Energy issues and their geo-strategic impact in the Mediterranean regions of 2020 / 2030

Economic dynamics alter the balance of power on a global scale and affect the political compositions within States as regional areas nationwide. Energy is at the heart of the sovereignty of States and their security policies. Energy revitalizing the Regions of the Mediterranean Basin is in this framework that befits as per this modest contribution with the urgency of a controlled energy transition.

Because, if humanity were to widespread this mode of energy consumption in the wealthy countries, we would need the resources of 4 to 5 planets hence the urgency of a new model of consumption on a global scale; this raises the issue of energy efficiency and social consensus, the technical choices of today, engaging society in the long term: how much is this transition, how much it is worth and who will be the beneficiaries?


Promoting interconnections in the Mediterranean

Electrical interconnections in the Mediterranean can be a factor of co-development. Europe’s energy dependency is about 53%. A Mediterranean energy community: as such, it is possible where trade links are important. The countries of the southern Mediterranean export about 80 percent of their gas and 60 percent of their oil to Europe. Electrical needs are complementary: the cutting edge of electricity consumption in Europe (France, Germany, North country…) is usually in winter, while in the countries of the South, given cooling systems (expected to develop with the improvement of the standard of living), it is in the summer.

In Algeria, per a study by Medgrid, the acquisition of turbines needed to satisfy this consumption peak would cost more that the interconnection with the North grid which, given any holidays and/or mild temperatures, could be not so cost loaded. We also know that the South of the Mediterranean is better placed than the North to exploit renewable energy. The sunshine there is twice more important. As for wind power, there are extremely favourable sites, particularly on the Atlantic border and in Algeria and Morocco, with run times that are about double those of German or French sites.

Thus, it is highly advisable to swap electricity power in either direction alternatively: conventional power from Europe to Africa in summer and renewable energy from Africa to Europe in winter. Corresponding interconnections will allow also to better manage the intermittency grid problems inherent to conventionnel with solar and wind power and vice-versa.

We can consider the use of grid lines that allow costs reduction and losses to about 3% per thousand kilometers; power production costing twice cheaper in the South, would have a significant bearing at the level of the average prices on the European markets. All conditions therefore are there for Africa producing massive renewable energy and for planning ambitious programs. Energy exchanges between the two shores of the Mediterranean must be considered in the context of the Energy Transition that is as off these an absolute necessity.

Both North and South Mediterranean shores markets should grow at a rate of more than 7 percent in the South and 2 to 3 percent in the North. The Energy Mix of the future would be electricity dominated, as per Shell Inc., the electricity market is expected to increase by up to 80 percent by 2040.

It is important to know that solar power, be it thermal and / or photo-voltaic for internal consumption needs should represent the most important resource for the electric generation. Hybridisation with gas should allow it to be competitive with alternatives such as nuclear power. Indeed, hybridisation in specific cases is now able to achieve a very competitive cost of production. Electric highways running continuous across the Mediterranean would be used to satisfy the growing needs of the Mediterranean coast of Europe.

Superconductivity completed through liquid hydrogen cooling will be the solution in the medium term to meet the needs of Northern Europe. It is understood that one must be realistic in the short and medium term as traditional fossil energy will still be critical in the light of new discoveries in the Mediterranean.

Energy emerged as a powerful factor of cooperation and integration between the two shores of the Mediterranean. Climate and energy can provide the structural link which will not only realize the Mediterranean cultural goal in the design and implementation of a series of concrete projects, but also to prepare the development of a strategic Euro-African concept. Certainly, there are however some technological limitations that would not allow high voltage cables in great depths but these could easily be circumvented through appropriate routing.


Energy changes in the Mediterranean

Should be taken into account soonest .

My friend, Polytechnician Jean Pierre Hauet of KB Intelligence, France quite rightly noted that “energy markets’ situation and prospects is that since barely 10 years making the energy scene come alive again in the Mediterranean with at least three large fields of manoeuvre which it would be interesting to try to understand the ins and anticipate the outs.”

There are three theaters of operations.

– The first one would be that of all renewable energies (wind, photo-voltaic and concentrated solar) which was characterized by launching major initiatives based on the idea that the technical progress in the current transmission lines continuous would take advantage of the complementarity between the electricity needs of the countries of the North and the availability of space and Sun of the countries of the South. We talked then about €400 billion investment and the satisfaction of 15% of Europe’s electricity needs.

Today project Desertec is rather on the back burner, notably because of the withdrawal of major industrial concerns, Siemens and Bosch, and the consumed disagreement between the Desertec Foundation and its industrial arm the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii). Dii carries on with its ambitions of integration of European, North African and Middle Eastern networks, however in favour of bilateral initiatives in Cameroon, Senegal and Saudi Arabia.

  • The second theatre of operations is more recent: it relates to the discovery from 2009, oil and gas resources in deep offshore Mediterranean’s Levantine basin. Israel is the first to have made important discoveries on the deposits of Dalit, Tamar State and more recently of Leviathan. The last deposit, located under the layer of ‘Messinienne’ salt seems very important. Drilling is underway in order to explore the deeper layers that could hold oil.

Greece and Cyprus have also found considerable reserves of gas, always in the same geological theme which had remained largely unexplored until now. According to the author, Cyprus, Greece and Israel acknowledged their exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean and on August 8, 2013 have signed a memorandum of understanding on energy described as historic, including the construction of an LNG plant in Limassol and laying of a cable of 2000 MW between Cyprus and Israel.

The third relates to exploration and to the eventual development of shale gas; the first producer of which is the United States of America have managed to reduce costs by about 50 percent over three years’ time period. Large deposits are profitable at a price ranging between $40 – 50 and the marginal ones at $55 – 60.


Energy at the service of development

The strategic goal is to put energy at the service of growth and employment of the Mediterranean two shores and Africa.

In the face of the recent geo-strategic upheavals, the problem confronting Algeria, North Africa and Europe, is that of security in the Sahel-Saharan zone.  It becomes imperative to study the impacts of changes in the geopolitics of the Middle East and the Saharan region on the consequences for the region. In this context, one must avoid utopia, by a return to protectionism on a national basis that would not go in the direction of the history of the multi-polar world that is organized around large areas North-South including the protection of the environment. The Mediterranean, a large basin like five times France, represents only 0.7% of the surface of the oceans, but is one of the major reservoir of the marine and coastal biodiversity, with 28% of endemic species, 7.5% of the fauna and 18% of the world marine flora.

It is however one of the most polluted sea in the world. It is a no-tide sea, water of which takes more than a century to renew itself but nevertheless sees 30% of world maritime traffic and fauna and flora are endangered. “Rogue ships” release nearly 200,000 tonnes of oil into the Mediterranean each year and 290 billion micro floating plastic drift in thick and large areas of the sea, according to data collected during two scientific Expedition MED campaigns, conducted in the North-Western Mediterranean basin. Economic and financial crises brought to the forefront issues of growth and competitiveness to solve unemployment and pay off an increasing debt of domestic product gross seem to have set aside any environmental issues.

Production of a single kilogram of beef requires 4 to 5 kg of fodder, feed, etc. and 15,000 litres of water worldwide. More than a billion people do not have access to drinking water and 250 million people are affected by desertification. And if China and India adopted with respect to their food and transportation, the same consumption model of the developed countries, what would happen to our planet ?

The competitiveness of a country may decrease if there is environmental deterioration, that result in a decline of the collective surplus by allowances incurred by the community as the cost of disease, sick leave and the destruction of biodiversity. For example, the decline of bee populations affects agricultural productivity. According to numerous scientific studies, including Universcience, France, 12 percent of bird species, 23 percent of mammals, 32 percent of amphibians, 42 percent turtles, and a quarter of coniferous species are threatened with global extinction.

Every day, 50 to 100 species disappear, such as the sole which has seen its population drop by 90% in 25 years at the global level. And yet green economy in the context of a symbiosis of sustainable development between the North and the South, knowing that water shortage and desertification creeping northward are not best to be overlooked. While being realistic, fossil fuels will still be prevailing for at least two more decades as main source of energy. This is to make strategic choices today, to make decisions that will determine the profile of the productive system of tomorrow.


A common Mediterranean future

The EPIMED report shows that the European structural deficit and the sharp rise in demand for the South shore will involve in the future building of the elements of a partnership that goes beyond the classic model of supplier-customer.

This report focuses on European gas dependency moving from 53% today to possibly 80% in 2030. Additional uncertainty factor, the share of supply gas from the spot market in Europe will be stronger with the rise of LNG deliveries in an open world market. The volatility of prices and insecurity of available volumes will be more important in such a configuration despite the multiplicity of suppliers. The Mediterranean countries are also all facing the problem of Energy security. It is before anything a matter of strengthening cooperation particularly in the field of energy as being a fundamental element of economic activity, a factor of human security that can represent a very strong link between the North and South of the Mediterranean.

The geographical situation of the Mediterranean, as a transit corridor for global energy markets and an important crossroads for global energy markets cannot be more emphasized as perhaps another axis to struggle against water shortage, source of global conflict. This will affect the area with desertification, caused partly by demographic and economic changes, human activities and above all climate change which will not be a chimera by 2020/2030. Desalination of sea water, to reduce these tensions is an option but costs need are definitely to be neglected.

Only production on a large scale of components can substantially reduce costs, the respective States to temporarily support all related projects by targeted subsidies. Efforts to strengthen infrastructure, expansion of trade and markets open to local and international investors, and most importantly energy interconnections between Europe and the Maghreb as per the directive of European gas/electricity, will have a significant impact, in the coming years on the Euro-Mediterranean area.

As so aptly noted by a good friend of mine, Professor Jean Louis Guigou, delegate of the IPIMED, it should be that, in the interest of both the Americans and the Europeans and all the southern Mediterranean populations, the borders of the common market of the future, the borders of Schengen in the future, the borders of social protection in the future, the borders of the environmental requirements of tomorrow must be South of Morocco, South of Tunisia and Algeria, and in the East of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan through a lasting peace in the Middle East; Europeans, Jewish and Arab populations having a millennial history of peaceful coexistence.

So as advocated by this author, it would be desirable that a collective thinking revolving around four thematic axes should be engaged as of now.

  • First, territorial governance: it will be in this sense to identify the key actors (private and/or public, individual or organizational), to analyse the institutional contexts and to propose a framework of modes of coordination of these actors.
  • Second, the attractiveness of the territories: it is a matter of putting into perspective certain public policies to be implemented (regulations and incentives) and strategies for the actors of globalization to better understand the movements of relocation and the nature of outsourcing relationships.
  • Thirdly, new productive dynamics on the basis of a sectoral approach, the logic of agglomeration and productive organization to highlight in the process of deindustrialisation, restructuring and/or industrial emergence.
  • Fourth, spatialization of production activities and of analyzing the (urban) spatial organization of the productive dynamics in order to highlight the methods of planning, organization and management of the territories, and explain the logic of localization and intra-urban agglomerations of businesses.


In conclusion, a stabilization policy for Iraq and for Syria where pipelines have to transit and Libya whilst not forgetting the enormous potential of Iran, could all lead towards a deep upturn of the energy map in the Mediterranean, oil and traditional gas, explaining the Russian position (1). As I had to say at different international conferences, co-development, co-locations, which cannot be limited to economics, including anthropological and social component, antinomy of the effect of domination, taking into account cultural diversity, may be the area of implementation of all innovative ideas at the level of the Mediterranean so as to turn it into a shared Lake of Peace and Prosperity.


(1) – Contributor to conferences in the European Parliament – Brussels, the Senate and the French Parliament – Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul, expert international of Algeria was invited by the Executive Chairman of the Institute of the Mediterranean of Barcelona, Spain to participate by a contribution that will be contained in the fourth edition of the Yearbook of IEMed Mediterranean 2017.  This directory is for global dissemination, in Arabic-English-French and in Spanish – will address with 60 eminent international personalities, (former and current Ministers, scientists, politicians, economists, lawyers, historians, sociologists, writers) from the two shores of the Mediterranean basin on topics, interesting the Mediterranean and Africa, geopolitical, cultural, social and economic related subjects. 

Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul being member of the Scientific Council of the World Forum on sustainable development, to hold its 15th Forum in Paris on March 13, 2017 where he will address the theme “Facing the 4th global economic revolution, the axes of the energy transition of Algeria”.

See also Interview of Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul by Brussels based ‘European Agency’ © on 01/18/2017 on “Algeria: responsible and prospects of densified cooperation back to calendar.”