After the announcement of the severance of diplomatic relations between Algeria and Morocco, Algiers has unilaterally decided not to renew the transit contract of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline (GME) that crosses the neighboring country and empties into Spain. This implies a significant loss for Morocco, which charges 7% of the fuel that travels towards the Iberian Peninsula as a toll. The situation forces the kingdom of Mohamed VI to accelerate its policy of promoting renewable energy, especially photovoltaic, to guarantee its energy supply.
In 2016, the world’s largest solar power plant was opened in the Ouarzazate region, in southern Morocco. The project NOOR It was developed in the middle of the desert, in a solar paradise, with 320 days a year of photovoltaic resources available to generate electricity. All countries then had their eyes fixed on Morocco and on this undiscovered project. “Morocco was considered the world solar laboratory”, according to Rayan Margaoui, consultant specialized in renewable energy.
From this novel test linked to the celebration of the COP22 in Marrakech the same year, and the signing of the Paris climate agreements, Morocco continues to develop its solar power. To such an extent that, in its edition of 2021, the ‘Green Future Index’ of the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has placed Morocco in the fifth position of the world ranking in the category of “clean innovation”. The country thus confirms its leading position in the solar energy market in Africa.
Access to energy in this continent is an important problem, especially since it is decisive in helping the development of education, health and culture. In recent decades, the advent of solar technology photovoltaic It has opened up new prospects for energy production and electrification of the continent, as well as for distributing electricity to a large part of isolated populations, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Jos Donoso, CEO of the UNEF (Unin Espaola Fotovoltaica), “Africa is a continent in which traditional electrification by large electricity companies and installations has failed. Faced with this very limited model, photovoltaics proposes a completely different model.”
The landscape of the African continent is changing, small businesses are developing and need electrification. Thanks to private capital and more specialized structures in the photovoltaic sector that allow the self-consumption of energy, José Donoso calls this new technique to electrify the continent a “small revolution” and supports the fact that solar energy is already an energy of the present.
For a developing country such as Morocco, photovoltaics opens the door to a promising and competitive market. Its solar resource is very high, although compared to the neighboring country, Algeria, the Alau Kingdom does not have natural fossil resources such as the gas. Therefore, taking advantage of its many advantages in photovoltaic energy will be key to walking up to a energy independence.
The objectives are clear and ambitious: increase the share of electrical capacity from renewable sources by 42% for 2020 and to 52% for 2030. In fact, the Kingdom thus kills two birds with one stone. On the one hand, it satisfies its growing needs for electricity, and on the other hand, it increases its capacity to export light to Europe, which will generate wealth for the whole of its economy according to the MORE IN (Moroccan Agency for Durable Energies).
Morocco has several advantages to establish a very competitive solar market. In addition to a favorable climate, with enormous insolation, the country is ideally situated. It is one of the arguments that has convinced Thierry Poitout, a French investor who has created his photovoltaic companies in Morocco. In 2015 he founded Solarmen, a photovoltaic system installation company, and more recently SolarExport, an importer, introducer and distributor of photovoltaic panels and equipment. Thierry confides: “For the development of a company like SolarExport, the geographical position of Morocco is particularly interesting. It can easily become a hub for marketing our products in Europe and the rest of the African continent.” This argument is confirmed by Jos Donoso, from UNEF: “Morocco is geographically very close to Spain. The important thing is to have a clear regulatory framework to allow private investors to establish themselves.”
Realizing its potential, Morocco has established a competent bureaucracy and created bodies accordingly. The ONEE (National Electricity Office) is the main body in charge of energy distribution. To carry out the large-scale projects, promoted by the King and the government, it was necessary to create an entity specialized in renewable energy. In this sense, in 2010 the MORE IN It was created to value the renewable technologies and resources of Morocco. “The integrated project development programs led by MASEN aim in particular to develop an additional clean electricity production capacity of 3,000 megawatts (MW) by 2020 and 6,000 MW by 2030,” according to the agency itself. This results from the implementation of a service adapted to the expectations of the solar energy market. The guidelines come from a public entity, but the objective is to liberalize the market and give the opportunity and permission to private companies to produce and sell solar energy.
This was specified in a regulatory framework, the law 13-09, what is the backbone that regulates solar energy in Morocco. Rayan Margaoui participated in the drafting of this law, which in turn intends to help draft the high and medium voltage liberalization decree to include heavy industries that represent the largest energy consumers in the market. It is the beginning of contracts BOOT (Build, Own, Operate and Transfer). The Moroccan state reclassifies the affected areas from the public domain to the private domain and grants a surface right (real right) to a private entity.
However, the regulation remains restrictive according to Khalid semmaoui, president of the AMISOLE, an association that intervenes in the defense of the interests of private companies specialized in solar and wind energy. “The regulation part is decisive. It is still very restrictive in Morocco today. Therefore, we want to act on this regulatory system so that the markets are as free as possible, taking into account the limitations that we know. It is about gradually smoothing out the path to free access to cheaper and green energy. “
There are other advantages that favor investment in the country. The wage bill represents a less important burden than that of European countries, and they have created free trade zone lower taxation such as the one that already exists in Tangier. However, there are advantages not only for photovoltaic companies, but also for the more energy-intensive industries, which are established in Morocco. It’s the program “Energipro“which allows ONEE’s industrial customers to build renewable energy facilities that allow their own infrastructure to be supplied with electricity. According to Rayan Margaoui’s explanations:” The government proposes aid for industries and companies that want to establish themselves in Morocco and put photovoltaic panels in rooftops to produce enough energy to cover a large part of their energy consumption. “The agricultural sector is also included in this decarbonisation program.
These advantages and all the measures deployed, contribute to the expansion of solar energy in one of the most stable countries of the Maghreb. On the one hand, they are already attracting investment from companies and at the same time, they allow Morocco to move towards energy independence. Several interconnections. Historically we are aware of a special relationship between this country and Spain. After France and Luxembourg, Spain is the third country that invests more in the Moroccan Kingdom, they represent 9.8% of foreign investments, according to the economic and commercial report of the ICEX. In such a way that Morocco is a sustainable partner for Spain and relations will grow in the years that follow. On November 12, 2020, a meeting was held between Aziz rabbah, Moroccan Minister of Energy and the Spanish Vice President, Teresa Ribera, to strengthen the energy relationship of both countries. Different points were discussed about a new impulse of the bidirectional flows of natural gas through the gas pipelines that connect the two countries and the development of a third electrical interconnection.
The international dimension of Morocco thanks to exports and collaborations, is one of the keys to its development. This is true not only with Europe, but also with Africa. According to Youssra Abourabi’s work The African Politics of Morocco: Role Identity and Power Projection, published on December 17, 2020, the country is deploying a new foreign policy. There is a challenge to be an African power “emerging in its identity as well as in its projection space.” This idea translates the motivation of Morocco to resume interconnections with the rest of Africa. For many years there was a ideological separation between the Maghreb and the rest of the continent. Now diplomacy returns with meetings, talks and defined joint objectives. Tarik hamane Executive Director in charge of development within MASEN, explains: “Our wish is to program a program with Mauritania in the coming years and connect the entire West African area thanks to renewable energies.” With a significant development in photovoltaics, the radiation and influence that the country has could be expanded.
We are immersed in a green revolution that starts and is amplified, following the idea of decarbonisation promised by the most polluting countries. Morocco intends to maintain its solar advantage and establish itself in this new market. Integration in this new green economy sets the country’s objectives to compete and negotiate with the largest, such as China. After many efforts, having guaranteed a successful start, Morocco continues its promising career and does not relax. The photovoltaic it is a bet for the future. Four years have passed since the central NOOR and the country is more convinced than ever of its important role in the green revolution. Morocco wants to be the sun king in the Maghreb.
The crux of green hydrogen
Other techniques and opportunities open up thanks to renewable energies in general and photovoltaics in particular. One is green hydrogen. It represents one of the benefits of the development of this type of energy in Morocco. The production of this hydrogen is manufactured thanks to green energies and water. Morocco has several projects to develop this type of energy supported thanks to partial financing. The country and Germany have partnered to connect the port of Tangier and Hamburg to channel the transport of green hydrogen produced in Moroccan territory. According to Tarik Hamane Executive Director in charge of the development of projects at MASEN, “Morocco has interesting renewable energies. Which makes it one of the best positions to develop this green hydrogen. In addition, it presents port infrastructures in particular, which are decisive for facilitate interconnections as is already the case in a project such as the port of Hamburg and Tangier. ” Green hydrogen is de facto at the heart of future projects increasing the use of photovoltaics. Tarik Hamane added that the three areas most likely to develop in this market are Chile, Morocco and Australia. Saudi Arabia and the area of the Golf passes are beginning to develop photovoltaics and new techniques that come from the solar resource they possess. According to Jos Donoso, this technique “is not only the future of Spain but of many other countries, because green hydrogen provides a solution to electrification that is difficult to do. With photovoltaics it is the most competitive way to obtain it.” Hydrogen is very current while we are still in the preliminary phase of its commercialization.
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