By Philippa Wilkinson
Latest progress shows Morocco is focusing on its aim to reach 42 per cent renewable generation
The fourth phase of the Noor Ouarzazate solar complex and proposed projects elsewhere in Morocco show Rabat is serious about solar power and is working towards its goal of 42 per cent renewable energy by 2020, which includes 2,000MW of solar.
Currently, only 20MW of utility-scale solar capacity is online, as part of the Ain Beni Mathar solar plant.
Nevertheless, Morocco is making steady progress with solar power. The speed with which the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen) invited expressions of interest (EoIs) for phase IV, following the award of phases II and III, suggests the independent power project (IPP) model chosen has proved attractive for both clients and developers.
The switch to photovoltaic (PV) solar technology may be a long-term one. Not only have prices have fallen dramatically, but Masen is encouraging developers to establish a PV panel factory in Morocco as part of their bids. This would integrate local supply chains and facilitate further PV solar projects.
The already contracted phases of the Noor Ouarzazate complex total 510MW, so the extra 50-70MW planned for phase IV is over the intended capacity for the site.
Morocco is now moving forward with projects at other sites such as Midelt in central Morocco. But the most irradiated potential solar sites are located in the south, in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
These include the PV solar installations of Laayoun and Boujdour, which Masen is contemplating tendering in parallel with Noor IV.
Developers are still likely to be enthusiastic about these schemes despite legal and financing obstacles. Morocco had no problems attracting technical bids for five wind projects, of which two, Tiskrad and Boujdour, are in Western Sahara.
Although some European institutional investors have a policy of not investing in the disputed area, financing could come from other regions.
Regarding the ethical dimension, unlike resource extraction, renewables projects are most likely to benefit the residents of Western Sahara. They will provide a clean source of electricity, allowing the sustainable development of the people whose land they utilise.