Could Morocco be First to Get 42% Solar?

It might seem counter-intuitive, but an undeveloped North African nation could be the first in the world to get 42% of its electricity from solar power. It has set its policy to achieve that end. And, startlingly, undeveloped nations actually do now lead the world in the addition of new renewable energy. France has just stepped forward to help. (Paris Gives Morocco’s Solar Plan a Frank Chance)

The extraordinary Moroccan Solar Plan unveiled last November is aimed at achieving a hugely ambitious 42% renewable energy target by 2020, higher than California’s 33% and second only to Portugal’s 45%. Unlike them, it is putting all of its renewable energy eggs in one basket. Solar. All kinds of solar. Fourteen percent is to carved out for just concentrated solar power, CSP. So why Morocco?

Like Israel, Morocco has an energy balance heavily weighted against it by the need to import fossil fuels. With no fossil-fuel production capacity, Morocco has to import all its fuel requirements. Perhaps because Morocco is a monarchy, it can lever a tighter decisionmaking power center than in a democracy. In some ways, the fewer people needed to make a decision, the easier it is to run a country. China too has no trouble implementing renewable policy, because of its tightly held decisionmaking power, as a dictatorship.

But whatever the reason for the scale of this ambitious undertaking, the world has Morocco’s back in this endeavour. Solar trade shows like MENASOL and EneR in November 2011 are now drawn like magnets towards the region. Both the World Bank and the African Development Bank have now committed a variety of funding mechanisms to develop Moroccan solar.

Morocco’s policy framework is the result of government decision to be cautious in introducing feedin tariffs because it could put threaten financial stability, as happened in Spain. The set price Spain’s government offered to pay per kilowatt hour for solar was too generous, leading to a run of offers. Spain has many more megawatts in solar production than necessary as a result, and has had to modify its contracts, and even reduce them after the fact, demanding shorter hours of operation for solar power suppliers: eroding trust.

Learning from this, Morocco has a flexible policy with step downs built in from the start and has currently set two tariffs, one for peak and a lower one for offpeak energy production. In addition, it now has the regulatory framework in place to allow energy products from solar power to be exported, thereby making it of interest to both developers and investors. And it has established a single authority, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), to run the tenders and sign the contracts for all this new renewable power.

Related stories:

Paris Gives Morocco’s Solar Plan A Frank Chance
Looks Like Desertec & Morocco’s Govt Might Join Hands
Morocco Looks to $9 Billion Solar Project to Supply 40% of Country’s Power by 2020

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11 thoughts on “Could Morocco be First to Get 42% Solar?”

  1. Ricardo says:

    It is not very clear to use one picture, showing a HRSG stack (it means comming from gas turbine exaust), to explain a solar forecast.

    I supose that this picture comes from the hybrid solar plant of Beni Matar. 😉

  2. Mehdi says:

    Susan, you are right–you do see that a 42% solar power is a big achievement for a small country or a developing country to say the least. Zouhair, I agree with what you mentioned; I saw it, but empowering Moroccans, shouldn’t be through political means, but rather through economic, education, and social means–Just imagine another Basri as your new elected President… I would rather have an absolute non-elected good king!
    Morocco has many challenges besides the political system, illiteracy, lack of oil resources, territorial dispute with Algeria over the Sahara, yet Morocco has stayed stable and has under the current king advanced quikly. In three years or so, Morocco will have the first Bullet train (tgv)in Africa. The highways are getting to becoming the best in the continent. Huge investments are becoming apparent in the landscape, Casablanca Marina, Morocco Mall, Deserttech,etc. It’s quite fair to say that Morocco did not totally embrace the Arab Spring for a good reason. The current king also changed the Moudawana and granted women more rights-for centuries a woman in Morocco could not divorce her husband, only a man could, and there is still more to grant more rights; political prisoners were freed, yet one must understand that to bring about positive change, we shouldn’t just dissolve everything and start from zero, the case of Tunisia, Egypt, and possibly Libya. The Moroccan reform is much more successful and much more responsible–in fact, England and Spain had taken similar roads into becoming constitutional monarchies; it was not through revolutions, but rather reform. Thank you for your in put, and like you, I’m a bit disappointed as my governor in Florida had turned down the plans for a high speed train this year, yet my country of birth, Morocco, has adopted it! You are right, the love of a country and the will to make it better should be more important than political parties and affiliations. Our president is spending five times more time to convince the congress of the need of certain policies while the Moroccan monarch can sign it right away and look at other issues. But let’s not forget that for the first time, this monarch now will share power with an elected prime minister–that’s change; where is our change so we stop the insanity and get Washington back to work?

  3. Sadly, Zouhair, I have never been to Morocco. But just as you are upset by deals made with your king, at least he’s not in the fossil fuel business. At least your king has your best interests at heart in making this ambitious leap into a permanent free fuel source for almost half your electricity.

    Our “king(s)” in the US are the oil billionaire Koch brothers, who have literally created a puppet party to run America into the ground rather than be taxed at a fair rate. Since you and I are both helpless to democratically influence our “kings”, which king would you rather have?

  4. Zouhair says:

    Susan: Have you ever been to Morocco? trust me even with a widening income gap and a 1% elite living at the expense of the rest,your middle class and poor are still way ahead of the 50% illiterates in Morocco, and the millions of Moroccans living under poverty lines. The point is Morocco is undergoing a big awakening and its people are saying enough is enough to profiteering. There is a wide perception that France and the American green lobby are eying Morocco for profits through investments, and that they want to achieve their goal through connections to an elite that is close to the king and can get deals through their privileged connections: which means business as usual, profit for big foreign business and handful of corrupted intermediaries, no competition and little for the majority of regular Moroccans to benefit from. Good luck to you with supporting a clean and green world, but please keep in mind the current social and political reality in North Africa and the Middle East. Best of luck.

  5. Oh, I am sorry if it seems that I am supporting a dictatorship. My perspective is that of an American, and I am becoming only too dismayed by the crippling effect of gridlock in the US due to its theoretically “democratic” structure, that in fact is not representive of the wishes of the American people at all.

    The recent terrorist attack on the American people by the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party in holding us all hostage to their demands to protect the richest 1% at the expanse of the rest of us (or refuse to pay our bills – that they ran up in Iraq under Bush) makes me more cynical than people who are lucky enough to live in working democracies.

    By contrast China does seem to be much more effective. This is hardly a view I started out with.

    I stand corrected on Morocco. I am sorry to have offeneded with my hasty wording: “undeveloped.” Emerging economy is more accurate, and it does indeed show the evidence of an being emerging economy with excellent policy framework to go far and be the first, as I found in my research. And you are indeed lucky to have such enlightened rule. Monarchy or not.

  6. Zouhair says:

    Susan writes: “Perhaps because Morocco is a monarchy, it can lever a tighter decisionmaking power center than in a democracy.” If Morocco is not a democracy, then what is it? = A dictatorship! and Susan is right. She errs though when she supports the idea that it’s actually easier “to make deals” when only one person has to decide ( in this case the King). True: this might be a good thing for those with privileged relations to the King ( Green lobby??), unfortunately, it’s not good for Morocco’s development. Decisions have to be made by the people and for people’s interest, not by one person and for the interest of a handful of businessmen. That’s what makes Morocco an impoverished country, rather than a poor one. Is it the green prophet or green lobby prophet? Hands off my country!

  7. Moroccan' says:

    Morocco is indeed a dictatorship, the constitution grants the king absolute power. He can dissolve both houses of the parliament and thus overrule people’s willing. He can also rule directly by decrees. He appoints the cabinet and presides over cabinet meetings. He can sack any cabinet member. He’s head of the supreme judicial body in the country and appoints directly all judges. He’s supreme leader of the armed forces. He’s the supreme religious figure in the country. And his speeches are not subject to discussion in the parliament. And even worse, he’s above judgment and control. Is this a democracy in your opinion??

  8. A says:

    two things:
    1- Morocco is not an “undeveloped country”. We’re a developing emergent economy with some of the best infrastructures and human resources in the region. That helps when launching high tech projects like that…
    2- Morocco is not a dictatorship, far from it.

    do your homework

    1. Susan has not called Morocco a dictatorship. She called China a dictatorship. I understand why you read it that way, but if you look closer, she has done her homework!

  9. Casablanca says:

    Susan Kraemer or Ecofascism at his best…

  10. Moroccan says:

    Shame on you for defending the idea that dictatorships make it easier to take decisions. So far from the truth and reality. Is that why dictatorships tend to be such developed countries? What total nonsense.. Clearly green investors in Europe and the US are eying the Moroccan market, and a lot of lobbying is going around.

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