Morocco has emerged as a pioneer in renewable energy in Africa, revolutionizing its energy sector, to achieve nearly hundred percent nationwide supply.
This feat is even more remarkable when one considers that demand for electricity in the north African nation has constantly increased, by an average of 6-7% per year over the last 25 years.
For the African Development Bank, Morocco is a prime example of the success of a key High 5 priority – electrification of the African continent by 2013, and a model to inspire other countries.
Rural Electrification breathes new life into small, independent businesses
In less than 20 years, Morocco has made extraordinary progress to electrify the whole country and this includes even the rural areas, which have seen their coverage increase from 18% in the mid‑1990s to nearly 100% presently.
Thanks to its ambitious Global Rural Electrification Programme (PERG), which received a big contribution of €155 million in funding from the Bank, Morocco has been able to achieve the unthinkable. At the end of 2017, close to 12.7 million Moroccans had been connected to the grid through PERG.. In addition, they have seen their lives radically transformed by the arrival of electricity.
For example, Mohamed Dakhni, 32, a welder in Douar Bou Azza in northern Morocco. When he started his business, Mohamed was content to make small tools and cookery utensils, which he sold in his village market. But, just a few months after being connected to the electricity grid Mohamed trade was transformed.
“Electricity has enabled me to create things and I’ve been able to develop my business by expanding my customer base. I can earn more and live better”, he said with a broad smile. .
Ahmed Hassani, who hails from the same region, had a similar experience. The father of four inherited a plot of land from his parents which failed all efforts at farming. He transformed the plot into an olive grove using an irrigation system connected to the new electricity installation and his problem was solved. The young olive producer, who now also grows barley, saw his field come to life in just a few years.
“It was total desert when I got here in 2010,” he recalled. “It was all desert. Work required a huge effort. Now, electricity has solved my pumping and irrigation problems. With constant water supply to my field, production has continuously increased.”
Now Ahmed employs four or five seasonal workers for his harvests. “Without electricity, I would not have been able to pursue my business,” he said. “It is my primary support, the single thing that helps me most with this olive grove.”
Other rural sectors are also benefitting from the mass electrification. Village cooperatives, such as the women’s cooperative of Dar Laain, in the Marrakesh region, are now able to widen the range of produce they can process such as couscous, barley, and other wheat-based products.
“I can’t imagine life in this village without electricity. It helps women get better products and be much more efficient,” said Fatima Zahera Hagou, a worker in the crèche founded by the village women’s association.
The good news is that PERG is not the only mega scale project launched in Morocco with the Bank’s support. Over the past two decades, the Kingdom has pursued a programme to strengthen the national electricity supply and diversify its energy mix. With transnational electric interconnections, power station developments, a focus on renewable energy, and energy efficiency, the Kingdom is not sparing its efforts.
Morocco-Spain submarine interconnection
After its first electrical submarine connection to Spain reached full capacity, Morocco decided to build a second plant, doubling transmission capacity to 1400 MW. There too, the Bank supported the project with €80 million.
Combining natural gas and solar energy
The Ain Béni Mathar power station, which opened in 2010, is a 472 MW combined cycle plant that uses both natural gas and solar energy. This project, undertaken in partnership with the Global Environment Facility and the Moroccan National Electricity Agency (ONE), was the African Development Bank’s first foray into solar energy. The Bank provided two thirds of the cost of this project with 187.85 million Euros.
The largest concentrated solar power plant in the world
At the gateway to the Sahara Desert, Ouarzazate sits the largest concentrated solar power complex in the world, named Noor (‘light’, in Arabic). Here again, the Bank is the largest financier to this project, with € 365 million investment.
Noor I opened in 2016 with a capacity of 160 megawatts and more than 500,000 mirrors arranged in rows = over 460 hectares (that’s 600 football fields) to reflect the sun. Two further thermo-solar power plants, Noor II and Noor III, were commissioned after that, and are due to come on-stream by the end of 2018, with a total capacity of 350 MW.
A fourth 70 MW power plant is also under construction, which will bring the total capacity of the Noor Ouarzazate complex to 580 MW.
“No country or continent ever developed in half-darkness,” said Hassan Lissigui, head of division at the National Electricity Agency (ONE). Here, there isn’t the slightest doubt for millions of farmers, artisans, traders, business owners and women’s cooperatives that the fact of having lighting and an energy supply makes all the difference.”
For over a decade, Morocco has committed to an ambitious programme to strengthen and diversify its energy, hitherto dependent on fossil fuels. That ambition has paid off. Now the next goal is to convert 52% of its energy needs to renewable power by 2030 – and this continental trailblazer is definitely on track to do that.
Ain Béni Mathar Project: US$221.97 million (two thirds of the project cost) from the African Development Bank.
Noor I, II and III Complexes: US$236 million from the African Development Bank
Second electrical interconnection between Morocco and Spain: US$158 million from the African Development Bank
“It was a complete desert here when I arrived in 2010. All there was, was a well. Work required a huge effort. Now, electricity has solved my pumping and irrigation problems.” – Ahmed Hassani, farmer.
“I can’t imagine life in this village without electricity. It helps the women get better products and be much more efficient.” – Fatima Zahera Hagou, teacher in a crèche.