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Mix it up!

WITH 32% OF MOROCCO’S TOTAL ENERGY MIX coming from renewables, the country is already more than twice as sustainable as the global average renewable mix of 13.5%, according to the International Energy Agency. But global standards are not much to go by, and less to live and thrive on, which is why Morocco is pushing forward with King Mohammed VI’s ambitious target of extending the country’s clean energy output to 42% of total production by 2021 and an impressive 52% by 2030. How will it do so? First: by boosting investment in renewables research, improving its strategic international partnerships, and boosting the industrialization of key renewable energies. The bulk of these, of course, will come from solar. In addition to committing to boosting the country’s solar output by 2,000MW by 2021, the Moroccan Agency for Renewable Energy (MASEN) announced in January the deployment of an additional 1,000MW of solar projects, part of which will stem from boosting output at the country’s landmark Noor solar field in Drí¢a-Tafilalet, already the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant.

To achieve the above, the government put out a tender in January for a series of nine solar projects that would extend from Boujdour in the country’s deep southwest on the Atlantic Ocean to the town of Guercif in the far northeast, some 1,800km away. With each site along the way generating between 5 and 20 MW, the total boost to the kingdom’s renewable mix would be roughly 400MW. Once the first phase of Noor comes online, Noor Midelt I, a combination of photovoltaic solar energy and concentrated solar energy, the USD800-million project should produce 800MW of renewable energy for the kingdom.

In addition to being strategically well placed at the entry to both the Mediterranean and the African continent, not to mention the
confluence of the Atlantic with the Mediterranean, Morocco is enormously well-poised to help provide renewable energy to Europe by way of its connection to Spain’s electrical grid through two separate 400kV/700MW lines. This means that once the country meets its own ambitious targets, it will rapidly and seamlessly be able to provide large amounts of clean energy to Europe. According to MASEN’s estimate, the country has total wind potential of 25,000MW, 6,000MW of which is realizable by 2030. And with 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, it also has the capacity to provide 5KWh/sqm/per day. And that’s hardly all. The agency also estimates the country has 200 sites capable of hydraulic generation, in addition to important stores of biomass. To capitalize on the latter, the country’s Solar Energy and New Energy Research Institute (IRESEN) is also launching a biogas and biomass research center in Fes. With 75% of urban waste and 85% of rural consisting of organic matter, the potential to convert Morocco’s biomass into renewable energy is huge. In addition to reducing Morocco’s CO2 output by nearly 8 million tons, according to the Ministry of Energy, converting the country’s biomass would also provide an additional 10,000 jobs, IRESEN estimates. By increasing wind energy from 280MW in 2010 to 2,000MW by 2020, as MASEN intends, and total solar and hydraulic capacity each to the same amount, Morocco expects to invest USD19 billion in renewables in 2020 alone, a process also expected to create some 50,000 jobs. With the right legislative framework and increasingly diverse international partnerships, including but far from limited to France EDF Renewables and the UAE’s MASDAR, Morocco has the necessary inputs to achieve the king’s ambitious targets. Whether they are sufficient will soon be seen.

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