Zaid M. Belbagi: Morocco’s green energy marvel

Zaid M. Belbagi: Morocco’s green energy marvel

The Moroccan economy emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic geared toward expansion and it is expected to grow again in 2024. The country’s resilience was also evident in its rapid recovery from the devastation caused by the strong earthquakes of September 2023. This economic growth is heavily focused on the country’s transition to sustainable energy. Morocco’s announcement last week that it will earmark 1 million hectares of land specifically for green energy projects is representative of this change.

The scale of the announcement is immense. Initially, the project will set aside 300,000 hectares of land for local and international investors in green energy projects. Given the country’s economic and political stability, as well as its business-friendly environment, this proposed project has already attracted significant interest from investors.

At present, renewable sources power about 20 percent of Morocco’s electricity requirements; though this is high by regional standards, last week’s announcement will significantly enhance the availability of renewable energy in the country, both for internal consumption and, importantly, for export.

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Morocco has immense potential for harvesting renewable energy due to its geographic location — it is either sunny or windy every day of the year and is very close to Western Europe. With more than 3,000 hours of sunshine in a year, 71 percent of Morocco’s daylight hours are sunny. This enabled the country to launch a massive solar power drive worth about $9 billion.

Although Morocco currently depends heavily on oil and coal for its electricity production, it is committed to reducing this. As per Morocco’s National Energy Strategy of 2009, the country aims to produce 52 percent of its primary energy from renewable sources by 2030


The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex is one of the most notable successes in this drive. It is the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant, with a capacity of 580 megawatts, and was built with the intention of powering more than a million households in the country. This is significant for Morocco’s energy security, as it provides access to affordable and reliable energy for large parts of the population and, when expanded, energy for export.

Morocco also hosts the first power cable link between Europe and Africa, the submarine Spain-Morocco interconnection, which connects energy infrastructure in the two continents.

Similarly, Morocco has also begun to utilize its vast tracts of open land and high frequency of wind to install large-scale wind-farming projects that decarbonize its energy consumption. It is now home to Tarfaya Wind Farm, the second-largest wind farm in Africa. Spread over 100 sq. km in the Sahara Desert, it operates more than 130 wind turbines and has an installed capacity of 300 MW, which allows it to meet the requirements of 1.5 million Moroccan households. The Midelt Wind Farm in Draa-Tafilalet, which has a capacity of 210 MW, is another success story in Morocco’s expanding renewable energy production.

Of the most notable achievements in this regard is the proposed Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project, an entirely wind and solar energy-powered electricity generation facility with battery storage. The zero-carbon electricity supply generated from this project is expected to reliably last nearly 20 hours a day on average. This project is led by the British renewable energy company Xlinks and has also seen the investment of TotalEnergies, Octopus Energy and the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company. This project will be located in Guelmim Oued-Noun, a region known to be rich in natural and renewable resources. Once up and running, the project could meet about 8 percent of the UK’s energy demand.

Although Morocco currently depends heavily on oil and coal for its electricity production, it is committed to reducing this. As per Morocco’s National Energy Strategy of 2009, the country aims to produce 52 percent of its primary energy from renewable sources by 2030. This is a notable target given that Morocco’s energy needs are expected to triple by 2030. It is also aiming for an 18.3 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the same year.

The plan relies on multiple sources for renewable energy, including wind, solar power and hydroelectricity. This ambitious goal will enable Morocco to significantly reduce its carbon footprint and reduce dependence on energy imports, which are a significant strain on the economy, given that 90 percent of the country’s energy needs are met by imported fossil fuels.

Advancements in the green energy transition will not only aid Morocco’s economy and climate commitments, they will also make the country more self-reliant. Global disruptions due to COVID-19 and the subsequent geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and Ukraine have made evident the need to secure supply chains and nationalize them to the greatest extent possible. As Morocco develops its domestic renewable energy generation capabilities, it will be less prone to the volatilities of supply due to diplomatic tensions or security threats.

Moreover, it will boost employment generation in the country, not only within renewable energy plants but also in auxiliary industries such as energy consulting, logistics and exports. In 2021, the energy sector accounted for more than 12,000 jobs in Morocco and this is expected to grow to more than 400,000 over the next 20 years with an increase in investments in the sector.

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Morocco enjoys a growing position in the Maghreb and the wider African continent due to its steady domestic economic growth and geostrategic location. It is increasingly viewed as a bridge between the European and African markets, particularly as its strategic location allows for infrastructural connections between the two continents. Today, it is recognized as a continental leader in sustainable energy production and is on track to become a global leader in the same field.

With the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant and Africa’s second-largest wind farm both within its territory, Morocco has received positive recognition globally. The international community has lauded its progress toward achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 of ensuring access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all. With Morocco witnessing a rise in investments in the green energy sector, as international players are keen to tap into the country’s potential in this space, it will begin to redraw the geopolitical map.

Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator and an adviser to private clients between London and the GCC. X: @Moulay_Zaid


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