Morocco aims to export solar and wind-generated electricity to Europe, while Moundir Zniber, a Moroccan energy entrepreneur, believes the country should prioritize using its renewable energy resources for domestic use. Zniber, who is the founder of Gaia Energy, sees Morocco as having the potential to become a solution to Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. He has spent 15 years working on building Gaia Energy into one of the leaders in the country’s renewable energy sector, emphasizing the country’s excellent wind and solar resources. Despite a lack of oil and natural gas, Zniber sees incredible potential in Morocco’s renewable energy sector.

The conflict in Ukraine has prompted European leaders to step up their efforts to combat climate change by developing new sources of sustainable energy. Morocco hopes to contribute to the solution. It is located on the outskirts of Europe and has ambitious goals to generate 52% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The goal is that much of this electricity will be exported to Europe via undersea cables. However, the government still needs to create many more solar and wind farms. 

Morocco’s Push Towards Renewable Energy

Currently, the North African country of 39 million people imports 90% of its energy, the majority of which is from fossil fuels. In 2021, coal, gas, and oil accounted for 80.5% of Moroccan electrical output. In comparison, wind power contributed only 12.4% while solar power contributed 4.4%. Morocco, on the other hand, is already making visible headway towards increasing renewable energy generation, thanks to projects like the massive Noor-Ouarzazate Solar Complex. With the completion of the first phase in 2016, this is now the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant. Mirrors are used in such facilities to reflect and focus sunlight onto “receivers” in the central tower.  These contain fluid that is heated by light and turns into steam, which spins turbines to generate power. The mirrors at Noor-Ouarzazate now cover 3,000 hectares (11.6 square miles). ACWA Power in Saudi Arabia created the plant, with assistance from the World Bank and the European Investment Bank. 

According to Mr. Zniber, private Moroccan enterprises like his are now planning to export solar and wind-generated electricity to Europe, as well as green hydrogen (hydrogen produced using renewable energy). He goes on to say that Gaia Energy is working on wind and solar projects that might meet up to 4% of Germany and Italy’s electricity demands.”In terms of green hydrogen, our company is developing six projects that could meet 25% of the EU’s needs.”

Meanwhile, a British energy start-up called Xlinks intends to develop an undersea electricity connection between Morocco and the United Kingdom. It hopes that Moroccan solar and wind power will meet 8% of the UK’s electricity needs by 2030.

According to the World Bank, increasing Morocco’s solar and wind power generation capacity might assist boost the country’s economic growth. It has provided funding in the millions of dollars to the sectors. According to Moez Cherif, the World Bank’s head economist for the region, the positives include a decoupling from the “very heavy volatility of fossil fuel prices.” Mr Cherif adds that in a country with an 11.2% unemployment rate, it could create up to 28,000 much-needed new jobs each year.

Ministry of Energy take on the matter

Leila Benali, Morocco’s Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, claims that global forces have contributed to the country’s modest growth in renewables in recent years. “The world is just emerging from a historic pandemic, with total disruption of supply chains and value chains affecting renewable energy, including how we trade solar panels and wind turbines.” She does, however, accept that there are internal obstacles to overcome. These include “accelerating and streamlining bureaucracy,” such as ensuring that companies get things like “access to land permits relatively quickly to ensure that investors get access to the opportunities that they want.”

Mrs. Benali goes on to say that the government’s energy plan is built on three pillars: growing renewables, boosting efficiency, and increasing integration into the international energy market. Morocco’s needs are supplied by renewables, according to Mrs Benali, and the “priority” is for Moroccans to have access to the “lowest-cost” green energy. She goes on to say that there is also a need to seize the “historic opportunity” to integrate with Europe’s energy market and that such opportunities might be an incentive for much-needed private investment. Moez Cherif of the World Bank argues that Morocco should enhance renewable energy exports while also increasing domestic demand. “Ideally, you should do both,” says the author.