Morocco leads Maghreb energy transition

11 July 2023

More on Moroccos power and water sector:

Morocco seeks firms for 400MW pumped storage contract
> Morocco extends Casablanca water PPP deadline
US firm plans 2MW Morocco hydrogen project
China's Tinci plans $280m Morocco lithium-ion plant
> Xlinks to seek construction partners
> Morocco signs $6.4bn electric battery and storage deal
Morocco tenders 900MW power plant contract

 


Morocco is among the list of Maghreb countries that have seen few deals awarded in the power generation sector over the past 12 to 24 months.

The last contract awards it recorded were in April 2022 for the 333MW first phase of the Noor 2 solar photovoltaic (PV) project.

The Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (Masen) and Morocco’s Energy Transition & Sustainable Development Ministry awarded six packages of this tranche to three independent power producer (IPP) developers: Voltalia Maroc, Enel Green Power Morocco and the UAE-based Amea Power.

Xlinks scheme

The country, however, could emerge from the doldrums with key projects such as the $18bn Xlinks on the horizon, enabling it to hold on to its status as the regional leader in renewable energy.

The Morocco-UK power project entails building 10,500MW solar and wind farms in Morocco’s Guelmim-Oued Noun region and sending 3,600MW a day of energy exclusively to the UK via four 3,800-kilometre high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) cables.

MEED understands the first phase of the surveys for the project is complete, with geophysical and geotechnical surveys expected to finish this year and next year.

The HVDC pipeline will pass through Spain, Portugal and France, where permitting processes are being undertaken. Financing sources could include export credit agencies, multilateral development agencies and commercial or investment banks.

Morocco aims to source up to 52 per cent of its energy – up from the current 32 per cent – from renewable sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45.5 per cent by 2030 

Earlier this year, Xlinks completed an early development funding round that included a $30.7m investment from Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) and $6.23m from London-headquartered Octopus Energy Group.  

The UK-based startup is expected to seek interest from original equipment manufacturers and construction partners soon. This will be followed by seeking interest from financial advisers for the project.

Low-carbon molecules

Morocco aims to source up to 52 per cent of its energy – up from the current 32 per cent – from renewable sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45.5 per cent by 2030.

Thanks to the country’s strategic location and favourable legislative framework, this ambition is drawing investors focused on green hydrogen and derivatives production.

In April, a team led by China Energy International Construction Group signed a memorandum of cooperation to develop a green hydrogen project in a coastal area in southern Morocco.

The planned project involves constructing an integrated green hydrogen-based ammonia production facility. It will require a solar PV power generation plant with a capacity of 2GW and a wind power plant with a capacity of 4GW.

These plants will supply power to an electrolysis plant that can produce 320,000 tonnes of green hydrogen annually, which will then be processed to produce 1.4 million tonnes of green ammonia annually.

Energy China International Construction Group has partnered with Saudi Arabia’s Ajlan & Brothers Company and the local firm Gaia Energy Company for the project.

Amun project

It is the second high-profile green hydrogen project announced for the North African country since April 2022, when Serbia-headquartered renewables developer and investor CWP Global appointed US firm Bechtel to support developing large-scale green hydrogen and ammonia facilities in the country.

The Amun green hydrogen project, which CWP Global plans to develop in Morocco, is understood to require 15GW of renewable energy and has an estimated budget of between $18bn and $20bn.

Along with these projects – which could take several years to implement – several green hydrogen pilot projects are also under way in Morocco.

Africa-focused transitional energy group Chariot, the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University and UK-based hydrogen electrolyser developer Oort Energy are planning several small projects using a polymer electrolyte membrane electrolyser system patented by Oort.

The three parties will run initial proof of concept projects while evaluating the feasibility of implementing large-scale green hydrogen and ammonia production.

One of the pilot projects is intended to be hosted at the research and development unit at state-owned fertiliser producer OCP Group’s facilities in Jorf Lasfar.

US-headquartered Verde Hydrogen also plans to develop and commission a 2MW green hydrogen electrolyser plant project in Morocco, which it expects to complete next year.

Electric vehicle components

Recent developments also point to Morocco potentially becoming a global hotspot for the electric vehicles supply chain.

In July this year, China’s Guangzhou Tinci Materials Technology announced plans to build a lithium-ion battery materials plant in the country. The project capitalises on Morocco’s ample phosphorite ore resources.

The firm’s Singapore unit is expected to invest as much as $280m to set up a project company in the North African country to produce lithium-ion battery materials that can be exported to Europe.

In late May, the Moroccan government and Chinese-European company Gotion High-Tech also signed a preliminary agreement to establish a factory to produce electric car batteries and energy storage systems in the country.

The project is estimated to cost MD65bn ($6.3bn). The planned facility will have the potential to “create a comprehensive battery production solution” with a capacity of 100GW a year. 

Morocco’s minister-delegate in charge of investment, convergence and evaluation of public policies, Mohcine Jazouli, said the factory “will not only contribute to Morocco’s renewable energy and electric transport sector, but also solidify its reputation as an automotive industry powerhouse”.

Traditional energy

Meanwhile, along with its intense drive towards clean energy, Rabat is also making progress on traditional energy projects. The National Office of Electricity & Drinking Water (Onee) last awarded a thermal power plant deal in 2017. So it was a surprise when Onee recently tendered a five-year contract to build and operate an open-cycle 900MW thermal power plant in the country.

To be located along the M18 station point of the Maghreb-to-Europe gas pipeline, the proposed power generation plant will use dual-fuel gas turbines, with diesel fuel as a backup. Onee expects to receive bids for the contract by 5 September.

In addition, the procurement process is under way for a major seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant in Grand Casablanca, which has a design capacity of 548,000 cubic metres a day.

The build-operate-transfer contract is for 30 years, including a three-year construction period and 27 years of operation and management.

Making amends

To its credit, however, Morocco’s sustainable campaign has extended to other sectors that have traditionally used carbon-intensive processes and technologies.

The Washington-based International Finance Corporation (IFC) and OCP Group recently signed a €100m ($111m) green loan to build four solar plants to power OCP’s Morocco operations.

The four solar plants, with a combined capacity of 202MW, will be located in the mining towns of Benguerir and Khouribga, home to Morocco’s largest phosphate reserves.

As captive power plants, they will supply clean energy directly to OCP’s operations. The project is part of OCP’s $13bn green investment programme, which aims to increase its green fertiliser production and transition its operations to green energy by 2030.


More on Libya and Tunisia’s power and water sectors:

Libya awards $1.3bn power plant contract
Italy and Tunisia start $1bn Elmed prequalifications
Acciona and Swicorp to develop 75MW wind project
Suez signs $221m Tunisia wastewater PPP deal
Tunisia tenders 1GW of solar IPP contracts


Libya and Tunisia

Earlier this year, the state-owned General Electricity Company of Libya (Gecol) awarded a joint venture of Qatar-based construction company Urbacon for Trading & Contracting and Egypt’s ElSewedy Electric an engineering, procurement and construction contract for a 1,044MW gas-fired power plant in Libya.

The contract is valued at €1.19bn ($1.29bn). The project is expected to be completed in 26 months and comprises six gas turbines from Germany’s Siemens Energy. The emergency power plant project is located in Zliten.

The power plant is expected to help address the endemic electricity shortage in the country. However, it does little to reduce Libya’s carbon emissions. At under 10MW, the country has the lowest renewable energy installed capacity in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, against a total capacity of 11,000MW as of 2021, according to International Renewable Energy Agency data.

Tunisia, where renewable sources account for at least 8 per cent of its power generation capacity, has also made minor progress over the past few months.

A team of Spain’s Acciona and Saudi investment group Swicorp have partnered to develop a 75MW wind farm in Chenini in Tunisia’s Tataouine governorate.

The Spanish-Saudi team is understood to have agreed to the technical and financial terms of the project, as well as the land lease for installing 14 wind turbines in Djebel Dahar, located 80 kilometres from Djerba.

Each wind turbine will have a capacity of 6MW. The project will require an estimated investment of TD500m ($164m).

Tunisia’s wind potential is estimated at 8,000MW, according to its wind atlas and a study published in 2021 by the German international cooperation agency Giz.

In January this year, the African Development Bank Group approved a $27m and €10m ($10.67m) loan package to co-finance the construction of a 100MW solar power plant in Kairouan, Tunisia.

The approval covers $10m and another €10m from the bank, and a $17m concessional financing from the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa, a special multi-donor fund managed by the bank.

Additional financing will come from the IFC, the World Bank Group and the Clean Technology Fund (CTF).

The 100MW Kairouan project was part of the first round of solar schemes under Tunisia’s concession regime, launched through an international tender by the Ministry of Industry, SMEs & Cooperatives in 2018.

A consortium formed by Dubai-headquartered Amea Power and TBEA Xinjiang New Energy Company won the contract to develop the scheme in December 2019.

The project is located in El-Metbassta, in the Kairouan North region, about 150km south of the capital, Tunis.


More on Algeria’s power and water sectors:

Sonatrach seeks solar PV consultants
Cosider tenders desalination contract
Sonelgaz tenders 2GW solar schemes
Wetico wins Algeria water desalination contracts


Algeria

Despite a highly tentative approach to adopting low-carbon energy, there are some promising projects in Algeria.

In March, state-owned utility Sonelgaz invited companies to bid for the contract to build 15 solar plants in the country with a combined capacity of 2,000MW.

The solar projects will be built in 11 locations across the North African state.

The locations and capacities of the proposed solar power plants include:

  • Bechar (Abadla): 80MW
  • Bechar (Kenadsa): 120MW
  • Msila (Batmete): 220MW
  • Bordj Bou Arreridj (Ras al-Oued): 80MW
  • Batna (Merouana): 80MW
  • Laghouat: 200MW
  • Ghardaia (Guerrara): 80MW
  • Tiaret (Frenda): 80MW
  • El-Oued (Nakhla): 200MW
  • El-Oued (Taleb Larbi): 80MW
  • Touggort: 130MW
  • Mghaier: 220MW
  • Biskra (Leghrous): 200MW
  • Biskra (Tolga): 80MW
  • Biskra (Khenguet Sidi Nadji): 150MW

In December 2022, Algeria’s Energy Transition & Renewable Energies Ministry (Shaems) also launched a tender to deploy 1,000MW of solar capacity. However, the status of the tender is unclear as of mid-2023.

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Jennifer Aguinaldo
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