Morocco, being the largest energy importer in North Africa, is making concerted efforts to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. The country currently imports 95% of its energy needs which creates strong dependence on foreign energy imports. Renewable energy is an attractive proposition as Morocco has almost complete dependence on imported energy carriers. Morocco is already spending over US$3 billion a year on fuel and electricity imports and is experiencing power demand growth of 6.5 per cent a year. Morocco is investing heavily in the power sector by building new power plants such as expansion of coal power plant in JorfLasfer and establishment new coal power plant near Safi.
According to the Moroccan Ministry of Energy and Mining, the total installed capacity of renewable energy (excluding hydropower) was approximately 300MW in 2011. The Moroccan Government has already achieved its target of supplying around 8% of total primary energy from renewables by 2012 which includes energy generation, conversion and distribution. Morocco is planning USD13 billion expansion of wind, solar and hydroelectric power generation capacity which would catapult the share of renewables in the energy mix to 42% by the year 2020, with solar, wind and hydro each contributing 14%.
The technical potential of wind energy in Morocco is estimated to be 25 GW. This is the equivalent to 5 times the current installed power capacity in Morocco, and reflects the huge potential in this clean energy source. Morocco has already installed almost 300 MW wind turbines and other projects are being implemented. At the same time, Morocco launched a wind energy plan consisting in the installation of 2000 MW by 2020. Many experts state that Morocco will install total capacities beyond this plan. In fact, wind energy is already cost competitive with respect to conventional energy resources, and due to the technological progress, the cost is even being reduced significantly. Most of the already implemented projects and those being implemented or planned, are developed by public organisations or within the framework of agreements with public organisations.
The German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ) estimated the potential of solar energy in Morocco to be equivalent to 1500 times the national consumption of electricity. Morocco has invested in solar home systems (SHS) to electrify households in the rural areas. Morocco has launched one of the world’s largest and most ambitious solar energy plan with investment of USD 9billion. The Ain Beni Mather Integrated Solar Thermal Combined Cycle Power Station is one of the most promising solar power projects in Africa. The plant combines solar power and thermal power, and is expected to reach production capacity of 250MW by the end of 2012. y building mega-scale solar power projects at five location — Laayoune (Sahara), Boujdour (Western Sahara), Tarfaya (south of Agadir), Ain Beni Mathar (center) and Ouarzazate — with modern solar thermal, photovoltaic and concentrated solar power mechanisms.
Morocco is planning to add a total of 2 GW new hydropower capacities, consisting mainly in small and medium stations. This plan should be achieved by 2020, and combined with 2 GW solar energy and 2 GW wind energy capacities would, add a total 6GW renewable energy capacities, which will supply 42% of the Moroccan electricity in 2020.
Unfortunately there is no national strategy to exploit biomass energy in Morocco. However, there are many potential projects which could promote biomass energy sector in the country, such as waste-to-energy, biofuels and biogas from abundant feedstock like solid wastes, crop wastes, industrial wastes etc. The agronomic research has demonstrated the adaptability of new energetic plants to the arid zones. These plants such as Jatropha urcas, could be cultivated in the arid zone in Morocco, and be exploited for biofuels production and as a green barrier against desertification. Like solar and wind, the biomass energy sector also requires support and investment from the government and private sector.
Morocco is endowed with tremendous alternative energy resources which can be exploited to meet national energy requirements as well as export of surplus power to neighbouring countries. Due to its geographical position, Morocco could be a hub for renewable energy exchange between the European Union and North Africa. Renewable energy sector can create good employment opportunities and can also strengthen country’s economy. However, the government should liberalize renewable energy market, encourage public-private partnership and create mass environmental awareness to increase the share of renewable in the national energy mix.