When Spain failed to show up for a recent Desertec meeting that would have signaled government support for the 150 MW concentrated solar plant (CSP) in Ourzazate, Morocco, energy bloggers rushed to dub the program designed to supply Europe with renewable energy produced in North African countries a failure.
Both Bosch and Siemens pulled out as well, further fanning skepticism. But All Africa reports that despite setbacks, solar energy is safe in Morocco, where the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen) has secured $380 million for a 160MW CSP plant planned for the same region set aside for the Ourzazate plant.
With few fossil fuel reserves to call their own, Morocco has long demonstrated its commitment to generating renewable energy.
In 2009 the government unveiled a plan to spend $9 billion on a total of 2 GW of solar energy by 2020, in addition to wind and biofuel projects.
Then in June, 2011, the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii) signed a cooperation agreement with Masen to start working on projects that would allow Europe to benefit from Morocco’s solar. This agreement would have allowed Morocco to lean on Dii’s networking prowess for help with its own plans.
Given this history, it’s not so surprising that the media panicked when the Desertec initiative took a tumble, but it was premature to underestimate Morocco’s ability to sidestep obstacles in order to meet the country’s rising energy demand.
With backing from the European Investment Bank, the French Development Agency and Germany’s KfW added to existing support from the World Bank, European Union and the African Development bank, Masen has secured an initial $380 million that will allow the agency to honor its recent contact with Saudi’s ACWA Power to oversee a 160MW CSP plant in southern Morocco.
This falls short of the 1.04 billion euro necessary to reach completion, but it’s a start and it shows that Morocco is unwavering in its commitment to transform the country into a power producer.
With domestic energy demand on the rise and fossil fuel due to reach its peak, and global greenhouse gas emissions dangerously high, we really can’t imagine a saner alternative.
:: All Africa
Image of desert flower in Morocco, Shutterstock