A dozen major companies have signed a memorandum of understanding to proceed with planning the construction of the huge Desertec solar power project.

The Desertec project would involve the construction of thousands of solar power plants in North Africa and the Middle East to supply 15 percent of Europe’s electricity by 2050. The anticipated cost of the project is $us555 billion.

Participants include German engineering company Siemens, German insurer Munich Re, Deutsche Bank, German utilities RWE and EON, Spain’s power company Abengoa, Swiss electricity grid builder ABB, Algerian firm Cevital, European bank HSH Nordbank, engineering company M+W Zander, and solar firms Schott Solar and Solar Millennium.

The signing of the Desertec agreement has prompted calls for a similar project for Australia. The University of Adelaide’s Professor Derek Abbott described Australia as the “perfect” country for a similar operation, saying its dry plains and abundant sun could potentially solve the world’s energy needs.