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Biography: Gerhard Knies

  • Story Highlights
  • Gerhard Knies is the co-founder and coordinator of TREC
  • TREC promotes renewable energy in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa
  • Knies sees solar power as a source of income for poorer countries
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Dr. Gerhard Knies is the coordinator of TREC, the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation, a network of around 50 experts in renewable energies and sustainability.

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Gerhard Knies, co-founder and coordinator of TREC, a network that promotes renewable energies

When he retired from his research into particle physics in 2001, Knies was concerned that the planet's impending energy crisis was not being solved.

"I think it is insane to organize collective suicide and to participate in that," he told CNN. "The fossil fuel system and our economy are doing that right now. We cannot survive in this way."

So rather than go fishing or head to the golf course, Knies decided to seek a solution. "I thought, 'Are we so stupid? I'll see what options nature is giving us.'"

So in 2003, Knies co-founded TREC. The network, which has members from six European and ten Middle Eastern and North African countries, encourages countries to work together to harness the power of the sun to bring clean energy to the world -- and they think they've found a way to do it.

TREC says that we could meet the entire world's energy needs by covering a fraction of the world's deserts -- just 0.5 percent -- with concentrated solar power plants. It is now working with governments and businesses to make this dream a reality.

Knies is hopeful that soon the world will embrace solar power as the leading source of energy. "My guess is that solar energy will be 40 to 70 percent of the total energy consumption, 30 to 60 years from now," he said.

As part of his mission, Knies sees solar power as a tool to help poorer countries in North Africa. "They would develop a new source of income if they could sell clean electricity to Europe," he told CNN. "For Europe this would be one of the cheapest sources of clean electricity. It's a win-win situation between the two."

And he doesn't sound like a quiet retirement will tempt him away from TREC any time soon.

"I find it challenging and rewarding to work out ways into the future which are not harmful to us," he said. "That's why I'm doing this and that's why I'm enjoying it."

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What do you think of Gerhard Knies's work? Do you think we could power the Earth with solar energy? Tell us in the forum -- or read others' views on the future of energy. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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