A group of 12 companies and the Desertec Foundation have formed a consortium to develop the $400bn Desertec solar power project, which will supply Europe with power from the Sahara desert.

The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) will provide 15 per cent of Europe’s electricity by 2050 at the latest, as well as part of North Africa and the Middle East’s power requirements.

The consortium is led by German reinsurance firm Munich Re and Desertec Foundation. It includes Germany’s Siemens, Man Solar Millennium, Deutsche Bank, HSH Nordbank, Schott Solar, M+W Zander, Eon and RWE.

The group also includes Switzerland-based ABB, Algeria’s Cevital and Spain’s Abengoa Solar.

DII will carry out a detailed analysis of the project and establish an investment framework.

The consortium appointed Paul van Son, a former executive at renewable energy firms Deutsche Essent of Germany and the Netherland’s Econcern, as the chief executive officer of DII.

The scheme will use concentrated solar power technology, which focuses the sun’s rays into a narrow beam. This is then used to heat oil, which in turn drives turbines.

Electricity will be transported between the two continents using high voltage power lines across the Mediterranean.