The Middle East and North Africa could play a crucial role in delivering electricity to Asia, Europe and Africa – if the grids can be built.
A report from TransitionZero found that building out power grids could save the world $3 trillion by 2040. The report modelled two scenarios, with both reaching net zero. The difference was in the construction of new transmission.
TransitionZero’s “Cables to change the world” report picked out 10 power lines of particular importance. Of these, three are in the MENA region.
The report called for an 18 GW link from Saudi Arabia to Sudan, a 15 GW link from Tunisia into Malta and then Italy and a 14 GW link from Algeria to Spain.
The majority of additional capacity would come from onshore wind, accounting for 33% of the 2,000 GW system capacity, according to TransitionZero. Solar would be 27% and offshore wind 10%.
Supplying power to Europe would provide new power import opportunities from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Turkey.
TransitionZero CEO Matthew Gray said modernising the grid was “blind spot of the net-zero transition”.
Gray went to on to say there was no time for missteps. “For climate targets to be met, the effective build-out of transmission infrastructure, underpinned by open data is critical. Moreover, governments need to grasp that a decision not to invest in the grid, is a decision to build more expensive capacity, such as nuclear and biomass.”
Grids and challenges
Under the plans sketched out by TransitionZero, Africa would become a net exporter of energy. While system costs would increase as a result, this would be offset by export revenues, the report said.
However, the report did find there was not a case for “an African super grid”. There is a need for interconnectors, it said, but also minigrids.
Egypt struck a deal this week with Jan de Nul to study a potential power line. This could carrymore than 2 GW of power northwards.
The link would be about 1,000 km and in challenging water depths, of around 3,000 metres. The company said it could begin work on the project in 2027.
While there is scope for additional supplies from MENA into Europe, the largest opportunity highlighted by TransitionZero is in North America. The report flagged two links, from central Canada to the US Midwest and from the US Midwest to US Southeast, each of which would have 100 GW of capacity. The third largest would be in China, carrying 92 GW.