Economic DevelopmentMoroccan Policy DialogueResearchEnhancing Climate Resilience through Green Energy Transition in Morocco

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Enhancing Climate Resilience through Green Energy Transition in Morocco

Policy Brief

 

By: Mohammed Masbah, Hajar Idrissi and Rachid Aourraz

 

Introduction

Morocco faces critical environmental challenges as a result ofclimate change. This includes, creeping desertification, compromised forest areas, water scarcity, degradation of fragile ecosystems like oases and the coastal areas, and a high vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters. These environmental pressuresnot only threatens Morocco’s rich biodiversity but also the livelihoods, well-being, and health of its people[1].

A key indicator of this environmental strain is the notable increase in average temperatures, which, since the 1960s, increased by 0.2°C per decade, surpassing the global average by approximately 11%[2]. Moreover, climate projections in 2017 showed an increase in frequency and severity of droughts, particularly affecting central and southern regions, such asOjuda, Taza, Errachidia and Beni Melalwhere temperature increases have exceeded 2°C[3].

These climate changes, including anticipated changes in temperature and precipitation patterns are expectedto intensify in the coming decades, potentially exerting profound impacts on the water cycle[4]. This poses substantial risksto the agricultural sector and various other economic activities, underscoring the imperative to prioritize the adaptation agenda as a central tenet of Morocco’s policy objectives.Therefore, urgent measures are imperative to address climate change and enhance energy security in Morocco.

The Moroccan government has expressed its commitement to address these challenges, by allocatingfinancial resources toward climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. Key policy  initiatives include the Moroccan Climate Change Policy published in 2014, the 2030 National Strategy for Sustainable Development launched in 2017, the National Climate Plan 2020 2030 launched in 2019, the updated NDC submitted in 2021, the National Water Plan 2020-50. Although these policies have led to a notable improvement in adaptation efforts, the energy sector has received less attention compared to other areas.

In spite of itsrenewable energypotential, Morocco has increasingly relied on coal for power generation. The energy sector accounted for 65.1 percent of total gross greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. The most significant emissions come from power generationwith 36.1 percent of total, followed by the transport sector (29 percent). Other sectors that emit are agriculture (22.1 percent), industrial processes (6 percent), and waste management (5.4 percent)[5].

Recognizing this, Morocco’s mitigation strategies have understandably concentrated on decarbonizing the power generation. The implementation of prominent solar and wind projects has elevated the contribution of renewable energy to approximately 20 percent of the power generation energy mix as of 2021[6]. However, the commissioning of three new coal power plants[7] during the 2010s has increasedthe total coal-fired power-generating capacity to over 4 gigawatts, representing 39 percent of total power generation in 2021. Consequently, the carbon intensity of the power sector has seen a continual rise, positioning Morocco’s power sector as one of the most carbon-intensive globally, emitting approximately 600 tons of CO2 per gigawatt-hour in 2020[8].

In response, Morocco is now betting on renewable energy to strengthen its energy sovereignty, reduce the cost of energy, and transition towards acarbon-free economy in the coming decades.

 

Morocco’s Energy Sector

While Morocco’s greenhouse gas emissions doubled from 44.6 to 91.2 million tons of CO2-equivalent between 2000 and 2019, its global emission remain modest at 0.2 percent. Notably, Morocco’s carbon intensity is positioned at 9.2 percent, below the global average and 30 percent lower than the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region[9]. Additionally, since the early 2010s, Morocco has embarked on a trend of relative decoupling, where GDP growth outpace greenhouse gas emissions, implying a decline in the the carbon intensity of its the GDP. Under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, Morocco positioned as a pioneer in renewable energy (RE) in Africa, integrating economic advancement with environmental preservation and sustainable development.At the Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015, the King announced ambitious plans to increase the share of renewable energy to 52 per cent by 2030[10]. The majority of this will be solar energy, followed by wind energy and hydroelectric power. This strategy aims to reduce the energy dependence on foreign sources and strengthen Morocco’seconomy[11].

Morocco’s energy demonstrates a significant carbon footprint as it relies heavilty on fossil fuels which represent nearly 90 percent of the Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) as of 2017. This compositionincludesoil who constitute the majority at 62 percent of TPES, followed by coal (22 percent) and natural gas (5 percent). Given thelimited domestic production, Moroccoheavily depends on energy imports, constituting 95 percent of TPES in 2017. This substantial reliance on external sources renders exposes the country to risks such as political unrest in supplier countries, and potential price shocks, hence threatening domestic fuel security within the Kingdom[12][13].

In response to these challenges, Morocco embarked on an ambitious Renewable Energy (RE) program.In 2009with the objective of achieving 42% of its installed electricity generation capacity from renewable sources by 2020, and surpassing 52% by 2030.  In terms of institutional framework, the Ministry of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development (METSD) is responsible for the development and implementation of the energy, mining, and geology policies in Morocco. METSD supervises several companies and public institutions connected to the electricity market (METSD, 2021).The Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment (MEMEE) has created an institutional and legal framework for RE.

The legal framework for RE, particularly the Renewable Energy Law (Law 13-09) of 2010 and its amendment (Law 58-15) in 2015, facilitated this transition by enabling both private and public electricity producers based on RE to connect to the national grid. However, this law made barrier access to small investors by allowing only producerswith capacity to inject the medium, high and very high voltage to national electricity grid.” This law was then amended and completed by Law 58-15 in 2015, which introduced a “net metering scheme for solar and wind power plants connected to the low, medium, high, and very high-voltage grid, as well as allowing RE producers to sell surplus electricity to the grid.”  Although the Law 58-15 allows the resale of excess electricity production to the ONEE or to the electricity transmission system operator, the resale is limited to 20% of the electricity produced. While this amendment should be seen as a move towards greater liberalisation of the RE sector, exact terms and conditions for opening the low voltagegrid are yet to be elaborated[14].

This legislative environment led to the creation of the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN)[15] in 2010, a pivotal body in the deployment of RE across the whole value chain. Following an instruction of King Mohammed VI in December 2015, the state-owned company was given a central role in piloting the implementation of the Moroccan RE programme in symbiosis with ONEE[16]. It has three main tasks : a) Developing solar and other RE power projects, b) Contributing to the development of national expertise, and c) Proposing regional and national plans on solar and other RE technologies[17]. Therefore, MASEN conceptualizes RE power projects, such as the 580-MW solar complex near the city of Ouarzazate (NOORO solar complex), promotes projects towards domestic and foreign investor, but also develops technicaland economic feasibility studies. For national and international investors, MASEN’s institutional framework offers a single point of contact bringing together authorization, acquisition of land, financing, and attaining a state guarantee for the investment[18][19][20].

Morocco has also developed a range of strategies and roadmaps to support its energy transition, such as theLong-Term Low Emissions Development Strategy (LT-LEDS) Morocco 2050[21], Office of Electricity and Drinking Water (ONEE) Production Master Plan for 2040, PtX roadmap, Biomass Energy Valorisation (VEB) strategy, roadmap for the exploitation of marine energies, Cluster Green H2, National Sustainable Development Strategy (SNDD), National Energy Efficiency Strategy 2030, updated NDCs, National Climate Plan (PCN), Green Economy Strategy, National Water Plan 2050, Morocco Vision 2050, among others[22].

Moreover, Morocco has set in place a considerable number of green energy initiatives. As a pivotal component of this strategic initiative, the country introduced the Moroccan Solar Plan (MSP), designed to establish several large-scale solar power plants,aiming to increase the installed solar power capacity (PV and CSP) of 180 MW end of 2015 to 2,000 MW by 2020 and to around 4,800 MW (authors’ estimate) or 20% of all installed capacities by 2030 (additional 4,560 MW from 2016 to 2030).

Morocco has taken advantage of its geographical position and environment to gain an edge in the field of renewables, especially solar energy. Initiated in 2009, a cornerstone of the national energy strategy is the Solar Plan, which provides for the construction of more than 20 large- and medium-scale concentrated solar power (CSP) plants called Noor – Arabic for ‘light’ – across the country, many of them to be situated in marginalised rural areas. By 2019, three CSP plants (Noor I, II and III) located in Ouarzazate in south-central Morocco became operational. The overall Ouarzazate project includes four power plants: Noor 1, Noor 2, Noor 3 and Noor 4 with different technologies. Noor 2 has a capacity of 200 MW based on parabolic mirror technology and Noor 3 is equipped with a solar tower of 100 MW capacity. Noor 4 based on photovoltaic technology has an output of 72 MW[23]. With a capacity of 160 MW, Noor 1 is currently one of the largest concentrated solar thermal (CSP) parabolic cylinder power plants in the world.Covering a giant field with around two million mirrors, Noor Ouarzazate constitutes the world’s largest CSP complex, producing around 6% of Morocco’s total energy supply[24].

Table 1 lists the major projects completed, in the process or planned in sites, with total investment estimated at approximately USD 9 billion through to 2020.

Table 1: Major solar projects

Plant/ Site Production capacity Technology Commissioning year
Ain Beni Mather 472 MW CSP/PV 2011
Ourazazatte 2018 580 MW CSP/PV 2018
Foum Al Oued 500 MW CSP/PV 2020
Boujdour 100 MW PV 2018
Sbkhat –Tah 500 MW CSP/PV 2020
NOOR Tafilalt 120 MW PV 2019
NOOR Atlas 200 MW PV 2020
NOOR Argane 200 MW PV After 2020

Source: Boulakhbar et al.2022

Additionally, the favourable geographical location of Morocco, with its 3,500-kilometre coastline, provides it an important wind energy potential, estimated at about 6000 MW. Most of Morocco’s windiest regions are located in the extreme north on the Strait of Gibraltar side in the Tangier-Tetouan region, the Essaouira region, the South Atlantic area from Tarfaya to Lagouira and the Taza corridor between the Atlas and Rif mountain ranges.The Moroccan Integrated Wind Program[25], launched in 2009, aims to increase the country‘s installed wind power capacity to 2,000 MW by 2020 and up to 20 percent of all installed capacity by 2030. As a result of Morocco’s many successful RE initiatives, electricity generation from wind and solar PV are now competitive with the price of fossil fuel-based electricity[26].Table 2 shows the commissioned wind power plants.

Table 2: The commissioned wind power plant

Project Capacity Year of Commissioning
Amgdoul 60 MW 2007 60 MW 2007
Tanger I 140 MW 2009
Koudia Al Baida/Toress 50 MW 2000
Cimar 5 MW 2011
Lafarge 32 MW 2009
Trfaya 300 MW 2014
Akhfenir 100 MW 2014
Akhfenir 2 100 MW 2016
Foum Al Oued 50 MW 2014
Haouma 50 MW 2014
Jbel Khalladi 120 MW 2018
Aftissat 200 MW 2018
PEI 85 — MIDELT 180 MW 2019
PEI 850 — BOUJDOUR 100 MW 2019
Law 13-09 – OUALIDIA 36 MW 2019
PEI 850 — TISKRAD 300 MW 2020
PEI 850 — TANGER II 70 MW 2020
PEI 850 — JBEL LAHDID 200 MW 2020
TAZA 150 MW 2021
Law 13-09 SAFI 200 MW 2021
Repowering Koudia 100 MW 2021

Source: Boulakhbar et al.2022

Morocco’s large agricultural sector, coupled with the significant proportion of organic components in the generated waste, presents a favorable opportunity for harnessing power through biomass and biogas. The country is also strategically planning to produce bioenergy from household waste and generate biogas utilizing wastewater. Presently, there is an absence of national strategies to fully capitalize on this potential, despite the initiation of operations by some smaller enterprises in this domain[27].

On the landscape and system level, Morocco has already taken considerable steps towards energy transition, and classified as very ambitious and exceptional for the MENA region, making the country a clear frontrunner for renewables. However, some barriers remain resulting from existing technical, financial, regulatory, and social patterns. Cooperation and communication between institutions must be improved to increase the efficiency of the work-flow. On the regulatory level, laws that support RE development need to be applied at a faster pace. Hence, political decision makers must implement decrees quicker.

 

Challenges and Recommendations

  • Green Financing: the development of green finance is confronted with numerous challenges. The first of these challenges is to implement incentives targeted at reducing the costs of green projects, thereby increasing their return and attractiveness. Furthermore, the absence of adequate infrastructure, institutional and legal deficiencies, and corruption increase the country risk to access to climate finance.Given the urgent need to combat climate change and environmental risks that may hamper future investments, it is critical to promote green finance within the energy sector which is an essential part of the country’s effort to combat climate change and meet sustainable development goals. This involve creating enabling condition for investment in low-carbon sectors.The Moroccan government should boost green finance as well as green investment, ensuring adequate funding for sustainable energy initiatives.The Moroccan financial sector has also been called upon to contribute to the Kingdom’s transition to a green economy. Moroccan banks support national sector plans for sustainable development and energy transition, such as the Green Morocco Plan, which has received around USD 3 billion over the past five years, and have also allocated USD 1.2 billion to the renewable energy sector during the same period[28]. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) should be strategically utilized in climate finance and energy transition. PPPs can provide innovativeand adaptable conceptual frameworks to support cooperation and collaboration between public and private entities, increasing impact of private climate finance. Proper designand execution of PPPs are vital to ensure they effectively support both mitigation and adaptation efforts.
  • The Legal Framework: The Moroccan Government has undertaken a wide-ranging reform of the legal framework governing the renewable energy sector. However, there has been an increasing need to improve the law system in order to adapt it to the new needs of the State and the private and industrial operators. Strengthening and refining national policiesfor green energy transitionto provide a comprehensive and supportive framework for green energy transition. This includes clear regulations, incentives, and support mechanisms for renewable energy projects.
  • Encourage Decentralization of Renewable Energy Projects: Whilelarge-scale and government-driven projectsrenewable energy are indispensible to meet Morocco’s national energy needs, a more balanced approach that includes decentralized, small- and medium-scale RE projects is necessary. These localized projectscan empower local Moroccan communities and use resources sustainably. Therefore, there is a need to emphasize decentralized energy systems to increase resilience and reduce dependence on centralized power sources. This involves supporting local and community-based renewable energy projects.
  • Focus on Capacity Building and Education: Investing in training programs and educational initiatives is key to build a skilled workforce capable of supporting the green energy sector. Educational institutions should focus on providing comprehensive programs that equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge for the clean energy industry. Additionally, collaborations between universities, technical colleges, and industry stakeholders can ensure that the curriculum remains aligned with industry requirements.

 

Footnotes

[1] Croitoru, Leila and Sarraf, Maria. 2010. The Cost of Environmental Degradation Case Studies from the Middle East and North Africa, Washington DC: The World Bank. http://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/896881468278941796/pdf/562950PUB0Envi1AUGUST0201011PUBLIC1.pdf

[2] Driouech, F et al. 2020.Assessing Future Changes of Climate Extreme Events in the CORDEX-MENA Region Using Regional Climate Model ALADIN-Climate. Earth Syst Environ 4, 477–492. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41748-020-00169-3

[3] The Fourth National Communication of Morocco. https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/Quatri%C3%A8me%20Communication%20Nationale_MOR.pdf

[4] World Bank. 2021. Climate Risk Country Profile: Morocco. https://climateknowledgeportal.worldbank.org/sites/default/files/2021-09/15725-WB_Morocco%20Country%20Profile-WEB.pdf

[5]Cardarelli.R&Koranchelian. T.2023.  Morocco’s Quest for Stronger and Inclusive Growth. Retrieved from https://www.elibrary.imf.org/display/book/9798400225406/CH007.xml#CH007fn14

[6] Ibid

[7]Currently, four coal power plants are in operation in Jerada (320 MW), Mohammedia (280 MW), JorfLasfar (1,254 MW), and Safi (1,386 MW).

[8]Cardarelli.R& Koranchelian. T.2023.  Morocco’s Quest for Stronger and Inclusive Growth. Retrieved from https://www.elibrary.imf.org/display/book/9798400225406/CH007.xml#CH007fn14

[9] Cardarelli &Koranchelian.2023.Morocco’s Growth for stronger and Inclusive Growth.IMF. https://www.elibrary.imf.org/display/book/9798400225406/9798400225406.xml

[10] Akzente/ GIZ. Morocco’s Energy Transition. https://akzente.giz.de/en/stimmen/moroccos-energy-transition#:~:text=His%20Majesty%20King%20Mohammed%20VI,wind%20energy%20and%20hydroelectric%20power.

[11] https://akzente.giz.de/en/stimmen/moroccos-energy-transition

[12]International Energy Agency (IEA). Energy Policies beyond IEA Countries: Morocco 2019 – Analysis, 2019. https://www.iea.org/reports/energy-policies-beyond-iea-countries-morocco-2019

[13] Schinke, B & Klawitter, J. 2016. Project: Middle East North Africa Sustainable ELECtricity Trajectories (MENA-SELECT), Energy and Development at a Glance. https://germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/publication/15121.pdf

[14]MEMEE, Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment Department of Energy and Mines (2015b). Law 58-15. Retrieved from http://www.mem.gov.ma/SitePages/GrandChantiersEn/DEREELaw58- 15.aspx

[15] https://www.masen.ma/en/contact

[16] ONEE : The National Agency for Electricity and Water (Office National de l’Electricité et de l’Eau Potable): Created in 2011 out of the merging of ONE (Office Nationale de l’Electricité, until 2011 responsible for electricity) and ONEP (Office National de l’Eau Potable, until 2011 responsible for drinking water), the state-owned operator is the sole buyer of electricity and under administrative and technical control of MEMEE. ONEE owns a large share of generation capacities, the whole transmission network, and the greatest share of the distribution network.

[17] NRF, Norton Rose Fulbright.2012. Renewable energy in Morocco. Retrieved from http://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/knowledge/publications /66419/renewable-energy-in-morocco

[18] Schinke & Klawitter.2016.

[19]Country Profile Morocco. 2018.

[20] IEA. 2019.

[21]https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/MAR_LTS_Dec2021.pdf

[22] Sustainable Transformation of Morocco’s Energy System. 2022. https://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/maroc/19786.pdf

[23] Boulakhbar et al.2022. Towards a large-scale integration of renewable energies in Morocco. Journal of Energy Storage, 32, pp.101806 -. ff10.1016/j.est.2020.101806ff. ffhal-03491564f

https://hal.science/hal-03491564v1/file/S2352152X20316431.pdf

[24] Climate Home News. 2019. Solar Plant the Size of San Francisco Powers Morocco’s Sunlit Ambitions. https://www.climatechangenews.com/2019/01/22/solar-plant-size-3500-football-pitches-powers-moroccos-sunlit-ambitions/

[25] The electricity market in Morocco is structured around the national utility ONEE that holds a long-standing monopoly on the generation, transport, and distribution of electricity in Morocco. ONEE is a state-owned operator that functions as a single buyer of electricity.

[26] Schinke & Klawitter.2016

[27] Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Morocco. https://www.energypartnership.ma/fileadmin/user_upload/morocco/media_elements/PAREMA_-_Brochure_RENEWABLE_ENERGY_AND_ENERGY_EFFICIENCY_IN_MOROCCO.pdf

[28] Abdellatif Jouahri. Banque de France Financial Stability Review No. 23 – June 2019 – Greening the financial system: the new frontier. file:///C:/Users/Admin/Downloads/financial_stability_review.pdf

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