According to the latest conclusions of the 46th World Economic Forum (2016), climate changes and reducing its effects, for the first time, are top-ranked in terms of the major risks facing the worldwide economy. Morocco is not spared. Today, about 80 percent of water resources in Morocco are used to irrigate agriculture, which is a key link in the country’s food security. The actions to limit global warming concern also the energy sector, which contributes in Morocco to two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. It has available an important solar and wind potential, which will allow Morocco to achieve 52 percent of its electrical power from renewable energy in 2030.
Hydraulic, Solar and Wind Potentials
The exploitable hydropower potential is estimated at 5,000 GW, but only a quarter is currently exploited with 20 dams equipped with hydroelectric plants. The most important operational dam has a capacity of 240 MW. Approximately 200 sites have been identified to accommodate micro hydraulic electrical plant with power capacity between 15 kW and 100 kW. This type of energy meets perfectly the criteria for decentralized electrification especially in mountainous zones with waterfalls.
The national annual averages of daily global irradiation vary from 2.38 to 6.89kWh/m2/day, which represents a range of 2,154 hours of sunshine per year for the less-favored regions and more than 3,504 hours per year for the best exposed ones.
For the annual average of direct irradiation on normal surface, for example in Rabat (coastal city), they range from 3.2 to 5.5kWh/m2/day. But, in contrast with Ouarzazate (semi-arid), they vary between 5.56 and 8.47kWh/m2/day, which correspond to a range of 2,847 hours of sunshine per year (December) and 3,942 hours per year (May).
With over 3,500 km of coastline (Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea) and mountains (Atlas and Rif), Morocco has available an important wind potential. It has several windy areas. The following are examples:
- Tangier and Tetouan, with an annual average speeds of 8.11 meters per second (m/s) at 10 meters
- Dakhla, Laayoune, Tarfaya , Taza and Essaouira, with annual average speeds between 7 and 8.5 m/s at 10 meters
These regions are favorable for the installation of wind farms, also for wind pumping systems, hybrid solar/wind plans, etc. In addition, several mountain regions in Atlas and Rif were not evaluated, the offshore areas have not been explored yet.
Exploitation of Renewable Energies and Climate change
Morocco is strongly dependent on imports of fossil fuels to meet its energy needs — more than 96 percent. The important renewable energy will allow Morocco to achieve 52 percent of its electrical power from renewable energies by 2030. In 2014, the contribution of wind electricity in its net energy consumption reached 5.1 percent in contrast with hydropower, which can reach 11.2 percent, but remains dependent on rainfall.
The Ouarzazate solar complex will be one of the largest multi-technology plants in the world (580 MW). Therefore, what happens in Ouarzazate is equivalent of a scientific research laboratory for solar power generation at African level.
Morocco’s exemplary policy concerning the integration of solar energy in its energy transition has been put in concrete with the inauguration of the first tranche (160 MW), which is a good concrete sign in prospect of COP 22 in Marrakech in 2016. It will contribute to the Moroccan energy independence and honoring its agreements announced by King Mohammed VI at the Climate Summit (COP 21) held in Paris in 2015 for its contribution to the reduction of global warming, keeping the temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.
Furthermore, the use of renewable energy will contribute, also, to reduce the depletion of forest resources. Morocco consumes about 6 million tones of firewood — a scary number, when compared with the growth rate of the forest, which does not exceed 3 million tones. We are facing a deficit that seriously threatens the forest resources in the country.
Solar electricity is still considered expensive despite the efforts of technological advances made in recent years. Nuclear energy is competitive with other energy resources, but its disadvantage is the control and storage of its waste. Moreover, the weaknesses of Morocco in terms of attractiveness for renewable energy focuses on natural gas subsidies, which limit the penetration of solar PV residential systems or solar thermal. Furthermore, the county’s infrastructure can also limit the development of renewable energy in some areas. Finally, the scientific research, the technology development and the qualification of the local workforce can also restrict the opportunities to appeal to local subcontractors.