July 7, 2016    4 minute read

Is Morocco Set To Become An African Leader In Solar Energy?

Powering New Strategies    July 7, 2016    4 minute read

Is Morocco Set To Become An African Leader In Solar Energy?

Facing a shortage of natural oil resources and dealing with a high level of energy imports (mainly from Saudi Arabia, at 48%), Morocco has launched its new energy strategy to meet the increasing demand. In 2009, its energy bill was 62bn Moroccan dirhams (£4.87bn at today’s exchange rate). By 2030, the country’s electricity demand is expected to be four times higher than it is today.

This is especially related to the difficult relationship between Morocco and Algeria, a major hydrocarbons producer, mainly over the issues in Western Sahara. As such, energy trade between the two countries is low. In response to this, Morocco has set a large-scale national strategy on renewable energies to reduce its dependency on fossil fuel and meet its increasing level of domestic consumption.

Morocco’s Renewable Vision

In 2008, Morocco launched the National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Plan, aiming to address its huge demand for energy. Production, which includes solar, wind, and hydroelectric sources, is projected to reach 42% of total energy use by 2020. The program is one of the Middle East and North Africa’s most ambitious endeavours to develop environment-friendly energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and combat climate change.

In 2009, Morocco launched the Moroccan Solar Plan as part of its national energy strategy to develop renewable energy. This focuses on two major aspects: developing renewable energy and energy-saving. According to The National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Plan, total power consumption will be reduced by 15%. This approach is being implemented by Morocco’s Renewable Energy Agency, which has initiated programs in sectors such as construction, industry and transport. These initiatives, with the goal of making energy usage more efficient, are being implemented by public authorities and international actors.

Big Money For Big Projects

The DESERTEC project is meant to create a global renewable energy plan at locations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region where renewable energy sources are more abundant and transfer it to centres such as Europe using high volume-voltage direct current transmission. Dii, a consortium of 55 international companies, signed a cooperation agreement with the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), a public-private agency, to develop a large-scale energy project in Morocco.

The Ouarzazate project, a 500MW solar plant, required an investment of $9bn and is one of the world’s largest solar energy developments. It was funded by the World Bank’s Clean Technology fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Saudi Arabia’s Akwa power, and the Spanish consortium TSK-Acciona-Sener. The energy will be sourced locally and will help stimulate the development of Morocco’s industry and create jobs.

Geopolitical Powers

Morocco’s population and economy are expected to continue to grow, and high levels of energy consumption are anticipated, which translates in the need to invest more in alternative energies. The country must, on the other hand, focus on its infrastructure to raise productivity levels. Ports, highways, airports, urbanisation and desalination demand more energy. To meet the high demand in these sectors, more investment and more programs are needed.

By comparison, Algeria, with its production of traditional energies such as oil and gas, has suffered from the economic crisis and the fall in oil prices. The country desperately needs to reconsider its energy strategy. However, the Algerian national energy strategy still focuses on hydrocarbons as sources of energy and income. With the new geopolitical dynamics introduced by renewable energy, and as it continues to grow and become more commonplace in the energy world, countries’ geopolitical influence will also change. Algeria, which enjoys a strategic geopolitical position in the conventional energy map in North Africa, will not necessarily enjoy the same status in a world in which renewable energy is more important.

Morocco, with its pivotal position in renewable energy, will most likely take the lead in North Africa if it succeeds in securing more investments for its energy programs. The European Union and some of the member states seem to be the most likely financiers of such programs, as some have already contributed to Morocco’s energy plan. The EU, faced with Russia’s new measures to halt natural gas to some member states, and with its strategy to diversify its energy sources, will show great interest in financing Morocco’s renewable energy projects.

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