Morocco is a country with a vast renewable energy potential. This potential has been exploited early on in the form of hydro. Aside from hydro energy, development of renewable energy as a whole has been somewhat held back for decades by cheap oil and coal. However, the recent spikes in the price of oil has made it a priority to cut dependency on fossil fuel imports.Subsequently wind energy has also been actively pursued and more recently solar energy is emerging as a major asset in the development of the country with the possibility of exporting energy to neighboring markets the future.
To brush a fuller perspective, Morocco, in the early years following its independence sought toendow itself with an energy capacity to fuel its growth. Being an agrarian economy hydro energy was in those early years the logical choice as it would serve both the purposes of water security and produce energy as a byproduct. King Hassan II made it a national policy to build one dam per year. As a result Morocco now disposes of 26 hydro power stations totaling 1 360 MW in capacity. As a matter of fact, Al Wahda, the second largest dam in Africa is Moroccan. Future development are now axed around micro dams and 200 potential sites have already been listed.
With the growth of its industry and power needs in the wake of the second oil chock, Morocco instituted the CDER, Center for Development of Renewable Energies to explore other forms of renewable energies, and ventured in exploring wind energy in the mid 90’s. The first wind power plant was put in production in 2000. Wind power has grown steadily ever since to reach with a capacity of 275MW. The 140MW Tangiers wind farm entered in production in 2010 and is the largest in Africa. Future Planned developments are in the order of 800MW for which ONE has launched an international invitation to tender this January 2012.
Solar is the energy of choice for a country with more 3000 hours of insolation per year, however it was necessary for the technology to mature enough and make sense economically for Morocco to pursue development in such a field. In 2009, His Majesty King Mohamed VI announced the launch of a National Solar Initiative doted with a budget of $9bn in order sustain Morocco’s ambition of reaching 42% of renewable in its energy mix by 2020. The total capacity to be developed stands at 2000MW, and an additional 500MW plant is to be implemented following an agreement between DESERTEC and NAREVA.
Photovoltaic based small solar enabled Morocco’s PERG (Rural Electrification Program) thus making it possible for remote rural areas to dispose of autonomous energy. In 2010 the program reached a completion ratio of 96.8%. Recently French solar company Tenesol signed an agreement with ONE, the National Electricity Office, to install photovoltaic systems on 26,000 homes in rural Morocco, it is to be completed in 2018. Morocco is already working with several African countries in order to export its know how and expertise acquired while implementing the PERG.
Hybrid power sytems combining several forms of renewable energy are also looked into. Morocco is pioneering a 1GW hybrid power plant relying on both wind and hydro. It will be the largest such plant in Africa.
So, there you have it, lots of major achievements for Morocco in the renewable energy sector and a consistant renewable energy strategy. These combined efforts being pursued in these diverse forms or renewable energy have the potential to translate Morocco from being a net energy importer into a net energy exporter in the future, without disposing of fossil fuel reserves. That would be quite unprecedented, even more so for a developing country, and signify to the world the emergence of a green economy and a responsible country on the front of the fight against global warming. Regionally, Morocco aims at becoming a major actor in a Northern African Energy market, and integrating its power grid with that of its neighbors. Renewable energy could one day sit along agriculture and phosphates as one of the main exports of the Kingdom.
On the down side cheap coal will continue to be an essential component of our energy strategy for the time being. ONE signaled in a recent venture that all future development will be oriented towards clean coal technology, needless to say that the question of ‘clean coal’ raises concerns as to its viability and firm believers in renewable energy would prefer to bypass coal altogether. However, it doesn’t make economical sense to do so as investments in renewable energy still continue to be heavy and subsequent. Deriving 100% of its energy from clean sources is a luxury Morocco still cannot afford.
Worth mentioning as well is that the actual grid infrastructure does not allow for a rapid massive expansion of renewables as energy source and upgrades are bound to cost billions of dollars of hard earned currency. As far as the regulatory and legal frameworks are concerned a law should adress a sector that is actually quite opaque and dominated solely by the De Facto energy monopoly of the Kingdom, ONE. Deregulation should also be pursued with a possible breaking up of ONE’s distribution monopoly as a way to open up the sector to newcommers.
Last item that is not negligible is that Morocco needs to find ways to dispose of a homegrown pool of scientitst and engeneers to accompany its energy strategy, and do so in the face of the brain drain phenomenon that afflicts most developing countries.