Momentum in Morocco for 100% Renewable Energy?

Morocco, the fifth largest economy in Africa, and the host of 2016 Marrakesh Climate Conference (COP 22), is clearly making a steady progress to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. In Morocco, as well as globally, the energy sector is one of the major drivers of climate change. Forecasts suggest that precipitation in the Northern Africa country is likely to decrease between 10 and 20%, while temperatures are likely to rise between 2 and 3 °C by 2050. Regardless of the climate change scenarios, Morocco will suffer from water scarcity by 2020-2030.

Today, the consequences of climate change have already caused long-term imbalances in the country. Part of the vegetation has disappeared, drinking water is scarce, and agricultural production is decreasing. Indeed, it is estimated that the Moroccan agricultural production will drop by 15 to 40% due to climate change during the 21st century. This can push food prices up, worsen social inequalities and destabilise the country’s socio-economic balance.

Additionally, Morocco is extremely dependent on fossil fuels import, which is jeopardising the country‘s present and future energy security. The country imports 96% of its energy demand. Petroleum imports account for 20% of total imports and 50% of the current trade deficit. Further, energy consumption in the Northern African country has risen at an average annual rate of 5.7% from 2002 to 2011 due to economic growth, population rise and increase in per capita energy consumption. And government predictions suggest this figure is going to double by the end of 2020, and quadruple by 2030.

The good news is that Morocco is aware that urgent action is needed. And it has already initiated significant policies to revert its high dependency on external energy resources. Framed under the Stratégie Energétique Nationale (National Energy Strategy) elaborated in 2009, Morocco has promulgated regulations and laws to favour renewable energy expansion for electricity generation (Loi 13-09), and energy efficiency (Loi 47-09); the country has likewise established institutions –i.e., the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), or Société d’Investissements Energétique (SIE), with the capacity to manage, supervise and promote renewable energy projects; and has succeeded in drawing foreign investment into the country to build the required renewable energy facilities, such as Ouarzazate solar complex station, which will have a capacity of 2000 MW by 2020, will provide 10% of Morocco‘s electricity needs by 2020, will save 762,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, and once completed, will be the world’s largest solar park.

Through these policies and strategies, Morocco aims to achieve 42% of installed power capacity (or 6,000 MW out of the total 14,580 MW) from renewable energy (14% hydro, 14% wind and 14% solar) by 2020. Even though this translates into 10-12% of Morocco’s final primary production, the Morocco’s target is still remarkable if one considers that the country is creating a renewable energy industry from scratch. And that it is very well positioned to support other countries in the region embarking on this bold new energy transition journey. Nevertheless, the recently published World Future Council report “100% Renewable Energy: Boosting Development in Morocco” highlights if Morocco wants to fundamentally change its energy landscape, it cannot rest on its laurels.

In a round table discussion hosted by the WFC and Climate Parliament in November 2014, 30 Moroccan policy makers identified the following key challenges for the country’s renewable energy industry: economic and financial barriers restricting the entry to capital markets, and lack of accessible financial support for small scale projects that would facilitate private consumers to install RE technologies; market failures and imperfections, where fossil fuels are still heavily subsidized (equivalent to 5.1 per cent of GDP in 2011); political, institutional/ governance and regulatory barriers, including a lack of stable and coherent regulations, a lack of cooperation across governance levels and institutions, as well as a strong lobby in favour of existing fossil fuel-based energy monopolies.

If Morocco wants to keep the momentum going, particularly in the run-up to 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP 21) when pressure and debates are mounting for truly global efforts to combat climate change, the country needs a holistic, joint and integrated approach to overcome the existing barriers hampering Morocco’s energy transition. It is within this context that a Working Group[i] representing 17 Moroccan associations in the field of environmental protection and sustainable development gathered in Rabat, Morocco under the theme: “Morocco 2050 – 100 % renewable energy: Supporting civil society to fight for energy equity and renewable energy in Morocco”.

This workshop took place from May 17 to 20, 2015 with the international participation of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Climate Action Network (CAN), German Watch, Bread for the World, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and the World Future Council (WFC). It urged Moroccan authorities to:

  • Build strong alliances and collaboration across sectors and governance levels;
  • Improve the mechanisms for Moroccan civil society participation and access to information on energy policies;
  • Lay the foundations for a coherent and comprehensive renewable energy policy framework beyond 2020;
  • Provide a stable investment climate for renewable energy that benefits vulnerable population groups and considers the local context; and overall,
  • Ensure that Morocco’s energy transformation is an inclusive, sustainable and fair process.

As the host country of COP22, the Moroccan government has the great opportunity to use the political momentum and put its country as well as the world community on track for a 100% Renewable Energy pathway.

[i] The Working Group is composed of the following NGOs: Réseau des associations de développement de sud-est (RADOSE), Association des Enseignants des Sciences de la Vie et de la Terre Maroc (AESVT), Association des amis du parc national d’Ifrane (ASSAPNIF), Association Homme et Environnement (HEE), Association TICHKA pour la coopération et le développement, Association Talassemtane pour l’Environnement et le Développement (ATED), Association Amis de l’Environnement (AAE), Association du Gharb pour la Protection de l’Environnement (AGPE), Association IDIL pour le développement et le tourisme (AIDET), Association Femmes Bladi pour le développement et le tourisme (FBDT), Espace de solidarité et de coopération de l’Oriental (ESCO), Association de la protection de l’environnement a la wilaya de Tétouan (APEWT), AZIR pour l’environnement, Association de développement local de Chefchaoun (ADL), Réseau Marocain Euromed des ONG/Association Eau et Energie pour Tous (ASEET) and the Mediterranean WWF.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015