In recent years, the entire the Mediterranean Basin has returned to center stage in the global energy scene. There have been substantial finds of gas and oil in the eastern and offshore regions of Egypt, while an increasing number of North African countries have developed their vast renewable energy potential. This encouraging situation should be supported by a far-reaching action plan for infrastructure development. This is the firm view of Moncef Harrabi, President of the Mediterranean Energy Observatory (OME) and Chairman of the Tunisian Electricity and Gas Company (STEG) as well as President of the association of Mediterranean electricity companies (Med-TSO).
What is the main goal to achieve in order to improve the energy situation in the Mediterranean Basin?
If we truly want to improve the overall energy framework–and I am referring to hydrocarbons, fossil fuels and electricity–it is essential for all the stakeholders involved to collaborate with regional associations such as the Mediterranean Energy Observatory (OME), the MED-TSO (Mediterranean Transmission System Operators) and the Maghreb Electricity Committee (COMELEC). We need to build a solid infrastructure system, and also think about developing the potential of our natural gas fields and, why not, to transition to liquefied natural gas (LNG), if we really want to reduce emissions.
Could an energy independent future be emerging for the Mediterranean region?
Do we wish to become a relatively energy independent region? If we do, then we need to be farsighted and also focus on electricity and improve our interconnections to facilitate exchanges. In North Africa we can exploit wind and solar power, while European power stations are mostly traditional. We could take advantage of this in the summer, when there is a huge energy demand for air-conditioning, while Europe could benefit from it to produce heating during the winter months while we still have plenty of sunshine and wind.
What are energy relations between Mediterranean countries like?
We need to be complementary in our energy transition and move in lockstep. We must also commit to translating our projects into reality. We have talked a lot and have conducted many studies; it’s now time to put into practice what we have outlined and to build solid infrastructures, as I pointed out earlier. We must also safeguard the planet, especially for future generations, reducing air emissions and greenhouse gases.
In this perspective, how important is collaboration between Europe and North African and Eastern Mediterranean countries?
There is already ongoing energy collaboration with various partners, but we intend to enhance it. We rely very much on the European Commission, for example, to promote and finance interconnection projects, such as the strategic link between Italy and Tunisia. This will connect North Africa and Europe via Italy and will require an investment of around 600 million Tunisian dinars. So we are asking European countries to subsidize us, at least partly, to enable its construction.
What would you like Europe to do?
I would urge European countries to come to Tunisia, to North Africa, and invest in renewables. There are countless opportunities. Tunisia alone has the potential to generate 1,800 megawatts in solar energy. In Libya, Algeria and Morocco, too, as well as in African countries more generally, the energy potential is huge. In the future, I’d say in 50 years’ time, the cost of a kilowatt-hour will drop and renewables will be increasingly important, partly as a result of energy storage. If we can improve storage technology the problem will be solved. We need to be farsighted and safeguard the planet. The future is in renewable energy, but even more so in energy efficiency.
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