Europe is hungry for clean energy. The war in Ukraine has amplified Europe’s desire to end its reliance on Russian natural gas. Increasingly, Europe is pushing to install giant solar energy farms in sunny North Africa and transport the energy through underwater cables.
Solar panels in sunny North Africa generate up to three times more energy than those in Europe. As a result, solar farms and wind farms as well are proliferating south of the Mediterranean Sea. Morocco’s Noor and Egypt’s Benban solar farms are among the largest in the world. Many of these farms were initially built to boost domestic power supplies and reduce dependence on coal. But now these farms are increasingly supplying green energy to industrial neighbors in Europe.
Morocco has signed deals with the European Union to expand power exports. Egypt is considering proposals for cables to link to Greece. Another planned cable would link new solar farms in Tunisia to Italy’s grid. These projects would certainly bring money and jobs to North African countries, but it isn’t all good news.
There are growing concerns about the environmental impacts of Europe outsourcing its energy needs. Desert ecosystems could be greatly compromised. And much of this development is likely to happen with only minimal community consultation or ecological assessment. Half of Africa’s population does not have access to reliable power grids. Electricity becoming a major export is not likely to improve this situation.
Europe has long obtained many resources from the developing world. Now it is tapping into the sunshine and wind in other lands. It remains to be seen if North Africa’s countries will achieve the large potential gains those resources can offer them.
In Scramble for Clean Energy, Europe Is Turning to North Africa
Photo, posted October 17, 2019, courtesy of Richard Allaway via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio