Morocco undershot its renewable energy target by 5 percentage points last year, when green power accounted for 37 per cent of its electricity. But, with a target of producing just over half its energy from renewable sources by 2030, the country still has one of the most ambitious clean energy programmes in the Middle East and north Africa region.
As the climate crisis pushes governments and companies to reduce their emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, Morocco is positioning itself as a clean energy leader with the potential to export energy to Europe and new technology to Africa.
Yet there are worries that an overly export-oriented renewable energy sector could be to the detriment of the local energy transition — and to the Moroccan population.
Climate observers view Morocco kindly, says Karim Elgendy, associate fellow at Chatham House and founder of Carboun, which advocates for sustainability in Mena cities. “[Morocco’s] emissions are less than two tonnes per person — that is less than the world average,” he notes. “So, for them to say they are going to do their bit, is encouraging.”
Egypt is aiming to achieve 42 per cent renewable energy by 2035, Saudi Arabia is targeting 50 per cent by 2030 while the UAE wants to reach 44 per cent by 2050.
The renewable energy sector is of particular strategic importance for Morocco, as it is a country that imports close to 90 per cent of its energy.
Rocketing oil prices prompted Morocco to launch its own energy strategy in 2009. Rabat “was putting in place many development projects across sectors, in industry, in aeronautics — we needed electricity to be able to develop our country”, recalls Fatema Hamdouch, strategy and monitoring director at the publicly funded renewable energy company Masen, which manages solar, wind and hydropower projects.
Morocco’s renewable energy sector has the potential to produce 500TW per year, or equivalent to that of Nigeria or Venezuela in gas and petrol, according to the Economic Social and Environmental Council (CESE), a government institution. This calculation includes output from the disputed Western Sahara territory: according to a recent report by Western Sahara Resource Watch, a Brussels-based campaign group, 15 and 18 per cent of Morocco’s current solar and wind capacity, respectively, are sourced from projects within the disputed territory.
But while Morocco has set its sights high, progress has been slower than hoped — and investment in big projects has not translated into better economic outcomes for Moroccan citizens, observes Rachid Aourraz, an economist with the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis.
“In the decade 2011-2020, the GDP per inhabitant has been stable — what is the utility if the revenue of citizens remains stagnant?” he says, adding that the renewable sector has potential but needs to function at “a lower cost and with more advanced technologies”.
As well as falling short of stated targets, Masen…
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