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Morocco reveals strategy to speed up energy transition

Morocco energy transition minister Leila Benali World Bank/Riccardo Savi
Leila Benali, Morocco's energy transition minister. The country wants to produce more than half of its electricity from renewables before 2030
  • Minister Leila Benali at Cop28
  • $9bn for renewables, $4bn for gas
  • Hydrogen initiative for 2024

Morocco is accelerating plans to add 9 gigawatts to its electricity generation capacity – enough power for nearly 8 million homes – with 7GW coming from renewables. 

But the country will need to discover or import more gas as it bets on creating a new hydrogen economy, according to Leila Benali, its minister of energy transition and sustainable development.

“We want not only to move from coal or cater to the intermittency of renewables. We also need gas infrastructure to prepare for the green ammonia, the new methanol we want to deploy at scale,” Benali said, speaking on the sidelines of the Cop28 climate conference.

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The Moroccan government plans to launch a green hydrogen initiative next year to attract local and foreign investors.

Benali added that Rabat wants to produce more than half of its electricity from renewables before 2030. The remainder will come mainly from natural gas.

The renewables will require $9 billion, while the government intends to invest another $4 billion in gas infrastructure.

Morocco has adopted an aggressive renewables strategy in part because the country of 37 million people is poor in hydrocarbon resources. Today, 42 percent of its power generation comes from renewables, Benali said. 

The country can now generate 4.5GW from renewables, according to Benali. This is one of the highest figures in the Arab world, surpassing Egypt (3.5GW) and the UAE (2.6GW).

Morocco has formed multiple partnerships with overseas investors for energy transition projects. Masdar, a UAE government-owned company, is part of a consortium that won a tender in May 2019 to construct the 800MW Noor Midelt solar plant in Morocco. It is developing the plant alongside France’s EDF Renewables and Morocco’s Green of Africa.

In April this year, Dubai-based Amea Power won a contract to build two solar power plants.

However the kingdom still depends heavily on imports of oil, gas and coal. Its annual consumption of natural gas is estimated at around 1 billion cubic metres.

Morocco’s reserves total about 39 billion cubic metres of gas, according to Global Energy Monitor, while it produces only 100 million cubic metres.

Several international companies, including Sound Energy of the UK, have made gas discoveries recently, which may increase production up to 400 million cubic metres per year – but still well below the country’s needs.

The kingdom has been importing gas via the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline from Spain, following the deterioration of relations with neighbouring Algeria over Western Sahara. The Moroccan government has also explored investment in coastal regasification terminals to improve energy security.

Last Monday Rabat and Abu Dhab signed a long-awaited investment co-operation agreement to develop an Africa-Atlantic pipeline. The project intends to channel Nigeria’s gas to Morocco and Europe.

The UAE will participate financially and technically in the $25 billion-plus, 5,600km long pipeline, which will transport Nigerian gas through 13 national borders along the Atlantic coast.

“It’s a win-win partnership. Being able to have those discussions with our European partners, African partners, and the rest of the world, because the Atlantic Basin is also very important to us, is key,” said Benali.

The country’s energy strategy also includes plans to improve energy efficiency and storage, and invest in grid connections.

“Like other nations, be it from the global north or the global south, Morocco has under-invested in transmission and distribution networks,” the minister added.

It is planning a high-voltage direct current cable link to connect solar power from the country’s south to the north and Europe.

Morocco is also working with the UK on Xlinks, a $20 billion plan to build solar panel and wind farms in the desert that could power more than 7 million British homes by 2030. 

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