Africa has emerged as the newest hot spot for investing in renewable energy and Morocco shines particularly bright on the map there, sticking out as the most attractive green energy market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
MOROCCO'S CLEAN POWER AGENDA
Most electricity generation facilities in Africa rely on fossil fuel imports and Morocco is no exception. More than 85% of the country's energy in use is imported. At the same time, electricity demand is increasing rapidly with 4% to 6% a year. This summer, Moroccan electricity and water utility company ONEE set a new record for electricity use when demand for electricity reached 5,860 MW at 21:00 on July 28, 2015.
With no considerable fossil-fuel reserves or well-developed fuel transportation networks, renewable energy has a clear cost advantage in solar and wind-rich Morocco.
The African country wants to source 42% of its energy needs from renewables by 2020 and has undertaken an integrated programme to increase its wind and solar power capacities to 2 GW each by 2020.
And while many African countries have renewable energy ambitions Morocco is one of the few that have introduced fully fledged independent power producer (IPP) procurement schemes.
The country is further ahead, having launched the construction of Africa's biggest concentrated solar power (CSP) plan and having shortlisted six consortia to bid for the development of 850 MW of wind capacity across five projects in the Sahara desert.
MAJOR PROJECTS MOVE AHEAD
Solar power in Morocco is enabled by one of the highest rates of solar insolation of any country — about 3,000 hours per year of sunshine.
Morocco has set a goal for solar to contribute around 14% of the energy mix in the country’s electricity supply by 2020. It plans to build five solar complexes with a price tag of USD 9 billion (EUR 8.2 bln) in total.
The country’s agency for solar energy MASEN has the lead role of organising the invitations to tender for the plants at each of the five sites. It also acts as a consolidator of concessional loans provided by the Clean Technology Fund, African Development Bank, the World Bank, and the European Investment Bank, thus reducing the cost of capital for developers, and lowering the overall cost of energy generated.
MASEN is currently overseeing construction works at three large-scale CSP plants - Noor I, II and III at the Ouarzazate site - a surface of about 33 sq km (3,300 ha).
Noor I - a 160-MW power plant with thermosolar cylindrical parabolic troughs and 3 hours of energy storage capability, will start feeding electricity to the grid by the end of this year. The power plant has contracted a sale price of MAD 1.6 (USD 0.165/EUR 0.147) per kWh and is expected to start feeding electricity to the grid by the end of the year.
Noor II, a 200-MW power plant with thermosolar cylindrical parabolic troughs and 7 hours of energy storage capability, will sell its electricity output at MAD 1.36 per kWh.
Noor III, an installed capacity of 150 MW which will employ central tower technology with salt receivers and 7 to 8 hours of energy storage capability, will sell power at MAD 1.42 per kWh.
All three projects are being developed by two companies of the Saudi Arabian group Acwa Power.
This summer, Moroccan electricity and water utility company ONEE also launched a tender for 75 MW of solar power projects.
Noor Tafilalet, as this latest project is named, will comprise three solar power plants of 25 MW each, sited near the towns of Zagora, Erfoud and Missour in the southeastern part of the country. At a later stage, a fourth solar power plant may be built in the region, increasing the total capacity of the programme to 100 MW.
In terms of wind power development, Morocco enjoys quite favourable wind resource patterns, both in the northern part of the country near Tanger and to the west where certain regions benefit from regular trade winds.
For example, the 300-MW Tarfaya wind farm, developed by Tarec (Trarfaya Energy Company), a 50/50 joint venture of Nareva Holding and International Power Ltd of Engie group, enjoys a load factor of 45%, one of the best in the world for onshore wind.
The ongoing 850-MW tender, which is estimated to cost EUR 1 billion (USD 1.1 bn), represents a significant contribution to the national wind power programme for 2,000 MW by 2020. It includes five projects -- the 150 MW Tanger 2 in the northern part of the country, 300 MW at Tiskrad, Laayoune, 200 MW at Jbel Lahdid, Essaouira, 100 MW near Boujdour, and 100 MW at Midelt, some 400 km east of Casablanca.
All wind farms will be developed under public private partnership and structured under the build, own, operate and transfer (boot) scheme. Commissioning of the tender projects is expected between 2017 and 2020.
BIG NAMES FLOCK TOGETHER
Danish wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems A/S (CPH:VWS) has just opened an office in Casablanca.
"Vestas is currently exploring different opportunities to strengthen its presence in the country and support its ambitious wind programme," the company said in a news release to local media.
Italian renewables developer Enel Green Power SpA (BIT:EGPW) is planning to expand business in Morocco.
“Morocco has been a renewable energy pioneer in North Africa, establishing challenging targets and promoting a stable and clear regulatory framework for the development of renewables. We have already set foot in the country, establishing a local headquarters, and now we are aiming to grow by installing megawatts and contributing to the achievement of the country’s ambitious energy targets.”, CEO Francesco Venturini told a business conference in Rabat, as part of Italian economic development minister's mission in Morocco in mid-September.
Abu Dhabi-based renewables firm Masdar is also reported to be in talks over taking part in Morocco's forthcoming wind tender as well as other wind and solar energy investments.
According to the Aujourd’hui le Maroc daily, Masdar has already approached Spanish firm Acciona Energia, which is a pre-qualified bidder in the 850-MW wind energy tender.
BUILDING THE FOUNDATIONS FOR GREEN EMPLOYMENT
Last month Morocco broke ground on a national institute for professional job training in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Located at the Gueznaya urban commune, Tangiers-Assilah prefecture, this pilot project is expected to cost MAD 95 million (USD 9.8m/ EUR 8.7m) to complete. It will be equipped to train operators, technicians and executives on jobs related to renewable energy and energy efficiency, mainly the operation and maintenance of wind farms and solar, thermal and photovoltaic equipment.
Morocco is not exempt from typical African problems with political and exchange risks, difficulties with finding project finance and so on. Yet, the country's firm commitment to improving regulatory framework for renewable energy development certainly gives it the looks of the jewel in the crown of renewable energy development in North Africa.
(MAD 1 = USD 0.102/ EUR 0.092)
(USD 1 = EUR 0.904)
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