I AM concerned that some misconceptions may be leading the Government to overlook a source of clean energy with great potential for the UK and the rest of Europe. I refer to 'concentrating solar power' (CSP), the simple but effective technique of using mirrors to concentrate sunlight to create heat and then using the heat to raise steam to drive turbines and generators, just like a conventional power station. Solar heat may be stored in melted salts so that electricity generation may continue through the night and on cloudy days.

CSP works best in hot deserts and of course there are not many of these in Europe! But detailed studies by scientists and engineers at the German Aerospace Center have shown that it is feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity throughout Europe from North Africa and the Middle East using highly-efficient 'HVDC' transmission lines. The potential is absolutely huge: less than 1% of the world's hot deserts could produce as much electricity as the world currently uses. In the scenario described in the 'TRANS-CSP' report from the German team, CSP electricity would be one of several renewable sources of energy and there would be an overall \emphasis increase in the resilience and security of energy supplies compared with the situation now. There are substantial potential benefits for people in countries of the sun belt, including desalination of sea water using waste heat from CSP plants.

Malcolm Wicks MP (Minister of State for Science and Innovation), in a written reply to a question from Jon Trickett MP, said recently "The Government have not made any assessment into using concentrated solar power to help the UK meet its long-term energy requirements. ... The economics, in particular the amounts of energy required to justify the investment in the High Voltage Direct Current link, needs more work.

There would need to be a massive source of surplus electricity to make this worthwhile and considerable investment. The Government do not consider this technology a priority for further work."

But these things have (emphasis already been examined with great thoroughness and professionalism: * With regard to economics, the TRANS-CSP report calculates that CSP could become one of the cheapest sources of electricity throughout Europe, (emphasis including the cost of transmission.

* The quantities of energy that are potentially available are indeed 'massive' and transmission losses are low.

* There are other good reasons for building large-scale HVDC transmission grids. The wind energy company Airtricity has proposed such a Europe-wide grid so that surplus electricity in any one area may be taken to where it is needed, thus reducing the considerable wastage of electricity that may otherwise occur.

Further information may be found at www.trec-uk.org.uk and www.trecers.net.

DR GERRY WOLFF Coordinator of TREC-UK. Gerry@mng.org.uk, +44 (0)1248 712962, www.trec-uk.org.uk, 18 Penlon, Menai Bridge, Anglesey, LL59 5LR, UK.