Solar energy to fulfil 12% of Morocco needs by 2020

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Photo – BrightSource Energy

Morocco on Tuesday expressed its confidence of becoming a world-class solar energy producer by finding the investment needed to build vast solar power plants in its southern desert regions.

“Our target is that in 2020, 42% of our power supply will come from renewable energy, including 14% from solar,” Deputy Energy Minister Mohammed Zniber told AFP on the sidelines of a conference in Marrakesh.

“At the moment we have only one solar installation, in the east of Morocco, at Ain Beni Mathar, with an installed capacity of 20 megawatts.”

But Zniber said the country expects to build five new solar plants over the next eight years, with a combined production capacity of 2,000 megawatts and at an estimated cost of less than 9 billion dollars.

“We are sure that a lot of investors will be interested and that we can find the money for these projects. We are very confident about that,” he added.

According to Zniber, the North African state is experiencing a surge in energy demand in 2012, with power consumption to rise by 10%, up from 6.5 percent in recent years.

Unlike its neighbours, the kingdom has no hydrocarbon reserves to rely on. As a result, Morocco is forced to spend billions of dollars each year on fuel imports and relying on Spain to supply its surplus electricity needs via two interconnectors.

But energy analysts say Morocco is using this to its advantage by heavily investing in the clean energy infrastructure and transforming itself as a world-class producer of renewable energy.

The pilot project at Ain Beni Mathar is a hybrid plant — solar and gas — but the new plants will use only the sun, with the first, located near the desert frontier town of Ouarzazate, to have a 500 megawatt production capacity.

“This is the biggest project of its kind in the world,” said Obaid Amrane, from the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), explaining that it was being built in two phases and, when completed in 2015, would cover 3,000 hectares.

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