A “Green” Passageway for the Mediterranean

Published on Friday, 18 March 2016

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has announced that in 2015, the level of greenhouse gas emissions has remained steady for the second year in a row, despite economic growth. Such a concept is easier to understand when considering the record global investments in renewable energy, which reached 328.9 billion dollars, and the fact that clean energy sources accounted for more than 90 percent of new electricity generation last year.

The transition to a low greenhouse-gas emissions energy system is getting closer and closer, driven by developing countries that require large amounts of energy over a short period of time in order to facilitate their economic growth. Renewables are the perfect solution to meet these demands, but we must create the necessary conditions for their widespread use.

The southern Mediterranean seems to provide a fertile breeding ground for such a development, with several booming countries and an abundance of natural resources, but also geopolitical and regulatory frameworks that are not always stable.

These key topics were discussed at Enel’s Auditorium in Rome during the meeting “Il fronte Mediterraneo: la sfida dell’energia” (The Mediterranean and the Energy Challenge), organised by the multinational power company and the magazine Aspenia, a quarterly journal on international affairs by Aspen Institute Italia, for the publication of its new issue, “Guerre d’Arabia” (Arabian Wars).

The debate was moderated by CLASS CNBC Director Andrea Cabrini and saw the participation of Enel CEO Francesco Starace, Aspenia Director Marta Dassù, Morocco's Ambassador to Italy Hassan Abouyoub, IEA Head of the Renewable Energy Division Paul Frankl, Credit Suisse Managing Director and Head of Power & Utilities Martin Catchpole, and the Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Italian Council of Ministers Claudio De Vincenti.

Among the main topics of discussion were the outcome of COP21 (the United Nations Conference on Climate Change held last November in Paris, in which 195 countries signed emission reduction targets), the lack of correlation between the drop in oil prices and the increase in renewable energy investments, political stability and the energy security of the Mediterranean region.

‘Between the two shores of the Mediterranean there is both energy demand and supply, thus generating value for all,’ stated Starace. ‘The growth of renewables is independent of fluctuating oil prices, and in North Africa, several countries are committing to decarbonisation. We need to focus on the interconnections between countries, and technology is a great ally in this process’.

As the participants pointed out, such a process requires stability and cooperation, two keywords that emerged during the debate.

According to ambassador Abouyoub, ‘the transformation of the energy system represents a turning point, but in order to develop renewables successfully, we need a change of pace at a political level. The challenge for countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean is not only energy security, but also the sustainability of governance’.

These issues were underlined by Under-Secretary De Vincenti at the close of the debate: ‘Europe has the duty to act as a leader in the Mediterranean, to contribute to the new phase of political and economic development of the southern shore. Energy is a key issue: it is a challenge that we must face without fear, working together to build bridges’.