Le Projet « Desertec » est encore possible en Algérie – Entretien avec Paul Van Son, Président & CEO de DII Desert Energy (DII : Desertec Industrial Initiative)

Interview publiée le 4 Janvier 2020

Interview en langue anglaise

Centre Algérien de Diplomatie Economique : Hello Sir. Van Son, could you introduce yourself to our readers ?

Paul Van Son: Being a graduated electrical engineer from Delft University (Netherlands) my career in the energy market started at Siemens in Germany in 1979.  After my first years as software developer my jobs included management and board positions at grid operator at TenneT, energy consultancy, energy trading, renewable energy production and green energy sales. In 2009 I was appointed the CEO of the Desertec Industry Initiative and besides that function from 2015 Chairman at RWE / Innogy for their MENA and Turkey operations. It is an honor to me to be the Founder and former President of EFET (European Federation of Energy Traders) and a member of the Advisory Board of Ghorfa and the German African Business Association.

CADE : As the President and CEO of Dii Desert Energy, could you please introduce us to this organization; the Desertec project, and tell us how would it benefit Algeria?

Paul Van Son : Dii Desert Energy is in Algeria often known as ‘the Desertec Project’. In fact our industry initiative, which started in 2009, has never been meant to be a ‘project’ as such, but rather to be a market enabler for renewable energy from the deserts, e.g. being an accelerator of public programs and private sector renewables projects. Desertec may have raised some confusion as its initial focus was (rather prematurely) on export from North Africa to Europe (Desertec 1.0). We have corrected that soon thereafter as we understood that the local markets should adopt renewables in the first place for their own use and benefit. Our organisation, thus, aims to serve that transition toward emission free energy supply in North Africa and the Middle East.

Source : www.dii-eumena.com

CADE : How do you perceive the willingness of the Algerian State to reconnect with the Desertec project?

Paul Van Son : We can only encourage each government and the local industry to work in the spirit of what we call today ‘Desertec 3.0’. That should be understood as decarbonizing local energy supply and ultimately becoming a ‘power house’ for emission free energy products such as electrical power, hydrogen and other ’green molecules’ to be exported into the world energy markets. Desertec3.0 will create local industries and jobs and will boost international cooperation. I can recommend your readers in this context to read Dii’s book ‘Emission Free Energy from the Deserts’ by myself and journalist Thomas Isenburg (available at Amazon)

CADE : 9 years ago, through Sonalgaz, Algeria announced its intention to cooperate within the framework of the Desertec project, before reversing its decision. What is your view on the volte-face of the Algerian State at that time? Do you think this kind of scenario can be repeated?

Paul Van Son : We think it is quite normal that plans and decisions are adapted to new realities in a time frame of 10 years. In the years of our initiative we have experienced many new insights and energy market, political and technical changes. It is definitely smart to keep all learnings in mind when energy transition programs are being revived and accelerated.

CADE : Certain hypotheses have been put forward indicating that the Desrtec project, in Algeria, had been sabotaged as part of an economic war waged by the French State in order to protect its energy interests. What are your views on this theory?

Paul Van Son : We have no view on stories. We concentrate on market realities, such as very competitive costs of renewables, increased awareness of harmful emission effects, the progressing integration of renewables in the interconnected power systems and the conversion to for example hydrogen, which can ultimately be brought to any place in the world.

CADE : Sonalgaz has established a development plan intended for energy efficiency and renewable energies. What were the main points discussed with the Algerian delegation from the energy sector during the last Berlin summit on energy transition in the Arab world? And, what type of Partnership do you envisage in the context of this potential collaboration?

Paul Van Son : In our pleasant talk with the CEO of Sonelgaz we agreed to work together, helping the Algerian Energy sector with its highly important energy transition and paving the way for green energy exports, be it ‘electrons’ or ‘molecules’. 

CADE : Are the Dii desert energy ready to relaunch the desertec project in Algeria?

Paul Van Son : We would recommend rewording ‘desertec project’ to ‘energy transition in MENA’. In that sense Dii Desert Energy has paved the way for transition programs and renewable energy projects since 2009 and it is committed to continue doing so.  

CADE : To conclude, do you think that Algeria has sufficient strategic capacity to carry out this energy transition project and become one of the strongest nations in renewable energies?

Paul Van Son : Of course, why should Algeria not be able to fix an urgently needed transition like so many other countries are successfully demonstrating? Algeria will greatly benefit from its well-trained and highly motivated professionals, its industry and the abundant experiences worldwide.

Interview réalisée par l’équipe du Centre Algérien de Diplomatie Economique

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