As longstanding ruling regimes shake and fall around them, Moroccans to date have been able to steer a moderate, comparatively peaceful course of socio-political change that’s seen the establishment of a new constitution based on modern pluralist democratic principles tolerant of social, political, and religious diversity. Encouragingly, with regard to energy policy, that’s included moving forward with a progressive, proactive national renewable energy and energy efficiency strategy that includes renewable energy sources meeting 42% of electricity demand by 2020.
The ramifications of working to reach that goal are deep and far-reaching. In doing so, Morocco’s government believes it can steer a new course of socio-economic development that will yield big, long-lasting dividends not only in terms of energy security and self-reliance, but in terms of social equity, economic opportunity, and environmental sustainability.
In a July 12 interview, the director of Morocco’s new renewable energy agency, Agence Nationale pour le Developpement des Energies Renouvelables et de l’Efficacite Energetique (ADEREE), Saïd Mouline, laid out in more detail the aims, underpinnings, and means by which Morocco is working to realize its renewable energy and energy efficiency goals. Taken at face value, they appear ambitious and impressive, yet also practicable.
Renewable Energy: Morocco’s Solution to a Mix of Interrelated Problems
At present, some 95% of Morocco’s total energy demand is met by imports, primarily of oil, coal and natural gas, Mouline told CleanTechnica. That’s been a big drain on the country’s balance of trade and foreign exchange reserves, which has only surged higher with the run-up in petroleum prices that began around the mid-2000s. The social, political, and environmental ramifications associated with its dependence on fossil fuel imports compound the problems associated with fossil fuel dependence, he noted.
On the other hand, the cost of electricity from renewables — wind and solar, in particular — is already at or very near parity with grid power from fossil fuel power plants. Newly installed wind power is already cost-competitive with conventional electricity from Morocco’s grid, and new solar power is nearly there, as costs have declined sharply in the past few years, Mouline pointed out, and that’s just looking at renewables from a purely hard and narrow dollars-and-cents perspective.
The cost of electricity for individual consumers in Morocco is based on a sliding scale, Mouline explained: 7 US cents/kWh for the first 100kWh moving up to 16-17 cents per kWh if you consume more than 400kWh per month, “so the heavy users pay proportionally higher.” Many Moroccan homes, he added, consume very little electricity as compared to their European counterparts (and much less than US residents) – less than 400kWh per month.
There’s another sliding scale of electricity billing for industry. Rather than being linked to consumption, it’s linked to time-of-day power consumption, he continued. For commercial/industrial consumers, electricity rates range from 7 cents to 10 cents per kWh.
Morocco believes developing its considerable renewable energy resources and enhancing energy efficiency can go a long way towards addressing all these interrelated issues, Mouline said, even to the extent, in terms of the energy sector, of transforming the nation from a fossil fuel importer to a “green” energy exporter to Europe.
Morocco’s renewable energy and green economy ambitions don’t stop there, however. In addition to investing in solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects and infrastructure on both the small and large scale, Morocco is marshaling its own resources while working internationally with other governments, development organizations, and foreign companies in establishing not only the infrastructure, but also the critical legal framework and educational and vocational training capacity, to build a “green” energy economic sector that it projects will create some 50,000 new jobs by 2020.
The environmental benefits aren’t being overlooked, either, Mouline continued, noting that Morocco has a national CO2 emissions monitoring authority that enables renewable energy project owners to qualify for UN Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) carbon offset credits. The owner of Morocco’s first wind power project, a 60-MW wind farm in south-central Morocco, was able to sell CDM credits at $13 per metric ton for every metric ton avoided. More impressively, all 300-MW of wind power capacity up and running in Morocco today has qualified for CDM carbon offset credits.
Mouline acknowledged the challenges and magnitude of change required to realize the country’s renewable energy/energy efficiency strategy goals.
“It’s a drastic change. We managed to convince the government and others to enact the renewable energy/energy efficiency policy by convincing them it’s time to have a new strategy because of our resources and our needs. It’s not only a matter of energy capacity and production, but a matter of energy independence, which is very important today, as well as protecting the environment and stimulating economic and jobs growth.”
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I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.