A new partnership in Morocco, building on the success of a United Nation’s Development Fund (UNDP) pilot project, will help 500 young entrepreneurs from rural areas set up ‘Energy Shops’ to sell solar panels and water heaters, improved ovens and other equipment, distribute butane gas, and promote awareness of rural energy programs, with a particular focus on renewable energy technologies.Rabat, Morocco – February 16, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The aim is to improve rural access to renewable and clean energy and create a regulatory and financial framework, with public and private sector support, so the shops can be spark plugs for rural development. The four-year initiative will begin with feasibility studies for potential store locations that local communities will choose. A UNDP-supported pilot had earlier established 50 shops. Each shop costs about US$10,000 to set up, and the entrepreneurs will make an initial investment of $3,000. They can apply for loans through a partnership with Fondation Banque Populaire to cover the rest of the start-up costs. The bank will also train them in business management. They will each get $5000 worth of tools and equipment as well as technical and business support. “Our aim is to bring this new concept to scale throughout the country, thus promoting employment and local expertise,” said Minister of Energy and Mining Mohammed Boutaleb. According to UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown, who participated in the launch while in Morocco recently for an international conference, five small energy businesses would make no difference and 50 would be a start. “But 500 businesses will make a real difference in alleviating poverty through the development of renewable energy,” Brown said. “We are very proud to launch such an innovative programme, based on the success of the pilot phase,” said UNDP Resident Representative Emmanuel Dierckx de Casterlý. “It can now be considered a model for a good partnership in renewable energy between government, civil society, the private sector and UNDP.” Partners with UNDP in the program include the Ministry of Energy and Mining, the Centre for the Development of Renewable Energy (CDER), the National Electricity Office, the Agency for Socio-Economic Development of the Northern Provinces, the Moroccan Association of Private Solar and Wind Energy, the Near East Foundation, Spanish Cooperation (Junta de Andalucia), local communities, and national and local civil society organizations. Negotiations are underway with the National Employment Agency and the solar power and gas industries to develop further business opportunities with the shops. The program’s budget is $1.5 million, for which is UNDP contributing $200,000.