Massive solar panels laid out on the Saharan sand could be Europe's answer to its future electricity needs, a study by the Basle Sarasin Bank suggests.

Reported in Der Standard newspaper, the study paints the possibility of Europe importing vast quantities of its electricity from North Africa in as little as 15 years’ time.

Currently, solar power is still uncompetitive from a cost perspective. However, the report forecasts that this scenario will change in 10 years or so if oil, gas and therefore electricity prices continue to increase.

In fact, the Basle Sarasin Bank investigation suggests that solar power could be cost-effective by as early as 2013. And, even if the cost of conventional power fuels fell, the delay in solar power becoming cost-competitive would only be a matter of a few years.

As with all alternative fuel sources, solar power has returned to the forefront of European energy thinking due to concerns over price inflation in conventional fuels and security of supply.

Oil prices are largely dictated by OPEC, gas is currently expensive and Europe is becoming increasingly dependant on Russia for its gas. Therefore, the possibility of harnessing a clean, inexhaustible and potentially domestically delivered power source is very attractive.