How Morocco went big on solar energy

Morocco has become famous for its vast, world-leading solar arrays. But these mega-projects are just the start of the action on climate change that Morocco could be capable of delivering.

Morocco has made a name for itself as a climate leader. Renewables make up almost two-fifths of its electricity capacity, some fossil fuel subsidies have been phased out and the country lays claim to some of the world’s largest clean energy projects. The country has received much praise for its actions to decarbonise.

The country’s reputation may be well deserved, but it still faces real challenges – its geographical position in a warming hotspot makes it vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. And even as it seeks to end its dependence on fossil fuels, its energy demands are rising fast.

Despite these challenges, Morocco has a huge natural potential to produce solar, wind and hydropower, and has taken significant steps to realise it. Morocco’s national action on climate change dates back to the mid-2000s, when the country made the decision to become a regional leader in clean energy and to push forward massive renewables projects. The country’s leaders bet on these major transformations as a way to be economically competitive in the future, as well as to reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports and ensure security of energy supply, says Mohamed Alaoui, the managing director of Africa Climate Solutions, a consultancy firm based in Casablanca.ADVERTISEMENT

Shining bright

In 2009, Morocco set out an ambitious energy plan which aimed for 42% of total installed power capacity to be renewable energy by 2020. The plan drove a strong expansion of both wind and solar over the following decade, with solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity increasing 16-fold (albeit from a low base) and wind six-fold by 2020. Morocco also built the Noor-Ouarzazate complex, the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant, an enormous array of curved mirrors spread over 3,000 hectares (11.6 sq miles) which concentrate the Sun’s rays towards tubes of fluid, with the hot liquid then used to produce power.

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