Insight Into Morocco’s Solar Power Growth

Posted on October 16th, 2012 by

Said Mouline, director of the new Moroccan agency of development for renewable energies and energy efficiency (ADEREE), discusses his country’s solar power growth and how other renewable energy generation plays into their overall energy strategy.

Full Transcript:

Ben Lack Talk a little bit about your organization: Agence Nationale pour le Développement des Energies Renouvelables et de l’Efficacité Energétique (ADEREE). Who’s involved and what are your overall goals for promoting renewable energy within Morocco?
Said Mouline In 1982, after the second oil shock, the Kingdom of Morocco decided to create a center for renewable energy. The goal at that time was just to look at new technologies because of the country’s energy dependence – we were looking for other resources, and of course at that time the price for renewable energy was very high. In the 1990s, we started looking at one technology for decentralized rural power and we started looking at developing solar PV for rural electrification and for other applications like solar pumping and electricity for telecommunication.At this time, we were also looking for connected renewable energy power and focused mainly on wind. It took a lot of convincing of all the actors involved in the production of electricity, such as the utility, to look at other approaches for producing electricity besides the coal and fuel power plants we had up until then. Particularly with wind power plants, we looked at all the sites and conducted wind measurement, and we looked at all resources to see how we could further develop them. At the same time we were also looking for financial support and green investment.

Our approach was successful, and we were able to convince the utility to start some small wind projects in the range of 60 megawatts to 100 megawatts. But the real big change arrived in 2009, when we had a big event on energy policy in the country, and we were considering not only the energy approach, but also the environmental approach and the social one. We received really strong support at the highest level of the state, when the King wrote a letter giving priority to renewable energy and energy efficiency. The center became an agency for renewable energy and energy efficiency. So it was there from 1982 and in 2009 and was transformed to support this new strategy. And two big programs also were announced with the objective of having 42% of our capacity coming from renewable energy by 2020. And today we have 1.7 gigawatts of hydro and 300 megawatts of wind.

We expect to reach 6 gigawatts in 2020, including 2 gigawatts solar, 2 gigawatts wind and 2 gigawatts hydro. We have also a strategy for energy efficiency in industry, housing, transport, because if we develop cleaner energy that could be more expensive we have to be really careful about energy consumption at the same level.

Ben Lack How great is the support for solar and what type of steps are you and your team putting in place to make sure that solar is a successful part of your overall renewable energy plant?
Said Mouline It was a big debate in Morocco. When we started looking at wind 10 years ago, people said it’s too expensive, but the price was continually decreasing. In the solar field we had the same debate. When it was decided to have a 2 gigawatt program for solar plants, some people were asking why we would go to such expensive technology knowing that Morocco is not a big greenhouse gas emitter country. A Moroccan is emitting 10 times less C02 than an European or 20 times less than an American, so why should we go to expensive energy? Those in the financial sector said we should continue just to use coal power plants as the cheapest way to produce electricity in the country. We said,  when we build power plants today, coal power plants, or fossil fuel power plants — with any fossil fuel — you cannot know the price of electricity for the next 5, 10 or 20 years because of the price volatility of fossil fuel. But with the renewables yes, we can. And one of our main problems is energy dependence.Ninety-five percent of our energy needs are imported today. We have to decrease this to reduce our energy dependence and it is also matter of energy security; we have to decrease our energy bill and we also have to look at new technologies that will use renewable but also national resources, and if they are a little more expensive now, they are also decreasing in price. We think that we will reach the grid parity prices very soon. So it’s better to start right now and to not look at only projects but to look at strategy. That’s why we developed a strategy for renewable energy – it’s not only a production of electricity from solar power plants or wind parks, it’s also a program for developing industry, for developing jobs in the country and also a program of local development.
Ben Lack What does Morocco’s annual energy look like?
Said Mouline We used to pay $4 to 5 billion dollars per year as a country, but since 2008 we reached $9 billion because of the international price of fossil fuel. We should be very careful as we have big growth in energy consumption — almost 7% each year. So we have a lot of investment to do, but also we have to look at the price not only for one year or two years, but for the next 20 or 30 years. At the same level all these projects and power in Morocco are mainly private – today almost 70% of the electricity is produced by the private sector. We have the same approach with renewable energy projects. The projects are and will be developed by the private sector, but we are also looking for green financing. We managed to attract the clean technology funds, financing from the World Bank, the African Development Bankand others for financing our solar programs.All of our wind parks are also financed trough development banks such as the European Investment Bank, the German and French Development Bank. So all these actors are now proposing green financing with very low rates that allow us to decrease the gap between the price of electricity from renewable and from fossil fuel. So the strategy started with a strong political commitment, objectives to reach from now to 2020 and creation of different institutions for the implementation. ADEREE is the agency dedicated for the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency, but we have other actors. The utility ONE is in charge of the wind program, but private projects are also under development in this field. MASEN is the company dedicated to implement the solar power program. We have also an institution dedicated to R&D- and one for financing. So, all these actors are today working for this strategy.

Another point, very important, it’s a new legislation that we developed for renewable energy and energy efficiency. As I already mentioned, we have a national program (2 GW solar & 2 GW wind). Concerning the wind, many projects will be developed by the private sector for its own energy needs. Today, the new legislation allows anyone to produce for himself power coming from renewable energy. That’s how we have now some private projects developed by cement plants, steel industry, mining industry, and all big consumers, who are developing their own wind parks. Why? Because we are already in the grid parity for the wind. These industries are developing their own wind parks to produce their own electricity. They prefer to do that, even with the big investment needed, than buy the electricity from the utility. One reason is the fact that they will pay the same price for the KWh during the next 20 years. It’s an approach that will be very economical for them. And there are no subsidies for that. There’s no feed-in tariff, it’s just with the market today. They just can sell some carbon credit.

As you know all our renewable energy projects are registered in conformity of the Kyoto protocol so we can sell carbon credit linked to the C02 emissions avoided.Because of the declining price of solar PV these last few years, the same will occur in the field of solar PV for small industries and even households pretty soon.

Ben Lack Can you talk to me a little bit about plans to build a solar thermal plant in Ouarzazate?
Said Mouline The program of 500 MW solar power plants was launched one year ago by MASEN. It is open to all solar technologies. After discussion with the utilities and the needs for storage for the first plant, it was decided that the first plant (160 MW) will be a CSP plant with storage allowing production of electricity after the sunset when the price of electricity is at its peak. 340 MW projects will follow to reach the 500 megawatt installed in 2015.
Ben Lack Please talk a little bit about why you are doing what you’re doing and why you have chosen to spend your time working on renewable energy initiatives.
Said Mouline When I came back from my studies and looked at the energy policy in the Country as early as the 1990s, there was a lot of discussions about this as there were in Europe. A lot of people were saying that we should wait. But we said we have huge possibilities because of the local resources (solar radiation and wind), and we started doing some projects in the rural areas and other small applications for pumping and telecommunications. For a country like Morocco, we have a chance to have such technologies but it’s not a matter of just individual projects, we need a strategy. And we looked at all the policies in countries like Germany, Spain, Denmark, and the United States.As a developing country we have lot of priorities, and when we talk about more expensive technologies people here would say it is too expensive. But we managed to convince people because we thought that this was the best solution for the country. Of course, when you look at the renewable energy you can say especially with the utilities that are linked to peak power and distributing power to grids, was really, for them, difficult to accept. And also, I remember, when we started our first wind park, because of the fact that wind is not always available, they said that this is not that something we can be sure about. But look at what we can do with this, how we can decrease our energy dependence, look at how we can have more power by not importing. At that time we looked to Spain and how they developed a huge wind project and how they created jobs in this field. This made it easier to convince people. When the energy price became more economical, we had more and more people listening to our strategy.

Many neighbouring countries are oil producers and we are not. Our tariffs are quite high in Morocco, compared to our neighbouring countries. So the gap between classical energy or fossil fuel energy and renewable is not so high. And by having a strategy we managed to have huge impacts on our economy. The energy bill in 2008 helped us a lot. This strong pro active policy decided at the highest level of the state was the big start. So, we have ended up with a strategy for decreasing our energy dependence that is also having a great effect on our economy while protecting the environment. As environment and energy engineer, looking the impact of climate change on our economy, this approach that I and others were fighting for since many years, make us much more optimistic about the future in terms of energy independence, job creation and environmental protection.

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