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Solar group to World Bank: Give us gas and oil's $12B, and we'll cool planet

Posting in Energy

Hot Spots: Desertec has identified large swathes of continents suitable for "concentrated solar power" that could wean the world off fossil fuels.

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Square these two sentences:

  • Earlier this week, the World Bank called for urgent action to stop catastrophic global warming.
  • Over the last 6 years, the World Bank has financed $12 billion worth of fossil fuel projects - the sort of thing that stokes the planetary thermometer -  according to renewables energy group Desertec Foundation.

Scratching your head?

So is Desertec, the Hamburg, Germany international outfit that wants to build solar power plants in the deserts of North Africa, the Middle East, China, the U.S., Australia and elsewhere to wean the world off of fossil fuels.

Desertec director Thiemo Gropp. To paraphrase him: "Please, sir, can I have $12 billion?"

The group's director, Thiemo Gropp, has issued an open proclamation under the headline, "$12 billion in World Bank funds would be better invested in desert power than in fossil fuels."

In one overarching project, Desertec aims to provide 15 percent of Europe's electricity by 2050 via solar plants in places like Morocco and Egypt. It's particularly fond of "concentrated solar power" in which mirrors reflect sunlight onto a fluid that heats up and ultimately drives a steam turbine.

It's also keen on wind energy. It targets substantial reduction in CO2 emissions - and CO2's warming effects - via a substantial switch to renewable energy.

Of course the money - not to mention the politics and infrastructure - can be prohibitive. Thus the request for $12 billion.

"Had this $12 billion been invested in harnessing renewable energy in the sites where the wind blows the hardest or the sun shines the fiercest such as, for example, the deserts of Asia, the Americas and Africa, our mitigation efforts would already have taken a big step forward," Gropp says.

The Washington, D.C.-based World Bank's mission is to provide loans to developing countries and reduce poverty. Gropp applauds it for already spending considerably on climate change.

He also praises it for earlier this week urging individual countries to redirect fossil fuel subsidies into renewables. Now, he says, the bank should heed its own advice.

Images from Desertec Foundation.

More Desertec and big solar, on SmartPlanet:

— By on November 21, 2012, 8:55 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure