationship between Africa, the Middle East and Europe. LONDON, 16 April – The world’s largest concentrated solar power plant opened in March in the middle of Abu Dhabi’s western region, amid the country’s giant oil fields. The $600m plant’s hundreds of mirrors direct sunlight towards pipes full of oil to drive steam turbines that in turn provide enough electricity for thousands of homes. In a country whose vast wealth is generated by oil, adopting a new technology that produces only 100 megawatts of power – about a tenth the amount of a large coal-fired plant – may seem a mere token, but it is part of a much larger industrial strategy for the region. Serious money and political clout in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa is aimed at building hundreds of similar plants. The potential is so great that all the electricity requirements of these desert countries – and a good slice of Europe’s – could be met by 2050. European companies are now putting serious investment into a scheme to bring electricity from North Africa across the Mediterranean to their shores.  Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia are among the Saharan countries that could provide all their own power and much of Europe’s.  Morocco and Tunisia are already building plants, and Morocco has an electricity connector to Spain. It has long been known that harnessing the power of the sunlight that shines on a few hundred square miles of desert would be enough to provide electricity for all of mankind’s needs. How to collect the power and transport it was the problem. Now both technical barriers to development have been solved with a variety of schemes. The Abu Dhabi plant that uses mirrors is one of a number of similar ideas that arrange reflectors to concentrate the Sun’s rays to make electricity. Several have now been proved to work commercially – and the price of power continues to come down. These plants are in operation in many sunny parts of the world including California, Spain and Australia.

Night light

  Photo-voltaic cells that make electricity direct from sunlight are even more prevalent, with the price of panels also continuing to fall. Add to the power of sunlight the fact that many desert areas are also windy, and the potential for power production is huge. A factor that has previously worried investors is that even in the desert the Sun does not shine at night, when much of the electricity is needed. To get round that a system has been developed to store excess heat in molten salt and use it to generate electricity after dark. The wind turbines in the desert built alongside the solar arrays would of course continue to pump out power at night. The next problem – how to transport electricity from isolated areas with low populations to the cities that need it – is also solvable. Modern super-conducting cables using direct power can transport electricity across 3,000 kilometres, losing only 3% of their power per 1,000 kilometres. These cables, developed in Europe, are not theoretical: they are already in use in China. Super-conductors could be laid across the Mediterranean so that North African sunshine could power Europe. The organization that aims to create a super-grid across North Africa, the Middle East and Europe to utilize this resource, Dii, accepts that the problems are not just technical but also political. Some of the countries with the greatest solar resource that would need to be connected to each other to make maximum gains from the technology are not good friends.

Local use comes first

  This would make a super-grid difficult to construct, and electricity supplies liable to disruption if disputes broke out. Power plants would also be easy targets for terrorists. There are other political sensitivities. The European Union, and particularly Germany, which is very keen on the idea of exploiting this renewable resource, are anxious that Africa and the Middle East should feel ownership of the projects rather than that they are being leant on to cooperate. European politicians feel it is important that these countries should also be the first to get the benefit of the solar power stations with the electricity being used locally, and only surpluses exported across the Mediterranean. There are now 36 partners in the Dii project, with most of the money and expertise coming from Germany and other large European manufacturers. According to the German Aerospace Centre, investment would need to be €400 billion by 2050 in plants and transmission lines to realize the dream of providing the entire electricity supply for North Africa and 15% of Europe’s needs. Studies have shown that even with transmission losses it is cheaper to construct solar plants in North Africa than in southern Europe. This is partly because the Sun shines from 3,000 to 3,500 hours a year, with greater intensity than in Europe, but also because there are large tracts of unused land for the construction of fields of mirrors or lenses to concentrate the solar rays. Lack of water to clean the mirrors, and for cooling, is one of the technical problems still to be overcome. But like all newer renewable technologies, the cost of concentrated solar power is expected to fall because of mass production and to be considerably cheaper than rivals like nuclear power. What is needed is the political will to make it work. – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 2300 GMT on Monday 15 April Renewable energy is rapidly becoming a much more serious possibility, as novel technologies come of age and offer the prospect of a new relationship between Africa, the Middle East and Europe. LONDON, 16 April – The world’s largest concentrated solar power plant opened in March in the middle of Abu Dhabi’s western region, amid the country’s giant oil fields. The $600m plant’s hundreds of mirrors direct sunlight towards pipes full of oil to drive steam turbines that in turn provide enough electricity for thousands of homes. In a country whose vast wealth is generated by oil, adopting a new technology that produces only 100 megawatts of power – about a tenth the amount of a large coal-fired plant – may seem a mere token, but it is part of a much larger industrial strategy for the region. Serious money and political clout in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa is aimed at building hundreds of similar plants. The potential is so great that all the electricity requirements of these desert countries – and a good slice of Europe’s – could be met by 2050. European companies are now putting serious investment into a scheme to bring electricity from North Africa across the Mediterranean to their shores.  Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia are among the Saharan countries that could provide all their own power and much of Europe’s.  Morocco and Tunisia are already building plants, and Morocco has an electricity connector to Spain. It has long been known that harnessing the power of the sunlight that shines on a few hundred square miles of desert would be enough to provide electricity for all of mankind’s needs. How to collect the power and transport it was the problem. Now both technical barriers to development have been solved with a variety of schemes. The Abu Dhabi plant that uses mirrors is one of a number of similar ideas that arrange reflectors to concentrate the Sun’s rays to make electricity. Several have now been proved to work commercially – and the price of power continues to come down. These plants are in operation in many sunny parts of the world including California, Spain and Australia.

Night light

  Photo-voltaic cells that make electricity direct from sunlight are even more prevalent, with the price of panels also continuing to fall. Add to the power of sunlight the fact that many desert areas are also windy, and the potential for power production is huge. A factor that has previously worried investors is that even in the desert the Sun does not shine at night, when much of the electricity is needed. To get round that a system has been developed to store excess heat in molten salt and use it to generate electricity after dark. The wind turbines in the desert built alongside the solar arrays would of course continue to pump out power at night. The next problem – how to transport electricity from isolated areas with low populations to the cities that need it – is also solvable. Modern super-conducting cables using direct power can transport electricity across 3,000 kilometres, losing only 3% of their power per 1,000 kilometres. These cables, developed in Europe, are not theoretical: they are already in use in China. Super-conductors could be laid across the Mediterranean so that North African sunshine could power Europe. The organization that aims to create a super-grid across North Africa, the Middle East and Europe to utilize this resource, Dii, accepts that the problems are not just technical but also political. Some of the countries with the greatest solar resource that would need to be connected to each other to make maximum gains from the technology are not good friends.

Local use comes first

  This would make a super-grid difficult to construct, and electricity supplies liable to disruption if disputes broke out. Power plants would also be easy targets for terrorists. There are other political sensitivities. The European Union, and particularly Germany, which is very keen on the idea of exploiting this renewable resource, are anxious that Africa and the Middle East should feel ownership of the projects rather than that they are being leant on to cooperate. European politicians feel it is important that these countries should also be the first to get the benefit of the solar power stations with the electricity being used locally, and only surpluses exported across the Mediterranean. There are now 36 partners in the Dii project, with most of the money and expertise coming from Germany and other large European manufacturers. According to the German Aerospace Centre, investment would need to be €400 billion by 2050 in plants and transmission lines to realize the dream of providing the entire electricity supply for North Africa and 15% of Europe’s needs. Studies have shown that even with transmission losses it is cheaper to construct solar plants in North Africa than in southern Europe. This is partly because the Sun shines from 3,000 to 3,500 hours a year, with greater intensity than in Europe, but also because there are large tracts of unused land for the construction of fields of mirrors or lenses to concentrate the solar rays. Lack of water to clean the mirrors, and for cooling, is one of the technical problems still to be overcome. But like all newer renewable technologies, the cost of concentrated solar power is expected to fall because of mass production and to be considerably cheaper than rivals like nuclear power. What is needed is the political will to make it work. – Climate News Network

Climate 'threat to Arab Spring'

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT on Thursday 28 February
The gains won by the recent struggles in the Middle East and North Africa are at risk from the impacts of climate change, a report says.

LONDON, 28 February – A London-based think tank says the spread of democracy following the Arab Spring could be reversed because politicians are failing to help the countries involved to build resilience to economic shocks.

The group, E3G, says in a report, Underpinning the MENA Democratic Transition: Delivering Climate, Energy and Resource Security, that the G8 governments are not  helping the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region to address the threat of food and energy price shocks.

The report says climate models show that warming will happen much faster in this region than the global average. A reduction in rainfall is also likely by mid-century.

“Without a major effort to radically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in the next ten years the region could see an average temperature rise of over 4°C by mid-century and 6-8°C by 2100”, says the report.

“This will be felt in growing seasonal extremes… The impact on rainfall is more uncertain, but a general reduction of rainfall by up to 10-30% by mid-century is expected.”

Lower rainfall will worsen the existing scarcity of water, driven by population growth, industrialisation and the depletion of aquifers, which is already acute across the region, the report says.

Food prices will increase as a major cause of economic shocks in the region and there is an immediate risk of surging prices this year because of the recent US droughts.

Not luxury but insulation

 

Modelling also suggests major import crops like wheat are likely to increase in price worldwide by up to 80% by 2030 because of growing global demand, with climate change perhaps increasing prices by a further 40%. Food price volatility will increase even more rapidly as climate change drives extreme weather in producer countries.

“Resource scarcity and rising temperatures are already compounding the many economic and political challenges facing these countries”, says Nick Mabey, E3G’s CEO.

“Investments in efficiency and low carbon infrastructure are wrongly seen as a luxury that these countries cannot afford. In fact, these investments can insulate the region against damaging price shocks while also delivering greater longer-term economic value and stability.”

The E3G report argues that existing government investment support is broadly focused on providing incentives for continued democratic reforms, building civil society and providing jobs now for young people.

While these are important, it says, there is a failure to systematically address other vital areas for stability, such as exposure to energy and water shocks, and no clear approach to medium-term stability.

These risks are unlikely to be reduced merely through stronger GDP growth, and there will be a need for greater focus on directly building national resilience.

“We want resilience as the route to democracy”

The report says donor countries and regional partners should work together to focus on four strategic priorities: improving resilience to shocks; economic diversification into resource-efficient industries; building resilient infrastructure; and focusing support on a few high-impact stability and development objectives.

Nick Mabey told the Climate News Network: “We don’t want resilience instead of democracy. We want resilience as the route to democracy. It would give democratic structures a fair wind and time to grow.

“The real challenge for the G8 is whether their strategy is producing outcomes and not just activity. We want to see investment rather than armed force – not so much boots on the ground, you could say, but briefcases.

“The UN has its R2P initiative (Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect), the responsibility to protect, based on the idea that sovereignty is not a right but rather a responsibility.

“What we’re arguing for is a core part of R2P, something that will fulfill the whole UN vision – prevent and protect.”

E3G stands for “third generation environmentalism”. The group says its proponents “are ‘insiders’, found at all levels in governments, corporations, universities, trades unions, professional associations and voluntary organisations throughout the world. They share a deep concern about the stability, security and sustainability of the planet.” – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT on Thursday 28 February
The gains won by the recent struggles in the Middle East and North Africa are at risk from the impacts of climate change, a report says.

LONDON, 28 February – A London-based think tank says the spread of democracy following the Arab Spring could be reversed because politicians are failing to help the countries involved to build resilience to economic shocks.

The group, E3G, says in a report, Underpinning the MENA Democratic Transition: Delivering Climate, Energy and Resource Security, that the G8 governments are not  helping the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region to address the threat of food and energy price shocks.

The report says climate models show that warming will happen much faster in this region than the global average. A reduction in rainfall is also likely by mid-century.

“Without a major effort to radically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in the next ten years the region could see an average temperature rise of over 4°C by mid-century and 6-8°C by 2100”, says the report.

“This will be felt in growing seasonal extremes… The impact on rainfall is more uncertain, but a general reduction of rainfall by up to 10-30% by mid-century is expected.”

Lower rainfall will worsen the existing scarcity of water, driven by population growth, industrialisation and the depletion of aquifers, which is already acute across the region, the report says.

Food prices will increase as a major cause of economic shocks in the region and there is an immediate risk of surging prices this year because of the recent US droughts.

Not luxury but insulation

 

Modelling also suggests major import crops like wheat are likely to increase in price worldwide by up to 80% by 2030 because of growing global demand, with climate change perhaps increasing prices by a further 40%. Food price volatility will increase even more rapidly as climate change drives extreme weather in producer countries.

“Resource scarcity and rising temperatures are already compounding the many economic and political challenges facing these countries”, says Nick Mabey, E3G’s CEO.

“Investments in efficiency and low carbon infrastructure are wrongly seen as a luxury that these countries cannot afford. In fact, these investments can insulate the region against damaging price shocks while also delivering greater longer-term economic value and stability.”

The E3G report argues that existing government investment support is broadly focused on providing incentives for continued democratic reforms, building civil society and providing jobs now for young people.

While these are important, it says, there is a failure to systematically address other vital areas for stability, such as exposure to energy and water shocks, and no clear approach to medium-term stability.

These risks are unlikely to be reduced merely through stronger GDP growth, and there will be a need for greater focus on directly building national resilience.

“We want resilience as the route to democracy”

The report says donor countries and regional partners should work together to focus on four strategic priorities: improving resilience to shocks; economic diversification into resource-efficient industries; building resilient infrastructure; and focusing support on a few high-impact stability and development objectives.

Nick Mabey told the Climate News Network: “We don’t want resilience instead of democracy. We want resilience as the route to democracy. It would give democratic structures a fair wind and time to grow.

“The real challenge for the G8 is whether their strategy is producing outcomes and not just activity. We want to see investment rather than armed force – not so much boots on the ground, you could say, but briefcases.

“The UN has its R2P initiative (Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect), the responsibility to protect, based on the idea that sovereignty is not a right but rather a responsibility.

“What we’re arguing for is a core part of R2P, something that will fulfill the whole UN vision – prevent and protect.”

E3G stands for “third generation environmentalism”. The group says its proponents “are ‘insiders’, found at all levels in governments, corporations, universities, trades unions, professional associations and voluntary organisations throughout the world. They share a deep concern about the stability, security and sustainability of the planet.” – Climate News Network

Climate ‘threat to Arab Spring’

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT on Thursday 28 February The gains won by the recent struggles in the Middle East and North Africa are at risk from the impacts of climate change, a report says. LONDON, 28 February – A London-based think tank says the spread of democracy following the Arab Spring could be reversed because politicians are failing to help the countries involved to build resilience to economic shocks. The group, E3G, says in a report, Underpinning the MENA Democratic Transition: Delivering Climate, Energy and Resource Security, that the G8 governments are not  helping the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region to address the threat of food and energy price shocks. The report says climate models show that warming will happen much faster in this region than the global average. A reduction in rainfall is also likely by mid-century. “Without a major effort to radically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in the next ten years the region could see an average temperature rise of over 4°C by mid-century and 6-8°C by 2100”, says the report. “This will be felt in growing seasonal extremes… The impact on rainfall is more uncertain, but a general reduction of rainfall by up to 10-30% by mid-century is expected.” Lower rainfall will worsen the existing scarcity of water, driven by population growth, industrialisation and the depletion of aquifers, which is already acute across the region, the report says. Food prices will increase as a major cause of economic shocks in the region and there is an immediate risk of surging prices this year because of the recent US droughts.

Not luxury but insulation

  Modelling also suggests major import crops like wheat are likely to increase in price worldwide by up to 80% by 2030 because of growing global demand, with climate change perhaps increasing prices by a further 40%. Food price volatility will increase even more rapidly as climate change drives extreme weather in producer countries. “Resource scarcity and rising temperatures are already compounding the many economic and political challenges facing these countries”, says Nick Mabey, E3G’s CEO. “Investments in efficiency and low carbon infrastructure are wrongly seen as a luxury that these countries cannot afford. In fact, these investments can insulate the region against damaging price shocks while also delivering greater longer-term economic value and stability.” The E3G report argues that existing government investment support is broadly focused on providing incentives for continued democratic reforms, building civil society and providing jobs now for young people. While these are important, it says, there is a failure to systematically address other vital areas for stability, such as exposure to energy and water shocks, and no clear approach to medium-term stability. These risks are unlikely to be reduced merely through stronger GDP growth, and there will be a need for greater focus on directly building national resilience.

“We want resilience as the route to democracy”

The report says donor countries and regional partners should work together to focus on four strategic priorities: improving resilience to shocks; economic diversification into resource-efficient industries; building resilient infrastructure; and focusing support on a few high-impact stability and development objectives. Nick Mabey told the Climate News Network: “We don’t want resilience instead of democracy. We want resilience as the route to democracy. It would give democratic structures a fair wind and time to grow. “The real challenge for the G8 is whether their strategy is producing outcomes and not just activity. We want to see investment rather than armed force – not so much boots on the ground, you could say, but briefcases. “The UN has its R2P initiative (Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect), the responsibility to protect, based on the idea that sovereignty is not a right but rather a responsibility. “What we’re arguing for is a core part of R2P, something that will fulfill the whole UN vision – prevent and protect.” E3G stands for “third generation environmentalism”. The group says its proponents “are ‘insiders’, found at all levels in governments, corporations, universities, trades unions, professional associations and voluntary organisations throughout the world. They share a deep concern about the stability, security and sustainability of the planet.” – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT on Thursday 28 February The gains won by the recent struggles in the Middle East and North Africa are at risk from the impacts of climate change, a report says. LONDON, 28 February – A London-based think tank says the spread of democracy following the Arab Spring could be reversed because politicians are failing to help the countries involved to build resilience to economic shocks. The group, E3G, says in a report, Underpinning the MENA Democratic Transition: Delivering Climate, Energy and Resource Security, that the G8 governments are not  helping the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region to address the threat of food and energy price shocks. The report says climate models show that warming will happen much faster in this region than the global average. A reduction in rainfall is also likely by mid-century. “Without a major effort to radically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in the next ten years the region could see an average temperature rise of over 4°C by mid-century and 6-8°C by 2100”, says the report. “This will be felt in growing seasonal extremes… The impact on rainfall is more uncertain, but a general reduction of rainfall by up to 10-30% by mid-century is expected.” Lower rainfall will worsen the existing scarcity of water, driven by population growth, industrialisation and the depletion of aquifers, which is already acute across the region, the report says. Food prices will increase as a major cause of economic shocks in the region and there is an immediate risk of surging prices this year because of the recent US droughts.

Not luxury but insulation

  Modelling also suggests major import crops like wheat are likely to increase in price worldwide by up to 80% by 2030 because of growing global demand, with climate change perhaps increasing prices by a further 40%. Food price volatility will increase even more rapidly as climate change drives extreme weather in producer countries. “Resource scarcity and rising temperatures are already compounding the many economic and political challenges facing these countries”, says Nick Mabey, E3G’s CEO. “Investments in efficiency and low carbon infrastructure are wrongly seen as a luxury that these countries cannot afford. In fact, these investments can insulate the region against damaging price shocks while also delivering greater longer-term economic value and stability.” The E3G report argues that existing government investment support is broadly focused on providing incentives for continued democratic reforms, building civil society and providing jobs now for young people. While these are important, it says, there is a failure to systematically address other vital areas for stability, such as exposure to energy and water shocks, and no clear approach to medium-term stability. These risks are unlikely to be reduced merely through stronger GDP growth, and there will be a need for greater focus on directly building national resilience.

“We want resilience as the route to democracy”

The report says donor countries and regional partners should work together to focus on four strategic priorities: improving resilience to shocks; economic diversification into resource-efficient industries; building resilient infrastructure; and focusing support on a few high-impact stability and development objectives. Nick Mabey told the Climate News Network: “We don’t want resilience instead of democracy. We want resilience as the route to democracy. It would give democratic structures a fair wind and time to grow. “The real challenge for the G8 is whether their strategy is producing outcomes and not just activity. We want to see investment rather than armed force – not so much boots on the ground, you could say, but briefcases. “The UN has its R2P initiative (Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect), the responsibility to protect, based on the idea that sovereignty is not a right but rather a responsibility. “What we’re arguing for is a core part of R2P, something that will fulfill the whole UN vision – prevent and protect.” E3G stands for “third generation environmentalism”. The group says its proponents “are ‘insiders’, found at all levels in governments, corporations, universities, trades unions, professional associations and voluntary organisations throughout the world. They share a deep concern about the stability, security and sustainability of the planet.” – Climate News Network