It sounded like a good idea: build massive solar energy plants in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East to supply Europe with 15 percent of its electricity needs by 2050.

But the consortium behind the ambitious plan has now admitted defeat following disagreements over funding and persistent political instability in the desert nations where the plants were going to be built.

The Desertec Industrial Initiative announced Tuesday that it is going to focus on consulting others after most of its former backers pulled out, including German insurance company Muenchener Rueckversicherung.

The remaining members of the Munich-based consortium are Saudi company ACWA Power, German utility giant RWE and Chinese grid operator SGCC.