Determined to reduce high energy import costs and pursue green development, Morocco’s National Energy and Energy Efficiency Plan was launched in 2008, outlining a series of targets to move towards greener energy generation from wind, solar and hydroelectric sources. The plan reduced carbon emissions and improved access to electricity for remote rural areas.
In 2008, Morocco was the largest energy importer in North Africa,1 importing almost all its fossil-fuel-based energy resources, leaving the country vulnerable to shocks in the fossil-fuel market. Dependence on fossil fuels also exacerbated Morocco’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, which disproportionately affects those dependent on the land for their livelihoods and people living on a low income in informal settlements. Morocco is highly susceptible to climate change, and in particular, to droughts.
The National Energy and Energy Efficiency Plan aimed to reduce Morocco’s carbon footprint and to lower the cost of energy production. It aimed to generate eight percent of primary energy (equivalent to 20 percent of national electricity consumption) from renewable sources by 2012.2 The goal was to increase this to 42 percent by 2020, and to 52 percent by 2030.3
The Plan envisions increased renewable energy generation to be shared equally across wind, solar, and hydroelectric sources, whilst energy efficiency is also prioritized. To further support the development of the sector, petrol and diesel subsidies were phased out in 2014-15, during a period of low oil prices, and the renewable energy market was opened to foreign competition and investment in government led projects.4
By 2008, Morocco’s hydroelectric capacity already accounted for 24 percent of installed capacity. Hence, the plan prioritized expanding solar and wind power under the Moroccan Solar Plan (2009) and the Moroccan Wind Power Plan (2010). The Moroccan Solar Plan (NOOR) is one of the world’s most ambitious solar energy plans, aiming to generate 2,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power by 2020 (3,000 MW by 2025 and 4,000 MW by 2030) from mega-scale solar power plants in five locations, chosen due to their potential socio-economic impact, availability of land, and resources. Ouarzazate is the first solar plant to be completed under NOOR and is currently the world’s largest solar plant. It is estimated to serve one million people.5
To mitigate spatial inequalities, home solar “pay as you go” systems are available in rural areas that are too remote to be efficiently connected to the national grid, whereby the government has subsidized installment costs and attracted private sector entities to compete for full electrification. Customers pay a percentage of the installed system costs (between 13 and 85 percent depending on capacity) through an upfront payment followed by small monthly payments.6
Morocco’s 2010 Integrated Wind Energy Programme aimed to increase national wind power production to one gigawatt (GW) by 2024 and up to 4.2 GW by 2030,7 and increase from two percent of installed capacity in 2008 to 14 percent by 2020 (which actually reached 13.37 percent in 2021). Under the plan, Morocco hosts one of the largest wind farms in Africa: the Tarfaya wind farm has an installed capacity of 301 MW.
The implementation of the National Energy and Energy Efficiency plan is under the responsibility of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), a public-private venture. It was set up specifically to oversee the implementation of large-scale renewable energy projects. The Hassan II Fund For Economic and Social Development, Energetic Investment Company and the Office National de l’Electricité (ONE) are all stakeholders of MASEN.8
To approve a project, MASEN requires that it demonstrates (1) local development, (2) industrial integration, and (3) international cooperation (either North-South or South-South).9
MASEN operates with policy support from the government, guarantees from the Société d’Ingénierie Energétique (National Energy Engineering Company SIE) and from international finance institutions, with donor technical assistance. In 2021, MASEN became an accredited entity with the Green Climate Fund (GCF), enabling the Kingdom to access greater climate finance funds.10
The Moroccan investment development agency reports that the Moroccan government has invested EUR 34 billion (USD 37.5 billion) in the National Energy and Energy Efficiency Plan, 78 percent of which has originated from global climate finance institutions such as the GCF.
By 2020, it is estimated that USD nine billion has been invested in solar power in Morocco, and EUR 3.1 billion (USD 3.4 billion) in wind power. USD 3.9 billion has been invested in the Ouarzazate solar complex, including USD one billion from the German investment bank KfW, USD 596 million from the European Investment Bank, and USD 400 million from the World Bank.11
The Moroccan government achieved its target of supplying eight percent of total primary energy from renewables by 2012. However, an Ernst and Young report found that the country was just below its 2020 target of garnering 42 percent of its primary energy needs from renewable sources,12 though the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) claims that Morocco achieved its 2020 target.13 Nonetheless, both institutions agree that Morocco could achieve its 2030 target of 52 percent renewable energy, largely due to the high political support received, ambitious public policies to achieve growth in renewables, strong technical capabilities, and advantageous climatic and geographical conditions.14
On climate change reduction, Morocco’s energy plan contributed to it being one of only five countries to have scored a “sufficient” rating in regard to its efforts to keep warming below two degrees Celsius in the Climate Action Tracker. (No country has achieved the “role model” rating as of yet, making “sufficient” the best grade given as of writing).15 In addition, the entire NOOR complex is expected upon completion to reduce carbon (CO2) emissions by 760,000 tons/year,16 while 800,000 tons of CO2 emissions are avoided by the Tarfaya wind farm (i.e., equivalent to CO2 absorbed by nearly 40 million trees per year).17
Rural household solar systems have enabled Morocco to reduce spatial inequality and achieve almost 100 percent rural electrification, for a demography that is typically underserved by public services due to its remoteness. Approximately 10 percent of the country’s population, or 200,000 households living in remote rural areas, now have access to sustainable electricity sources through solar home systems.18
According to ONEE, and as of the end of 2021, the renewables share in the country’s electric capacity reached 37.08 percent,19 with 16.14 percent of this from hydroelectricity, 13.37 percent from wind, and 7.58 percent from solar energy—resulting in a decrease in the fuel share from 14 percent in 2008 to 7.67 percent in 2021. On the other hand, coal still accounts for 37 percent of electricity production20 and in 2022 experienced price increases due to sanctions on Russia.
Morocco is the only African country to have a power cable link to Europe, and is a key player in the Mediterranean Solar Plan and Desertec Industrial Initiative. The Desertec Concept aims to build CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) plants to supply renewable energy from the MENA region to European countries by using high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines.
- 1. Zafar, Salman, “Solar Energy Developments in Morocco
- 2. EcoMENA,” EcoMENA, January 4, 2023, https://www.ecomena.org/solar-energy-morocco
- 3. European Wind Energy Association, “Wind Energy - The Facts – Morocco,” 2009, https://www.wind-energy-the-facts.org/morocco.html
- 4. Zafar, “Solar Energy Developments in Morocco.”
- 5. Christofaro, Beatrice. “Small Morocco Punches above Its Weight on Renewables.” Dw.Com, December 15, 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/morocco-powering-ahead-of-other-african-states-on-renewables/a-64093142
- 6. “Morocco Solar Program," NDC Partnership, 2016. https://ndcpartnership.org/case-study/morocco-solar-program
- 7. MIT Energy Initiative, “Reaching universal energy access in Morocco: A successful experience in solar concessions,” 2020, https://energy.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/MITEI-WP-2020-03.pdf
- 8. Atalayar, “Morocco Generates Enough Wind Power to Cover Its Needs 17 Times Over,” 2022, https://atalayar.com/en/content/morocco-generates-enough-wind-power-cover-its-needs-17-times-over
- 9. Zafar, “Solar Energy Developments in Morocco.”
- 10. "Renewable Energies: Morocco among top 5 countries poised to become a global floating offshore wind power giant,” North Africa Post, 2022, https://northafricapost.com/56356-renewable-energies-morocco-among-top-5-countries-poised-to-become-a-global-floating-offshore-wind-power-giant.html
- 11. Faouzi Senhaji, “Implementation of Morocco’s Solar Energy Plan,” Africa LEDS Partnership 2016 Annual Workshop, 2016. https://ledsgp.org/app/uploads/2016/07/Implementation-of-Moroccos-solar-energy-plan-Faouzi-Senhaji-.pdf
- 12. “Morocco Solar Program," NDC Partnership.
- 13. “Small Morocco Punches above Its Weight on Renewables,” Dw.Com, December 15, 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/morocco-powering-ahead-of-other-african-states-on-renewables/a-64093142
- 14. Morocco World News, “Report: Wind Power Can Help Morocco Meet 2030 Green Energy Targets,” 2023, https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2023/03/354500/report-wind-power-can-help-morocco-meet-2030-green-energy-targets
- 15. Ibid.
- 16. Prisco, Jacopo, “Why Morocco Is Leading the Charge against Climate Change,” CNN, December 12, 2016. https://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/17/africa/morocco-green-energy/index.html
- 17. MIT Energy Initiative, “Reaching universal energy access in Morocco.”
- 18. Tarfaya Wind Farm,” nareva, accessed April 27, 2023, https://www.nareva.ma/en/project/wind-farm-tarfaya#:~:text=With%20an%20installed%20capacity%20of,date%20on%20the%20African%20continent
- 19. MIT Energy Initiative, “Reaching universal energy access in Morocco.”
- 20. US Department of Commerce, “Morocco - Energy,” International Trade Administration, Trade.gov, November 29, 2022, https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/morocco-energy#:~:text=Currently%2C%20the%20country%20imports%20approximately,2030%20through%20energy%20efficiency%20measures