Strong headwinds: Renewable energy programmes hold promise for the northern region

Energy is a significant concern for policymakers in Morocco, given the country’s lack of hydrocarbons resources, which makes it reliant on imports to meet demand – and the northern region is no exception, both with regard to renewable energy generation and energy efficiency. Indeed, if anything, the issue is more acute in the north, given the dramatic increase in industrial consumption in recent years.

WIND POWER: The northern areas of Tangiers-Tétouan and Taza-Al Hoceima-Taounate are attractive for the development of wind power, given their position on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts and the presence of mountainous zones. The government has laid out an ambitious strategy for the renewable energy sector, which aims to install 2000 MW of solar electricity capacity and 2000 MW of wind power nationwide by 2020. National installed wind capacity is estimated to currently be under 1000 MW. Nonetheless, the construction of power plants should create new opportunities for partnership and investment in the future, particularly in the north, where inputs are generous.

Morocco’s national utility provider, Office National de l’Electricité et de l’Eau Potable (ONEE), has set the goal of adding 1000 MW of installed wind power capacity between 2010 and 2019. The northern region is set to receive two of the six large-scale projects included in this plan. The first wind farm to be built under this programme is a 150-MW facility currently under construction on a site 12 km outside of Taza. The plant is being developed by a consortium led by France’s EDF Energies Nouvelles and Japan’s Mitsui, which are responsible for its design, financing and construction. The project is structured as a build-own-operate-transfer contract, and the ONEE signed a 20-year agreement to purchase and commercialise the electricity produced. The plant is expected to start operations in 2015.

ONEE launched an international tender in February 2014 for the next phase of the wind programme, which aims to install the remaining 850 MW of capacity across five power plants nationwide. Of the five remaining projects, one will be located in the north, three in the southern provinces and one near the central town of Midelt.

Tenders for the remaining projects were opened to five pre-qualified consortia, which include majors such as Spain’s Acciona; EDF Énergies Nouvelles and Mitsui; Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power and Spain’s Gamesa; Nareva Holding, in partnership with the Gulf operator TAQA, Enel and Siemens; and the UK’s International Power Group and Denmark’s Vestas. Under this phase, a second wind farm is to be constructed in Tangiers, with a capacity of 100 MW. The ONEE tender included the option of expanding capacity at the existing Koudia Al Baida wind power plant near Tétouan to 200 MW, should companies choose to offer bids for the supply and maintenance of the necessary equipment. The remaining wind farm projects will also be structured as public-private partnerships. In addition to investment from private concession holders, Morocco’s 1000-MW wind energy programme has also received financial support from the African Development Bank and the Clean Technology Fund. The European Investment Bank and the German banking group KfW have also reportedly expressed interest in participating.

EXISTING CAPACITY: These projects will build on at least 190 MW of wind power already installed in Tangiers-Tétouan. There are currently two main wind power plants in the region: a 140-MW plant on the outskirts of Tangiers and the 50-MW El Haouma plant near Tétouan. The 140-MW Tangiers plant was one of the country’s first large-scale wind projects, requiring an investment of Dh2.75bn (€244.2m), and was inaugurated in June 2010.

Of the total 750 MW of installed power capacity in the Tangiers-Tétouan region, the majority comes from thermal plants. In the near term Spain will remain an important source of electricity imports for Morocco. Electricity imports accounted for 17.2% of total domestic consumption in 2013, according to Energie Electrique de Tahaddart (EET).

The cable from Spain connects to the national grid in Melloussa, near the Tangiers Free Zone and surrounding industrial areas.

NATURAL GAS: The largest power plant in the Tangiers-Tétouan region is the 380-MW Tahaddart combined-cycle plant, located south of Tangiers. The plant accounts for half of the installed power capacity in the Tangiers-Tétouan region. It produced a total of 2400 GWh in 2013, down slightly from 2830 GWh in 2012 as the plant adjusted for higher hydroelectric power output resulting from heavier rains in 2012. When it was established in 2005, Tahaddart was Morocco’s first natural-gas-powered plant. Nearly 70% of Morocco’s power is generated from fossil fuels, and the development of natural gas was a strategic choice in order to protect the environment. Carbon dioxide emissions at natural gas plants are estimated to be 32% lower than those of fossil fuel plants. However, Morocco’s supply of natural gas is limited; through an agreement with Algeria, Morocco levies around 6% of the natural gas that flows through the Algeria’s Maghreb-Europe pipeline, which passes through Morocco into Spain.

There was no precedent for the utilisation of natural gas in Morocco, so the government turned to international partners, Spain’s Endesa and Germany’s Siemens, to develop the plant. Its operation was transferred to a jointly held company, EET, under a 20-year concession from ONEE that runs through to 2025. Endesa holds a 32% stake in the project and Siemens a 20% share; ONEE has the remaining 48% and commercialises all electricity produced under the 20-year contract.

The Tahaddart plant was established in the Tangiers area given its proximity both to the pipeline and to the economic and population centres in the north. Previously, three-quarters of national power generation capacity was installed between Jorf Lasfar and Mohammedia. The Tahaddart plant allowed for power generation to be brought closer to key regions in the north, and future plans to build new wind plants in the area should help to increase this.

Tahaddart accounted for 12% of national energy consumption when it was established, but today it is closer to 9.5%, as new plants, such as the 470-MW combined-cycle plant established in Ain Beni Mathar in 2010, have come on-line.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY: The northern region, therefore, is making strides to increase the local production and consumption of renewable energy. Local actors are also working to ensure the adoption of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly policies. Questions of energy efficiency and sustainable development are a nationwide concern, but one that is particularly important in the Tangiers-Tétouan region, given the rapid uptick in industrial activity.

The National School of Applied Sciences (Ecole Nationale des Sciences Appliquées, ENSA) in Tangiers and its spinoff organisation, the Moroccan Association for a Sustainable Environment (Association Marocaine pour un Environnement Durable, AMED), counsel companies in their efforts to adopt energy-efficiency plans and raise awareness about the benefits of “green business”, including reduced electricity bills, lower long-term waste management costs and government energy subsidies. The group is also working to raise awareness among local administrative officials, in order to ensure that sustainability is included in all urban and industrial policies.

The region’s thriving industrial activity has brought with it a sharp uptick in energy consumption and waste. However, AMED President Lotfi Chraibi noted that a number of companies adopted environmentally friendly stances early on. The Renault auto assembly plant is one example, while EET’s Tahaddart power plant is another, as it obtained ISO 14001 certification in 2010. Executives contend that Renault’s Melloussa plant is its most environmentally friendly site worldwide, having reduced carbon emissions by 98%. Chraibi told OBG, “In the Tangiers-Tétouan region, practices such recycling and waste management have significantly improved in recent years. But as industry and construction accelerate, we must be sure that companies are informed of the economic benefits of sustainable policies and are held to efficiency standards.”

A number of Moroccan institutions have begun offering specialised degrees in renewable energy and other technical fields. In the north, ENSA has launched a joint engineering-management degree programme in an effort to produce the next generation of ecologically minded business leaders. The initial group of 33 students will graduate in 2014, and the school aims to reach an average of 40 graduating engineers per year. Progress is ongoing, particularly regarding the application of energy-efficient building codes, but recent developments show that the region’s green thumb is beginning to show.

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The Report: Morocco 2014

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