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Morocco: Morocco: Growing green energy




Morocco: Growing green energy

With Moroccan electricity growing steadily and estimate to double by 2020, and with energy imports pressuring both trade and fiscal deficits, the government is implementing ambitious plans to increase capacity.

In particular, the national aims to significantly expand the role of renewables in Morocco’s energy mix. It has attracted foreign investment into the segment, with a number of European-backed solar and wind-power projects set to begin in coming years.

As of May, total Moroccan installed electricity production capacity stood at 6405 MW, 67% of which is coal and hydrocarbons-based. The country as well imports around 15-20% of its electricity from Spain. Request is growing rapidly – electricity consumption grew by an average of 6.9% per year between 2002 and 2010, reaching 26.5 KWh at the end of the period. Government forecasts suggest request will double from current levels by 2010 and quadruple by 2030.

To meet Morocco’s electricity needs, the government has adopted and is implementing a three-phase strategy. The first, short-term phase, which runs from 2009 to 2012, involves increasing capacity and efficiency in the national network. Since 2009 an additional 1085 MW of capacity has been installed, costing Dh12bn (€1.05bn).

As part of the overhaul of the in general network, the country has unveiled new generation plants. These new installations include a 140-MW wind farm near Tangier and a 472-MW solar power plant in the north-east area of Ain Beni Mathar. In the same period the government as well invested Dh2.5bn (€218.5m) in upgrading and renovating works on plants representing 2350 MW of generating capacity in order to boost efficiency.

The second phase, which addresses the medium term and runs between 2013 and 2019, seeks to diversify electricity production by increasing the proportion generated through renewables and natural gas. The government aims for 42% of Moroccan electricity capacity to be generated by renewables by 2020, up from 33% in 2009, divided equally between hydroelectric, wind and solar sources. Solar and wind-generated capacity will increase from 4% of total capacity in 2009 to 28%. The final, long-term (2020-30) phase will further emphasise alternative energy sources.

Increasing renewable energy use looks a smart move for Morocco. The country lacks hydrocarbons and is heavily reliant on imports. As a result, high international oil prices have pressured the country’s trade balance. Government subsidies aimed at maintaining price stability for fuel, which currently accounts for 27% of electricity production, are as well putting pressure on the fiscal deficit.

In contrast to imported fuel, solar panels in the country’s desert areas are capable of producing additional than 5.5 KWh per sq metre, while the country’s long coast line gives it plenty of potential wind power capacity – the government aims to achieve a total wind power capacity of 25,000 MW onshore alone. By increasing the use of renewables, the aim is to bring the proportion of fuel oil-generated electricity to 10% of total output by the end of the decade.

Foreign investment is helping the government meet its goals in terms of increased capacity, particularly for renewals, with money flowing into several projects due in the near next. In October it was announced the Germany-based organisation behind the Middle East and North African transnational solar and wind power mega-project, Desertec Industrial Initiative (Desertec), had decided to build the project’s first facility in Morocco, choosing the kingdom over fellow candidate Algeria.

Construction on the facility is scheduled to begin next year, at an investment cost of $800m. A wide range of major European banks, energy companies and others, are backing Desertec, seeing an opportunity to leverage significant renewable resources in the region and from now on export solar and wind-generated electricity to Europe and Africa.

In September, the French company GDF Suez announced plans to invest Dh2.2bn (€192.28m) in a 135-MW, 45-turbine wind power site near Dar Chaoui, 30 km east of Tangier. The facility, the country’s third wind farm, should be completed by December 2012 and will increase current installed wind power generation capacity by almost 50%.

Construction of a fourth wind farm, which will ensure a period of three years, is due to begin shortly. The 150-MW facility, which will be in the Taza region, will consist of 75 turbines and cost Dh3bn (€262.2m).

Pre-existing facilities are as well being expanded through foreign investment. The French company Theolia in June bought national electricity firm ONE’s interest in Morocco’s first wind farm, the Koudia Blanca facility near Tetouan, for Dh16m (€1.4m) and will increase the site’s generating capacity from its current 60 MW to 100 MW by the mid-point of next year, with an ultimate goal of 300 MW by 2014.

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