Personal Notes: This blog has already featured one of Christopher Coats earlier articles about the potential the Desertec initiative holds here in the Mediterranean region. Once again Coats has managed to highlight not only the great number and scale of possibilities but also some of the challenges facing the region. Indeed what is so interesting about Morocco's position right now in North Africa is not only that it is uniquely positioned to lead the way, as Coats points out, but also that it is grappling with many of the challenges of being a leader in a hitherto untested scenario: a developing economy who is a large energy consumer moving to become an energy producer. By far the biggest obstacles which Morocco faces are a lack of capital and a lack of technical knowledge, both of which must be (and are being) imported from outside.
By Christopher Coats -- 18 April 2012
Amid the eager and often conflicting discussions about what it’s going to take to develop a real, tangible green economy in North Africa – one that makes the most of a seemingly endless supply of solar and wind – one conclusion keeps rising to the surface. If there is one state – one organized national campaign to lead the way - it’s going to be Morocco.
With Tunisia and Algeria eager but bogged down by political and infrastructure issues and Libya a question mark as far as stability is concerned, all eyes have fallen on Morocco to prove that renewables can work. Even Egypt, with solar and wind projects underway and promised, will be looking to Rabat for guidance, said Thiemo Gropp, Director of Desertec Foundation, an energy initiative aimed at developing a renewable market across the Southern Mediterranean.
In terms of offering the kind of progress that appeals to both foreign investors wary of North Africa and locals eager to avoid the kind of lop-sided distribution seen with oil and gas efforts, Morocco’s solar projects serve up a real possible way to show how the cake gets divided, said Mohamed El-Ashry, a UN Senior Fellow active in energy issues in the region.
El-Ashry and others have pointed to the country’s progress in terms of what they see as anchor projects, meant to show tangible results for those in and out of the region. The most prominent among these is a planned $2.8 billion concentrated solar project, meant to produce 500 MW and scheduled to start construction this year. Without these anchor projects taking shape soon, convincing anyone to support the kind of long-term financing and political support needed to see the region’s renewable sector through would be challenging.
Despite the pressure, Said Mouline, the director of Morocco’s Agency for the Development of Renewable Energy was content with the anticipation and eager to make the most of the country’s leadership role. Mouline traces the country’s early adoption of renewable options back to Morocco’s heavy dependence on foreign energy, explaining this week that that context was simply different than oil-rich neighbors in Algeria and Libya. It began with a high-energy bill.
Currently dependent on imports for 97 percent of its energy needs, Morocco has worked to reduce its dependence on foreign sources through the development of domestic projects, including exploring newly found traditional reserves and shale projects. Recently; however, the state’s embrace of solar and wind has become a pillar of the country’s energy policy.
“Throughout its Energy Strategy, Morocco aims at cutting down its dependency on fossil fuels and at reducing the huge charge it is making on the country’s budget,” said Fouad Douiri, Morocco’s newly appointed Minister of Energy, Mines, Water and the Environment earlier this week. “In order to achieve this goal, renewable energy in all its forms is considered as a priority in the Moroccan energy strategy, which is based on a balanced mix of energy where clean fossil fuels are combined with renewable energies as well as energy efficiency.”
Douiri went on to cite a series of laws passed in 2009, providing the foundation and grid support for the country’s renewable efforts, including the creation of the National Agency for Renewable Energy Development and Energy Efficiency and the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN). The laws also gave “the right to producers to use the network of ONE (National Office of Electricity), which is the national grid operator,” adding that they “would be allowed to build their own network in case of energy export if the national transmission and interconnection capacities were not sufficient.”
Alongside international partner efforts like Desertec and Transgeen, the laws were set up to help the country to increase the country’s installed renewable energy capacity from the current 26% to 42% by 2020 (14% from solar, 14 % from wind and 14% from hydropower). It helps to have the technology and economic support, Mouline explained, but what really matters is the political will.
Despite the momentum behind the country’s renewable efforts, advocates in Rabat have plenty of roadblocks ahead, both at home and abroad. In Morocco, ensuring funding for needed research and development could take a hit from the country’s current economic ills. Morocco may have avoided the kind of political uprisings that swept across the rest North Africa over the last year, but it came a significant cost in the form of heavy spending aimed at easing unrest and unemployment.
However, the country’s challenges will not affect how Rabat will support renewable efforts, said Douiri. When asked if the country’s elections or economic woes would change the government’s green approach, the Minister responded, “Absolutely not, the RE strategy is a strategic priority. Nothing will affect our policy choices in this sector.”
Looking for funding from foreign partners could be equally as challenging as many of Morocco’s most active trading partners – and mainly Spain – are struggling to keep afloat themselves, let alone have enough left over to invest in Morocco’s green dreams.
Still, advocates like Mouline are adamant about not sacrificing their position in the region in exchange for investment, no matter how bad things get. For them, it’s a political issue as much as it is economic or environmental.
“We believe this should be a co-effort between the north and south (Mediterranean),” Mouline said, but with development in terms of jobs, infrastructure and energy use in the south taking precedent over any energy needs in the north.
Further, Mouline continued, the development of Morocco’s green economy can help strengthen ties behind a common push towards the kind of shared benefits critics felt were lost in the development of hydrocarbons over the last 30 years.
“We want to look at solar and wind development in the same way as oil or gas in terms of development, but not in terms of how they were controlled,” Mouline said. “Given the right circumstances (with solar and wind), everybody can win.”(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Genesis Morocco : http://genesismorocco.blogspot.com