The demand for electricity in Morocco has grown at an average rate of 7% per year since 2003, a trend fuelled by population growth, increasing electrification rates, increasing prosperity and the country’s economic development needs. The country is extremely dependent on energy imports and fossil fuels and intends to tackle these challenges by developing renewable energy resources, in particular solar and wind. In 2009, the Moroccan government adopted a new energy strategy to achieve the objectives of energy security and environmental sustainability whilst setting the economy on a green path of economic growth that generates employment. Part of the strategy is to increase the share of renewable energy in the national energy mix from around 30% in 2009 to 42% in 2020. Morocco’s 2009 Solar Plan calls for the development of 2,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020, starting with the Ouarzazate solar power complex.
A first 160 MW Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant (Noor I) has been built on the site, located approximately 10 km northeast of the town of Ouarzazate. The next phase is the construction of a 200 MW CSP Parabolic Trough plant (Noor II). In its third phase, the project finances the construction of a 150 MW CSP solar power with thermal storage. This is a technology of particular interest to utilities as production is more predictable than for most renewable energy options and the associated storage is efficient and reliable. That facilitates its integration into existing / conventional power systems and minimises the need for back-up fossil-fuel generation capacity. It will be one of the first in the world to use this innovative technology and the first in the region equipped with a dry cooling system. It is also a first reference project for the vision of producing solar power in the desert regions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) on a large scale basis. A photovoltaic plant of a capacity between 50 and 70 MW (Noor IV) on the same site will complete the complex, to be finished by 2016.
With targeted capacity of up to 580 MW, the Ouarzazate Solar Complex will be the largest solar complex in the world. It will substantially increase the share of renewable energy in the country’s energy mix and contribute to the creation of a new green industry, which is in line with Morocco’s objectives of a more secure energy supply, energy diversification, CO2 emission reductions and increased employment. The complex will produce the equivalent of the annual electricity consumption of around 1 157 000 Moroccan households. The project would not have gone ahead without the EU grant. The concessional financing of the project is essential to reduce the gap between the high production costs of CSP plants and the relatively low tariffs in Morocco. This NIF grant softens the financing conditions of the project and thus reduces this financial gap and ultimately the budgetary support to be borne by the government of Morocco. Through the realisation of the project, the NIF grant contributes to the introduction of this promising CSP tower technology in Morocco and the deployment of renewable energies in the MENA region.