Morocco adapts to challenges posed by climate change

In order to harness renewables potential in a bid to reduce oil imports and mitigate the negative impact of energy consumption on the environment, Morocco has established a solid legal framework in recent years to encourage the development of renewable energy and the implementation of energy efficiency strategies.

After the signature of a global accord on greenhouse gas emissions in Paris in November 2015 during the 21st UN Conference on Climate Change, Morocco accelerated the development of a number of green projects, including accepting a bid in December 2015 for an 850-MW wind farm and the inauguration of the world’s largest solar plant in Ouarzazate in February 2016.

With the impact of global warming becoming more apparent in the country, the government has developed several initiatives to lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve its management of water resources. In the context of urban sprawl, water stress and the impact on ecosystems, Morocco has put in motion a robust roadmap aimed at enabling the country to better adapt to climate variations.

Legislative Reform

Over the past decade, in order to ensure the protection of its environment, Morocco has enacted a solid legal framework through the adoption of a comprehensive set of laws, including the National Charter for Environment and Sustainable Development, the law on renewable energy, the law on energy efficiency, the law on waste management and the National Strategy for Water (Stratégie Nationale de l’Eau, SNE). Similarly, the 2011 constitution proclaimed the population’s right to a healthy environment. In 2015 a series of new laws related to coastal protection and a ban on plastic bags were also passed to further efforts to “green” the economy.

Moreover, as part of the Rio Conventions derived from the 1992 Earth Summit, the authorities are currently working on a new piece of legislation aimed at incurring the civil liability of persons in the event of environmental damage. Morocco’s environment policies are supervised by the Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment (Ministère de l’Energie, des Mines, de l’Eau et de l’ Environnement, MEMEE), which is supported locally by regional environment observatories. Meanwhile, the National Programme of Energy Efficiency aims to achieve an energy saving of 12% by 2020 though the promotion of energy efficiency initiatives in the building sector, industry and transport.


In recent years, Morocco has been increasingly exposed to droughts due to global warming and an over-utilisation of underground water by farmers and households. With the level of water availability dropping from 2500 cu metres per year per person in the 1960s to 500 cu metres in 2015, Morocco is considered a water-stressed country by the UN, and one of the areas most vulnerable to climate variations in the future. As such, the authorities have put in place several measures aimed at improving Morocco’s overall water management in a bid to preserve the country’s hydric potential, currently estimated at 22bn cu metres per year.


In 2009 the government launched the SNE aimed at upgrading Morocco’s overall water infrastructure. The programme notably included the construction of 59 new large-scale dams and 100 small-scale dams by 2030, as well as the development of a water conveyance project to transfer surplus water from the north of the country to the south. To date, Morocco has a network of 135 large-scale dams and 100 small-sized dams, with a total capacity of 17.5bn cu metres.

As part of the SNE, the country is currently constructing three new dams in the north, namely at Martil, Kharroub and Dar Khrofa, which are expected to add up to 2.6bn cu metres in capacity once completed. In January 2016 two additional dam construction projects were awarded to the Moroccan company Société des Travaux Agricoles Marocains in Agdz and Todgha for an investment of more than $100m. The planned water conveyance project comprises construction of a vast network of artificial canals extending around 500 km to connect the rivers Oued Laou, Loukkos and Sebou to Oum Er-Rbia, Tensift and Bouregreg. Designed to transfer excess water in basins in the north of the country to areas subject to shortages in the south, initial studies for the project were undertaken in the late 2000s. Estimated to cost $3.6bn, the project remains on hold due to Morocco’s current budget constraints (see Economy chapter).


Consuming up to 80% of the country’s water resources, agriculture is expected to be the sector most affected by a shortage of water over the next few years (see Agriculture chapter). With a current surface area of 1.02m ha, irrigated agriculture accounts for 15% of cultivated areas, 45% of the agriculture sector’s added value and contributes 75% of agriculture exports. In 2016 GDP growth prospects had already been reviewed downwards due to drought, which has significantly undermined agricultural yields.

As part of the Green Morocco Plan, the government launched the National Plan for Irrigated Water Conservation (Programme National d’Economie d’Eau d’Irrigation, PNEEI) in 2012 in a bid to optimise the use of water resources and improve agricultural yields via the expansion of drip irrigation systems. With a $90m endowment, the programme aims to extend the surface area of irrigated land by 50% over 10 years, as well as to improve irrigation techniques. As such, several regional offices for agricultural enhancement have been set up to monitor the development of irrigation through different public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Three PPPs are currently under way to develop drip systems in the Doukkala, Souss Massa and Dar Khrofa areas. Based on a report by the Ministry of Finance, the PNEEI resulted in 410,000 ha of agricultural land being equipped with drip systems in 2014. This programme is expected to save 2.4bn cu metres of water by 2030.

Solar Pump

According to National Agency for the Development of Renewables and Energy Efficiency (Agence Nationale de Développement des Energies Renouvelables et de l’Efficacité Energé- tiques, ADEREE), agriculture accounts for 6% of Morocco’s energy consumption, owing predominantly to irrigation equipment, tractors, dryers and livestock infrastructure. In 2015 the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Ministère de l’ Agriculture et de la Pêche Maritime, MAPM) implemented a $40m programme in partnership with the MEMEE, ADEREE and the local bank Crédit Agricole to subsidise the acquisition of solar-powered ( photovoltaic) water pumps as a means of substituting the widespread use of butane as a power source in the country. According to the MAPM, butane is still used in the irrigation of approximately 100,000 ha; a total of 800,000 tonnes of oil equivalent per year. In addition, the plan is expected to alleviate the current high level of subsidies in butane gas granted by Morocco’s Compensation Fund. “So far 8000 solar pumps have been installed across Morocco. Large-scale agricultural holdings have been the first to see the potential of solar pumps, therefore our priority now is to disseminate the technology among smaller agricultural structures and show solar pumps are a sustainable economic model,” Said Mouline, managing director at ADEREE, told OBG.

Potable Water

Since the implementation of the National Plan for Potable Water in the 1990s, access to potable water in urban areas has reached 100% coverage, though it has grown at a slower pace in rural areas, with 94% coverage as of 2015.

The National Office for Potable Water (Office National de l’Eau Potable, ONEP), the entity in charge of developing and maintaining Morocco’s water infrastructure, is working to increase the number of water networks from 73% to 80% by 2025. The institution is involved in an ongoing infrastructure project in the north-eastern city of Oudja aimed at reducing leakage rates from 37% at present to no more than 20% by 2019.

Water Treatment

Similarly ONEP has been focused on improving Morocco’s water treatment system. The National Programme for Water Treatment aims at generalising the collection and treatment and reuse of 80% of wastewater by 2020 and 100% by 2030, and in 2005 the authorities put forth the 15-year National Programme for Water Treatment aimed at reducing the pollution index due to wastewater by 60%, as well as bringing the total number of urban households connected to sewers up to 80%. The programme has focused on upgrading and extending the country’s liquid drainage system to reduce incidences of recurrent flooding. As of 2015, there was a network of 90 water treatment plants present in Morocco.

In recent years the less populated southern regions of the country have been the recipients of greater engagement from the government, which has been looking to alleviate water stress in the area. As such, the south is expected to receive $290m of investment in 2016 to allow it to upgrade potable water conveyance in the regions of Laayoune and Dakhla, in addition to improved energy-recovery equipment at the former desalination plant in Laayoune. Water distribution infrastructure will be also reinforced in Tarfaya, Smara and Boujdour.

Water Recycling

With an estimated volume of 38m cu metres per annum, recycled water is still only used to a limited extent, mainly for the irrigation of parks, golf courses and agricultural land. In December 2015 the authorities presented a National Water Plan with the goal to recycle 325m cu metres of wastewater by 2030, with the completion of 162 projects across the hydraulic basins of Loukkos, Moulouya, Sebou, Bou Regreg Chaouia, Oum Er-Rbia, Tensift, Souss-Massa, Guir Ziz Rhéris and Sakia El Hamra Oued Eddahab.


Until recent years, desalination activities were limited in the country. ONEP has been operating a dozen small-scale desalination plants – mostly in southern areas – for a total capacity of 35,000 cu metres per day. They notably provide 80% of water in Laayoune and 100% in Boudjour. In 2015 two new desalination projects came on-line. A partnership between the Research Institute for Solar Energy and New Energies (Institut de Recherche du Solaire et des Nouvelles Energies, IRESEN), the National Centre for Nuclear Energy and Technology, the universities of Moulay Ismail and Hassan II, Moroccan company LSA Industrie and Spanish group Solar Platform de Almeria, led to the establishment of AquaSolar in January 2016. As Morocco’s first solar-powered desalination plant, located in the Green Energy Park of Ben Guerir near Marrakech, the plant has the capacity to desalinate 120 cu metres of water per day.

The pilot project required a $450,000 investment, fully funded by IRESEN. Powered by photovoltaic and thermal solar technologies, the plant is expected to deliver potable water at a price of $0.80 per cu metre over an operation time of 10 years. Badr Ikken, managing director at IRESEN, told local press, “The market must now define new outlets for this technology, including sites or structures in remote areas experiencing shortage in water resources, or tourism resorts and schools.”

In February 2016 a second desalination plant was set up by Morocco’s national phosphate company OCP S.A. in Jorf Lasfar Industrial Park. With an initial capacity of over 68,500 cu metres per day in its first phase, the unit is aimed at tapping into the growing water needs created by the development of OCP’s mining and industrial activities. Once completed, the plant is expected to have a capacity of around 205,000 cu metres per day.

Similarly, the authorities are set to accelerate the development of desalination as a means to counter the country’s predicted shortage of water. As such, the MAPM launched a tender bid for the construction of a new desalination plant to the south of Agadir for the Souss-Massa area in early 2016. Another tender bid is also under way to develop a similar desalination plant in Dakhla.


Morocco is considered a low greenhouse gas emitter despite a rise in its emissions, with 3.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per inhabitant in 2012, compared to 2.95 in 2010. The country is, however, expected to be significantly exposed to the effects of global warming in the near future.

Average temperatures have already increased by 1°C and rainfall has decreased by 16%. As a consequence, in March 2016 the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Morocco outlined a $56.9bn greenhouse gas mitigation roadmap, which outlines 49 specific measures aimed at saving 81.9m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2040 and at generating $2.6bn annually. These measures comprise energy-efficiency programmes in housing, construction, industry and transport, along with the development of “green” cities, with the support of ADEREE, which has a mandate to reduce domestic energy consumption by 12% before 2020 and by 15% ahead of 2030.


In November 2015 the authorities implemented a new regulation to rationalise energy consumption in residential and commercial buildings. The legislation imposes a series of technical requirements related to thermal insulation in the development of new real estate projects. “In the first phase the legislation will focus only on new real estate developments, especially in colder areas. The rehabilitation of Moroccan housing stock is only envisaged in the middle-to-long term,” said Mouline. “Similarly, as the implementation of these new thermal standards progresses, we expect the local building materials industry to raise production and meet local demand,” he added.

Created in 2013, the Energy Efficiency and Building Materials Cluster completed the first energy-producing social housing project in Settat in partnership with Morocco’s Energy Investment Society and the National Office of Vocational Training and Employment Promotion. With a 95% local content rate, the pilot project paved the way for the consolidation of the local building materials industry and prompted authorities to plan the creation of the first laboratory of thermal characterisation of materials in the near term.

Green Development

The authorities are currently building the first green city in Africa at Ben Guerir, near Marrakech. With a total investment of $4.8bn, the project comprises 48 socioeconomic projects, including the construction of various cultural, sport, leisure and academic facilities, as well as phosphate-processing units and the extension of the existing military base.

In 2015 IRESEN put in place the Green Energy Park – the first platform for testing, research and training in renewable energy – in partnership with OCP for an investment of $29m, with the goal for Morocco being to reach a critical size in terms of research and development in renewable energy.

Solar Boilers

In recent years the solar-powered boiler market has experienced steady growth in Morocco, with approximately 40,000 solar boilers sold annually. In 2015 the installed surface of solar boilers was estimated at 400,000 sq metres, a level considered below market potential.

“Given Morocco’s high exposure to the sun, solar boilers can be amortised from the second year of installation,” Ahmed Squalli, president of the Moroccan Association of Solar and Wind Energies, told OBG. The challenge so far has been the size of the market. “The market needs incentives, similar to Turkey, Israel or Cyprus,” he added.

As such, in a bid to further encourage the development of solar boilers and reduce the use of state-subsidised butane gas, ADEREE is set to launch Programme Shemsi in 2016. The initiative will increase the acquisition of solar-powered boilers, with the goal to reach an installed surface area of 1.7m sq metres by 2020. Similarly, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has made it a requirement that all private developers install solar-powered boilers in their middle-income housing programmes. Morocco is also expected to start local production of solar boilers in the short term, with IRESEN investing around $660,000 in partnership with Fez-based group Ecole Supérieure de Technologie to conceive Sol’R-Shemsy, a 100%-Moroccan solar boiler still in the development phase at the time of writing.


Like most emerging countries, Morocco has experienced substantial population growth and a massive rural exodus in recent years. This has caused the percentage of the population living in urban areas to jump from 29% in 1960 to 60% in 2015. As a consequence, transport contributes significantly to energy consumption (41% of the total) and greenhouse gas emissions (23%). In a bid to reduce emissions, the authorities have deployed a multi-fold strategy. First, there have been efforts to develop public transport, particularly a tram network. A tram system is already in place in Rabat and Casablanca, with plans under way to develop new lines in Marrakech, Fez, Tangiers and Agadir.

Overall, the needs associated with a cleaner public transport infrastructure in the country’s 10 largest cities are expected to require investment of up to $4.3bn by 2030. Premium schemes priced at $8000 for the scrapping of old trucks and taxis have also been put in place, as well as training programmes in eco-driving for captive fleets. New measures are also in the pipeline, such as the introduction of tax incentives for low-consumption vehicles, limitation standards for gas emissions and the implementation of energy audits on commercial fleets. In addition to these moves, Morocco is set to develop a fleet of 38,500 electric vehicles for its public institutions as part of a $540m programme.


In recent years the state has looked to limit the impact of major industries. A partnership between the French Development Agency, the German Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), as well as local banks Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur and Banque Central Populaire, led to the creation of a $90m investment fund called the Morocco Sustainable Energy Financing Facility, which is focused on supporting industries in their energy efficiency and renewable production projects. “Thus far, $20m has been allocated, through loans for energy efficiency, mostly to tourism facilities, hotels and agri-business,” Mouline told OBG.

In addition, local lender Attijari Bank, has created a new credit line called “Effinergie” aimed at funding energy-efficiency investments conducted by small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as individuals. Other sector stakeholders are also expecting long-term benefits from funding. “Renewable energies are cost efficient and have improved our competitiveness,” Hakim Marrakchi, CEO of Maghreb Industries, told OBG. “Our solar panel facility capacity, for example, should have a five-year return on investment now that we have financing assistance and a grant from the EBRD. This experience can be reproduced in sub-Saharan countries.”

More Effective Waste Management

Waste management has become a growing concern as the output of urban solid waste in the country has progressively increased over the years to an average of 6.9m tonnes per annum. In 2004 Casablanca was the first city in Morocco to commission a waste collection service by contracting three companies, Sita el Beida, which is a subsidiary of Suez Environnement; Tecmed; and Sedegema, a subsidiary of Pizzorno. A number of other cities followed suit in 2006, including Khouribga, Essaouira, Meknès, Béni-Mellal, Fquih Ben Salah, Ouazzane and Tangiers.

The country also established the National Programme of Waste Management. Costing Dh40bn (€3.7bn), the programme was launched in 2008. The programme aims to help the country reach a waste collection rate of 85% by 2016 and 100% by 2030. The plan calls for collecting, recycling, valorisation and establishment of landfills. The initiative should be succesful if it is accompanied by the development of production chains.

There are 16 companies currently active on the delegated waste collection market, with turnover estimated at $260m in 2015. More than 90% of urban communes follow a waste management system – which corresponds to a total of 118 contracts – a trend which is reaching rural communes, such as Moulay Abdellah, which contracted Segedema as part of a $530,000 deal. While French companies dominated the waste-management market in previous years, new local operators have emerged since 2010, namely OS-NDD, Ozone, GMF and Casa Technique, to apply for small tender bids. Larger municipal waste management budgets have supported the entrance of these new operators.

Casablanca’s annual budget for waste collection rose from $35m in 2004 to $48m in 2014, Rabat’s from $12m in 2008 to $21m in 2014 and Tangiers’ increased from $8m in 2008 to $17m in 2014. In 2015 Sita El Beida was the major waste-management operator, with several major contracts in Casablanca, Mohammedia, Safi, Nouacer, Tangiers, Tétouan and Oujda, generating an annual turnover of $80m. Lebanon’s Sukleen-Averda, which operates in Casablanca, Rabat and Marrakech, followed in second, with a $35m turnover.

Waste Recycling

Until recently, recycling in Morocco was a process organised through an informal network of 10,000 rag-pickers, meaning the country recycled just 10% of its waste, mainly plastics, board paper, glass and iron. The authorities, however, put in place a National Programme for Household Waste Management in 2008 with a goal of reaching a recycling rate of 20% by 2022.

At an estimated cost of $4bn, the strategy has led to major improvements across 180 cities, pushing up the waste-collection rate from 48% in 2008 to 86% in 2015. The MEMEE is also set to improve all existing landfills by 2020 and to develop training and awareness programmes at the municipal level. In addition, 12 recycling centres for household waste are currently under construction to the informal structures that exist currently. “The collection of plastic bottles is informal, hence their price is undervalued. By bringing this activity into the formal sector, the public sector could create value, with a higher social impact,” Abdelkhalek El Youbi, director of Les Eaux Minérales d’Oulmes, a company specialising in bottled water, told OBG.

In 2015 the World Bank praised the management model of the Oum Azza landfill near Rabat, which receives 850,000 tonnes of waste annually and resells 2200 tonnes of solid waste. The facility is to begin accepting organic waste – which accounts for two-thirds of total waste in Morocco compared to 33% in Europe – and will use it to produce bio-gas, which it will resell to a nearby cement plant. Similarly, Spanish firm Sando, which is in charge of trash collection in the western part of Tangiers, launched a waste-sorting experiment in December 2015, whereby colour coding was applied at garbage dumps to encourage residents to categorise and separate their rubbish.

Smaller players have also been developing initiatives under the aegis of Cluster Solaire, an association aimed at encouraging innovation by small enterprises in the implementation of green projects. Moroccan research company Peps, for example, developed a solar oven able to transform waste into electricity. Another company, Kilimanjaro Environnement, collects edible oils from 3500 operators and makes them into biofuels for export to Europe. The firm also launched a pilot scheme to collect oil from households. So far, the group has reached out to 50,000 households in Casablanca, Khouribga and Ben Guerir.

In October 2015 the state signed three agreements on waste recycling development with private operators, namely the Federation of Wood, Graphic Arts and Packaging Industries; the Association of Morocco’s Petroleum Firms; and Eco-Gras. The accord’s objective is to recycle 140,000 tonnes of cartons, 70,000 tonnes of lubricant oils and 105,000 tonnes of edible oils annually, and, in the process, generate 15,000 jobs.

Human Resources

Moroccan engineering schools and faculties of science and technology have thus far provided the green energies sector with the bulk of qualified personnel. More recently, the advancement of renewable energies and an increase in the popularity of environment-related careers among students has led to the development of new faculties in most Moroccan universities.

Ensuring these programmes meet the needs of employers in the industry is crucial, as the sector is evolving quickly. “Not only do we have to ensure there is a match between the qualification of Moroccan graduates with specific needs in human resources expressed by renewable energy and green companies, but we also have to make sure there is no oversized manpower in these areas.

Large-scale projects in the solar and wind sectors are highly automated and do not require much human capital,” Touria Barradi, former vice-president at the Moroccan Society of Renewable Energy Development, told OBG. “However, the upcoming development of smaller projects related to low or medium voltage, as well as the take-off of new green industrial sectors, should undoubtedly lead to increased needs in engineering qualifications in the medium term. Our higher education and vocational training systems have to be ready to train a large number of students to a high standard in order to best accompany these developments.”

As part of a Franco-Moroccan cooperation programme, the authorities launched the construction of three training institutes related to renewables and energy efficiency in 2016.

Known as Institutes of Training on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Jobs, these are based in Oujda, Tangiers and Ouarzazate, and are a way of supplying the growing human capital needs that have emerged through the development of wind farms and solar stations. The facilities are expected to train 1500 new technicians every year in a wide variety renewable segments.


In less than a decade Morocco has made some important strides in terms of environmental conservation and protection. The development of large-scale solar plants and wind farms has been accompanied by the creation of new industrial segments and a series of green initiatives aimed at saving water and reducing gas emissions. To lower energy consumption further, the kingdom is also working on a new bill that will see the introduction of a 1% tax on oil products. This will be used to contribute to the subsidisation of energy-efficiency initiatives going forward.

With Morocco set to host the 22nd UN Conference on Climate Change (COP22) in Marrakech in November 2016, the kingdom has been looking to position itself as a regional frontrunner in the fight against climate change.

For Barradi, “COP22 will be the opportunity for Morocco to consolidate its experience in the development of renewables and natural resources management, and to share its know-how with most African and MENA countries.”

Marrakech seems to be at the crossroads of many of the green initiatives that have been deployed by Morocco. “During the COP 22, in a 200-km radius around Marrakech, Morocco will show the progress made in a wide range of areas, including the solar plant in Ouarzazate, the wind farm in Essaouira, the green city of Ben Guerir, the upgraded water-cleaning station in Marrakech, as well as the solar pump programme,” Mouline told OBG. “Morocco has managed to put in place a new economic model that is replicable for African countries and allows a rapid return on investments in a public-private approach, as well as positive environmental impacts. For example, every dirham invested in energy efficiency yields triple the value for each country in terms of energy savings and gas emissions,” he said.

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The Report: Morocco 2016

Environment chapter from The Report: Morocco 2016

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