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Middle East & Africa


Morocco's Energy Challenges Despite Large Scale Renewables Projects

With fossil fuels still powering most of the country, its transition to green energy is still far

Jan 28, 2023 / 3 Min
Photo: Abd-Elilah Ouassif on Flickr

Morocco's King Mohammed VI urged the government to speed up the development of new renewables projects at a recent meeting: “By building on its progress, Morocco should accelerate the deployment of renewable energies in order to strengthen its energy sovereignty, reduce energy costs and position itself in the low-carbon economy in the decades to come”.


The country's solar and wind expansion has been long in the making, dating back to a 2009 energy plan. The goal was to reach 42% of installed renewable power capacity by 2020.


In Ouarzazate Morocco's lies Noor Ouarzazate complex, the largest concentrated solar farm in the world, with more than half a million curved mirrors that form gigantic circles, producing enough power for 1.3 million people. In a coastal town in southeastern Morrocco, lies another renewables mega project — the Tarfaya wind farm. With 131 turbines, it is one of the largest of its kind in Africa.


Still, Morocco faces significant challenges in its transition to green energy. Fossil fuels still power most of the country. Coal, which is especially polluting, makes up 37% of electricity production and is getting more expensive due to sanctions on Russia. The country has also come under fire for commissioning new coal power plants and extending the life spans of others.


In addition the 2009 energy strategy proved to be slightly too ambitious: Morocco missed its 2020 target for renewable power capacity by 5%. But the government seems to be on track to meet a 2030 target of 52%, according to a recent report by the consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY).


Boasting 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, Morocco is an ideal setting for solar power, while topographical features such as the Atlas Mountains, offer pumped storage hydropower, allowing flexibility to be built into the power system, says the report. Policy support has also been strong, with the market reaching the lowest renewable prices in the world at less than three US cents per kilowatt-hour in the wind sector.


According to the report, with two new solar power plants and a wind farm being inaugurated in the last year, Morocco's renewable energy supply rose by almost 10%. Besides the electricity sector, Morocco also has its eyes set on decarbonizing other areas like transport or agriculture. 


Looking to the future, Morocco is seeking to build a green hydrogen sector, according to the report. It is counting on foreign direct investment through the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy’s institutional framework to bring together permit processes, land acquisition and financing, and, potentially, provide a state guarantee for the investment.


Still, green hydrogen requires huge amounts of clean energy to produce, which, according to German environmental think tank, the Heinrich Bell Foundation, is still in too short supply in the country in spite of its gains.


Recently, the country also signed a deal with the European Union for a "green partnership" to boost cooperation on renewables. "There is no doubt...that Morocco has the natural resources, regulatory support and government commitment to lead Africa's green revolution," said the EY report. 


Sources:  DW, EY Report.