Energy projects in Morocco have achieved a huge leap that has enhanced the North African country’s ability to compete regionally and internationally, and to accomplish a large part of its transformation plans and international climate commitments.
Despite the vast area of diversity that energy projects have enjoyed in Morocco in recent times, the recent focus on 3 sectors in particular has highlighted the Kingdom’s superior capabilities.
These projects coincided with the plans to combat climate change adopted by Morocco, whether before or after the COP26 climate summit last year, but Rabat’s steps towards energy projects face challenges that may contribute to slowing them down.
First: The most prominent energy projects in Morocco
Energy projects in Morocco have branched out to cover several areas that have proven their ability to attract investments, as they constitute a promising market in this context.
1. The electrical connection line with Britain
British ambitions to provide clean electricity supplies, to meet demand in light of climate considerations, converged with Moroccan capabilities.
The technology of the electrical interconnection project between Morocco and Britain is based on two tracks, one of which is concerned with the production of clean electricity through renewable sources such as wind and solar projects, and the other focuses on battery storage technologies.
In detail, the British-based X-Links company is cooperating with the relevant Moroccan authorities through investments amounting to $21.9 billion to build a facility that contributes to achieving the objectives of the interconnection project and the generation and storage of clean electricity, extending over an area of 1,500 km.
Moroccan investments with “X-Links” include the construction of a solar farm with a capacity of up to 7 gigawatts, and a wind farm with a capacity of up to 3.5 gigawatts, in addition to the construction of a storage battery with capacities ranging from 5 to 20 gigawatts / hour.
As for the project’s path, the electrical interconnection line – which is among the most prominent energy projects in Morocco in recent times – extends from the Moroccan coast to Britain, through Spain, Portugal and France.
The Guelmim-Oued Noun region, which is famous for its availability of renewable energy, is the starting point for the electrical interconnection project from Morocco, and the commissioning phase (starting in 2025 and extending to 2027) provides clean electricity supply to the north of Devon in southwest England.
During the first phase of the project, X-Linux is working on laying 4 marine transmission lines (HVDC) with a length of 3,800 km, in preparation for their operation in early 2027.
The project is described as the first of its kind in the world, and upon completion it has the capacity to transmit 10.5 gigawatts of clean electricity generated by wind and solar energy in Morocco, according to the website of the “X-Links” company.
The project’s clean supply provides reliable electricity with a capacity of 3.6 gigawatts, for more than 20 hours per day, allowing clean electricity to be supplied to 7 million homes in Britain, and providing 8% of electricity demand in the United Kingdom in 2030.
2. Moroccan-Nigerian gas pipeline
The gas pipeline between Morocco and Nigeria is an extension of the West African Gas Pipeline linking the countries: (Benin, Togo, and Ghana), and the prospective regional onshore and offshore line represents a new way to transfer Nigerian gas resources to 13 countries extending in North and West Africa.
The Moroccan-Nigerian gas pipeline project – as one of the most prominent energy projects in Morocco – costs up to $25 billion, and is expected to be built in phases that will end within 25 years.
The project was launched in December 2016, and according to the plans in place, the length of the project is 5,660 kilometers.
Morocco and Nigeria have begun actual steps with the project, as the Australian company Worley confirmed that it is preparing a study for the initial engineering design of the project, the company announced on its website on April 26 last.
The starting point for one of the most prominent energy projects in Morocco at the present time starts from Nigeria, passing through (Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania), and ends in Tangiers, Morocco.
Officially, the two presidents have been interested in developing gas resources. On the one hand, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari adopted an initiative announced in 2020 to develop gas during the current decade, with the aim of increasing its production and exporting. Moroccan President Muhammad VI also expressed his desire to establish a regional energy market in West Africa.
Beyond boosting Nigerian gas exports, the pipeline is gaining importance as a political weapon in the Western landscape and energy markets following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The pipeline is a potential source of gas supplies to Europe via Spain, but this ambitious step has been called into question by declaring Europe its need for “immediate” supplies following the disruption of Russian gas supplies and the Ukraine war.
Russia has sought to circumvent Western sanctions and maintain its leadership as the most prominent gas supplier to Europe, by trying to negotiate with the Nigerian side and offering Russian companies the possibility of investing and participating in the project.
The gas pipeline project between Morocco and Nigeria is of great importance, both at the Moroccan level by contributing to the diversification of energy sources, and at the social and professional level in the countries the pipeline passes through by providing several jobs and securing electricity supplies, Morocco World News quoted Moroccan researcher Mohamed Bouden as saying.
It is likely that the studies of the second phase of the project will receive funding from the OPEC Fund for International Development, with a value of 14.3 million US dollars, according to what was published by the Chinese television network “CGTN” earlier this month.
3. High Speed Train “Al-Buraq” Projects
Energy projects in Morocco were not only focused on clean electricity and gas, but also extended to the transportation sector through high-speed rail projects called “Al Buraq”.
Recently, Morocco succeeded in a high-speed railway project linking Casablanca and Tangier, but Rabat is now seeking to develop another train project linking the cities of Casablanca and Agadir.
The new Boraq line between Casablanca and Agadir will cost up to $7.5 billion, with Morocco’s national railway operator allocating $848 million to make rail infrastructure upgrades through 2024.
It is noteworthy that the focus of energy projects in Morocco was not only focused on introducing trains that would increase speed and reduce distances between local cities, but extended to run them through clean renewable energy supplies.
The national railway operator in Morocco announced – months ago – the start of relying on high-speed trains, “Al-Buraq”, on renewable energy resources, as part of plans to reduce carbon emissions from the transport sector.
Regarding the timetable for approving the dependence of one of the most prominent energy projects in Morocco in the transport sector on renewable resources, the Railways Office plans to replace fuel derived from fossil sources by 25% this year, rising to 50% in the next 2023, after which it will turn to 100% complete dependence.
Switching to renewable sources as a fuel will reduce emissions by up to 120,000 tons per year, which is equivalent to planting 4 million trees, Energy Capital & Power reported at the time.
Al-Buraq’s shift to relying on renewable sources allows it to win the title of the first high-speed trains to operate based on renewable energy resources. With this transformation, Al-Buraq opens the way for African countries to focus on the transportation sector’s abandonment of its emissions.
Second: Challenges that impede the process of development
The journey of the achievements of energy projects in Morocco is not without it facing several challenges, which may hinder the continuation of its ongoing projects, or the plans and initiatives that it still has in its pocket to keep pace with energy transition plans and combat climate change. The most prominent of these challenges are summed up in financing and manifestations of climate change.
The first challenge: financing
The launch and acceleration of ambitious plans to support energy projects in Morocco, and their synchronization at the same time within a close period of time, may lead to increasing doubts about providing the necessary funding for them.
Over the past 10 years, Rabat has achieved massive expansions that have succeeded in attracting international investments, but continuing the same approach requires the availability of a huge budget, especially since most of these projects reflect Morocco’s keenness to reduce emissions and not deviate from energy transmission paths.
For example, the Moroccan gas sector, especially the operators of the two gas fields (Tandara and Anchoia) with huge potential, faces a major obstacle. Analyst at Global Data Santiago Varela pointed out that despite the attractions of the two fields’ resources, there are doubts about the ability of the current operators to Continue to provide financing.
The second challenge: the manifestations of climate change
Although Morocco has established itself among the climate-leading countries and has made efforts in clean and renewable energy projects, its geographical location in a hot spot has allowed it to be exposed to the effects of climate change at greater rates than others, which in turn has worked to grow the demand for electricity.
On the other hand, burning fossil fuels to produce coal and electricity contributes to an increase in emissions in Morocco, although it still produces low emissions rates compared to other developed countries.
Morocco pledged during the COP26 climate summit, which was held in November last year, not to build electricity from coal-fired plants, which is an important step for a country that depends on generating electricity from coal by 40%, according to a report by the BBC.
The effects of climate change are pushing to obstruct energy projects in Morocco, given that its repercussions from drought and water shortage affect the work of some of those projects, such as the Noor solar power plant.
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