First, let me state that I’m in favour of Desertec initiative, as it favours renewable energy in a massive scale and the interrelation of the mediterranean region with clean commerce.
Said this, I believe the autoconsumption concept is much more intelligent and efffective, pairing generation with consumption as close as possible, and it is much more efficient. Another part of Desertec that doesn’t “smell” right is the colonialistism of “generating for the north”, with a paternalistic Europe telling what to do, not for wider local electrification and develoment. Good thing is: the sun is ilimited, so it will occupy ground but will not exhaust resources. But source countries benefit if they participate with local content in these plants and with the operation and maintenance, nothing less but nothing else.
Not opposed but prior to the need for power in desertic areas is the need for water, food and the fight against desertification. That is why I think the Sahara Forest Project together with Seawater Greenhousing is more powerful and can generate more development impact in these regions.
Moreover, develoments in solar desalination can bring the price down, allowing massive foresting and extending agriculture. Energy is, in this concept, not for export but to enhance the environmental, the economic and social sustainability.
In short, a desert full of trees and crops is much better than a desert with (only) solar panels and mirrors.