Shared prosperity of the two shores of the Mediterranean

The energy transition factors of co-development are about sharing prosperity between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

By Dr Abdelrahmane Mebtoul, Professor of universities, International expert, Director of Studies at SONATRACH circa 1974/1979, 1990/1995 and 2000/2007. Head of The Algerian delegation to the civil society summit of both sides of the Mediterranean and chairman of the Energy Transition Committee with the 5 + 5 space. 

Economic dynamics are changing global power relations and affecting political recomposition within many states affecting life at regional space level. Energy is at the heart of the sovereignty of states and their security policies. The Russian strategy, the political stabilisation of Iraq, and of Syria where pipelines should transit and of Libya, while not forgetting the enormous potentialities of Qatar and of Iran, the crucial discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean and the Israeli pipeline to Europe, financed by the UAE emirates, should all lead to a profound upheaval in the energy map of the world generally and particularly in the Mediterranean basin.

The energy transition, a safety issue for both sides of the Mediterranean via Africa

The world is moving, inevitably towards a new model of energy consumption in 2020/2030 horizon as based on a specific energy transition.  This can be defined as the passage of human civilisation built essentially on fossil fuel, that is abundant, inexpensive but polluting, to a civilisation where energy is renewable, expensive, and less polluting.  The energy transition is more than technical; it poses a societal problem because the determinant is the social base thus raising the problem of a new model of growth: all the economic sectors and households alike are concerned. Today’s technical choices are engaging society in the long term. As a result, the energy transition implies a social consensus, because the fundamental question is this: this energy transition, how much will it cost, how much will it make and who will be the beneficiaries, for a coherent energy transition to strengthen network interconnections and optimise their management (smart grids) to contribute to energy efficiency, to industrial development, to move towards a new model of growth, in order to promote the emergence of an energy industry, in the service of economic integration, the benefits granted by the State to be a function of this rate. Decisions in the field of energy commit the long term and the safety of all country regarding political priorities (national independence, cost reduction, carbon reduction, job creation).  Energy today appears to be an influential factor of cooperation and integration between the two shores of the Mediterranean.  Climate and energy can, therefore, provide the structuring link that will not only enable the Mediterranean cultural pride to be realised in the design and realisation of a series of concrete projects, but also to prepare the elaboration of a concept of a Euro-African strategic programme of development.  A friend of mine, Jean Pierre Hauet, of KP Intelligence, France correctly noted that “the markets of the energy sector-situation and prospects in these last 10 years, the energy scene got revived again in the Mediterranean with at least three main fields of manoeuvre that is interesting to try and understand and anticipate their outcome. There would have three theatres of operations. The first theatre is that of renewable energies (wind, solar, photovoltaic) which has been characterized by the launch of significant initiatives based on the idea that technical progress in direct current transport lines would make it possible to take advantage of the complementarity between the electricity needs of the countries of the North and the availability of space and sun in the countries of the South.  It was the question of about €400 billion in investments and the satisfaction of 15% of European electricity needs.  Today the DESERTEC project is instead in the back burner, with the withdrawal of those significant industrial actors, Siemens and Bosch, and the consumed disagreement between the DESERTEC foundation and its industrial arm the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii).  The Dii continues its ambitions to integrate European, North African and Middle Eastern networks, but the foundation Desertec now seems to favour bilateral initiatives with Cameroon, Senegal and Saudi Arabia. The second theatre of operations is more recent: it relates to the discovery from 2009, of oil and gas resources in the deep offshore seas of the Levantine Basin in the eastern Mediterranean.  Israel was the first to have reported essential discoveries in the fields of Dalit, Tamar and more recently Leviathan.  This last deposit, located under the Messenian salt layer, seems very important.  Drilling is underway to explore even deeper layers that may contain oil.  Cyprus and Greece also found considerable reserves of gas, still in the same geological background that had remained mostly unexplored to date. According to the author, Cyprus, Greece and Israel have recognised their exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean, and on 8 August 2013 have signed a memorandum of understanding on qualified historical energy, including the construction of an LNG plant in Limassol and the realisation of a 2,000 MW cable between Cyprus and Israel.  The third theatre of operations relates to prospection and the eventual development of shale gas, which is to be recalled the first producer in the United States of America, which has managed to reduce the costs of around 50% for three years, the large deposits are profitable at a price varying between 40 and 50 Dollars.

Promote all interconnections: Energy at the service of co-development

Electrical interconnections in the Mediterranean can be a factor of a Mediterranean energy community, and it is possible where the trade links are essential, the countries of the southern Mediterranean exporting about 80% of the gas and 60% of the oil to Europe.  Electrical requirements are complementary: The peak of electricity consumption in Europe (France, Germany, northern countries…) is generally in winter, whereas in the countries of the South, given the cooling systems (called to develop with the improvement of the standard of living), it is in summer. The south of the Mediterranean is better placed than the north to exploit renewable energies. The sunshine is twice as valuable. On the ground wind; there are incredibly favourable sites, particularly on the Atlantic facade, with operating times which are roughly double that of any German or French sites. So, it is very desirable to exchange electricity sometimes in a sense sometimes in the other: conventional electricity from Europe to Africa in the summer periods; renewable electricity from Africa to Europe in winter. The corresponding interconnections will also help to better manage the intermittent problems inherent in solar and wind energy because, when the South’s productions are insufficient, Europe will be able to supply the electricity supplement. Energy exchanges between the two shores of the Mediterranean must, therefore, be considered in the context of the energy transition. The energy mix of tomorrow will be strong electric dominance since according to Shell, the electricity market is expected to increase by nearly 80% by horizon 2040. In this framework, the solar thermal export, combined with photovoltaics for internal consumption needs should represent an essential resource for electrical generation. Hybridisation with gas should enable it to be competitive. Direct current electric highways across the Mediterranean could serve to meet the growing needs of the Mediterranean coast of Europe and the superconductivity completed by liquid hydrogen cooling will be the medium-term solution to meet the needs of northern Europe.  Pipes carrying liquid hydrogen will also carry electricity in cables Superconductors.  There are, of course, existing technological limitations that prohibit the installation of very high voltage electrical cables when the depths exceed 2000m but which can be circumvented as by the Strait of Gibraltar or at the level of Sardinia.  A report from the EPIMED shows that the European structural deficit and the sharp increase in demand from the south shore will in future involve building the elements of a partnership that exceeds the traditional supplier-client model.

Additional precariousness, the share of European gas supplies from the spot gas market will be stronger with the rise of LNG deliveries in an open world market.  The volatility of prices and the insecurity of the available volumes will be more critical in such a configuration despite the multiplicity of the offerors.  Also, the countries of the Mediterranean are all confronted with the problem of energy security.  Above all, it is a question of strengthening cooperation, particularly in the field of energy, being a fundamental element of economic activity, a factor of human security, which can represent a robust link between the north and the south of the Mediterranean.  The geographical location of Europe and the Mediterranean is an important transit corridor for the World energy markets and important crossroads for global energy markets.  As this other friend of mine, Professor Jean Louis Guigou, delegate of the IPIMED, noted that it must be made clear that, in the interests of both Americans and Europeans and of all the southern Mediterranean populations, the borders of the Common Market of tomorrow, i.e. the Schengen borders of tomorrow, the borders of tomorrow’s social protection, the borders of tomorrow’s environmental requirements, must be from the south of Morocco, to the south of Tunisia and Algeria, and in the east of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey passing through a lasting peace in the Middle East the Jewish and Arab populations having a millennial history of peaceful coexistence.  As the author advocates, it would, therefore, be desirable for a collective reflection to be structured around four thematic axes.

First, governance Territorial: This will involve identifying key actors (private and/or public, individual and/or organisational), analysing institutional contexts and proposing a grid for analysing the modes of coordination of these actors. 

Secondly, the attractiveness of the territories: the aim will be to put into perspective the public policies implemented (regulations and incentives) and the strategies of the players in the globalisation to better understand the movements of relocation and the nature of the subcontracting relationships.

Thirdly, new productive dynamics based on a sectoral approach, the logic of agglomeration and productive organisation to highlight the processes of deindustrialisation, restructuring and/or emergence Industrial. Fourthly, the spatialization of production activities by analysing the spatial (urban) organisation of productive dynamics in order to highlight the modes of development, organisation and management of the territories, and explain the logic and urban agglomerations of companies.