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Oxford Business Group: Morocco’s renewable energy strategy

The British think tank Oxford Business Group has just published an analysis on the Moroccan strategy for renewable energies, entitled “Will Morocco succeed in reaching its ambitious renewable energy objectives?”.

Below is the full analysis:

“As part of a strategy to significantly increase its renewable energy production capacity, Morocco has launched its first village entirely powered by solar energy. In mid-October, government officials inaugurated the village of Id Mjahdi, located near Essaouira in the west of the country. The village, the only one of its kind in Africa, is capable of accommodating some 50 inhabitants, is completely autonomous in terms of energy and is not connected to the national electricity network. It is supplied with electricity by 32 photovoltaic solar panels, which produce 8.32 kWh of electricity.

In addition to supplying public lighting and water heaters and ovens for individuals, the solar power plant also supplies the electricity necessary for the operation of a public hammam, a water tower, a crushing of argan and an educational center. In order to guarantee the use of electricity outside of sunshine hours, the network is equipped with storage batteries.

Solar energy at the heart of Morocco’s renewable strategy

The inauguration of the village is part of efforts by the kingdom to increase the share of renewable energy in the national energy mix. Renewable energies currently represent around 34% of the installed capacity. The government intends to increase their contribution to 42% next year and 52% by 2030, using a mixture of hydroelectric, solar and wind energy. These ambitious objectives have their origin in the National Energy Strategy which, launched in 2009, provided a regulatory framework for the development of renewable energy sources and helped pave the way for the implementation of large-scale projects.

The construction of the Noor thermodynamic solar power plant, with a capacity of 580 MW, the first phase of which was delivered in 2016, is one of the most significant advances in this strategy. Located not far from the city of Ouarzazate, at the gates of the Sahara, this is the largest power plant.

The solar power plants in the world, covering an area of ​​3000 hectares. Another major project is looming, with the announcement this year in May of the allocation of the first tranche of the Noor Midelt project, estimated at 7.6 billion dirhams (788.6 million dollars) to consortium bringing together the French group EDF, the Emirati company Masdar and the Moroccan company Green of Africa.

Once the two construction phases have been completed, the hybrid solar thermal and photovoltaic plant located near the city of Midelt in the north-east of the country will have a production capacity of 800 MW of electricity, combined with a storage capacity of 5 hours. Preliminary infrastructure, including a 40 km road and a 50 km electric cable, has been installed, which should allow construction of the plant to start by the end of the year.

While Morocco’s renewable energy strategy also includes wind and hydroelectric projects, the focus is on solar power to leverage the country’s natural resources. According to official estimates, the country has a sunshine duration of 3000 hours per year, and is therefore endowed with a solar energy potential of 5 KWh per m² per day.

Economic impact of renewable energies

Investments in and development of renewable energy are also expected to have significant economic benefits. Morocco currently imports around 90% of its energy needs, with an energy import bill reaching 82.3 billion dirhams (8.5 billion dollars) last year, an increase of 18 %.

As national energy consumption is estimated to increase by 3 to 5% annually, the development of renewable energy production capacities will make it possible to meet a considerable share of demand and thus reduce the need to import. In addition to renewable energy, the country is also seeking to increase production upstream as part of a strategy to reduce energy dependence. Investments in oil and gas are expected to reach a total of 1.7 billion dirhams ($ 176.4 million) this year, according to official figures, against 1.4 billion dirhams ($ 145.3 million) in 2018. Production should reach 96 million m³ for natural gas and 4,300 tonnes for condensate at the end of the year.

Downstream activities are also expected to boom. In fact, the government signed a $ 2.2 billion contract with the Russian Federation Development Bank (VEB) in late October to build an oil refinery in Morocco. The latter, which will be located in the north of the country, will have an initial production capacity of 100,000 barrels per day, which will be increased to 200,000 once the site is completed. This will mark the return of refining activities in the country: the only Moroccan refinery, Samir, had closed in 2015.

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