Morocco to build largest global solar plant and achieve 50% of electricity from renewables by 2030


Morocco's status as a global poster-boy for renewable energy was confirmed in May when it signed a $780mn contract to build Noor Midelt, a plant that solves solar energy's biggest problem: what happens when the sun goes down?

The plant, to be built by a French-led consortium, combines two solar technologies to give it daytime and after-dark power generation. It will be the jewel in the crown of an impressive strategy.

Morocco's 10-year renewables strategy runs like a blueprint for turning dreams into reality. It began in 2009 when the government confronted a looming energy crunch. Mass electrification during the 1990s brought electricity into almost every home, but also led to power demand increasing by an average of 4-6pc per year. A growing population, now 34mn, and Morocco's reliance on imported fossil fuels for 90pc of its power generation, meant it faced an increasing financial headache to keep the lights on.

Morocco's renewables success story is a template for other MENA states

Lacking the oil and gas assets of some of its neighbours, Morocco turned to a trio of natural resources. Along with abundant sunlight, the country has fast-flowing rivers running off the Atlas Mountains that are suitable for hydroelectric power. And, occupying Africa's junction with the Atlantic and Mediterranean, there is plenty of wind.

A National Energy Strategy was published and a pair of agencies were set up to coordinate renewable development: the Moroccan Solar Agency, later renamed the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (Masen); and the National Agency for Development for Renewable Energy (Aderee). The energy market was then put on a commercial footing, with fossil fuel subsidies phased out.

Ten years on, investments in hydro, solar and wind account for 35pc of power generation. Coal and gas-fired power stations account for 64pc and the expansion of the Jerada coal-fired power plant means output is increasing. In total, Morocco produces 9.085GW of electricity.

The government has pledged that renewables will produce 52pc of electricity by 2030. A $1bn investment has been made to construct 16 wind projects. Morocco already has eight hydro-electric projects, the earliest dating from 1953, including dams originally built for water reservoirs that have been converted for hydroelectric generation. But it is solar that has caught the headlines.