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Morocco's renewables revolution

The kingdom is expanding its use of solar and wind power rapidly through research and innovation, say Badr Ikken General Director of the Research Institute for Solar Energy and New Energies of Morocco (IRESEN) and Zakaria Naimi, its Director of Photovoltaic and Electric Systems

Today, most of Morocco's energy supply comes from imported fossil fuels.

By 2030, the kingdom expects its primary energy demand to triple, from 2008 levels. Electricity demand alone will quadruple. To meet this increasing demand, Morocco implemented a new energy strategy in 2009, aiming to secure its supply, to ensure power was priced competitively and to protect the environment by using local energy resources, including renewables. Morocco, under the leadership of His Majesty the King, Mohammed VI, has committed to increasing the share of renewables in its energy mix to 42% by 2020, then rising to 52% by 2030.

For the first time in its history, Morocco will have a share of electricity produced from renewable sources that overweighs the share produced from fossil energy sources. This will be largely achieved by using its wind and solar resources. Between 2016-2030, Morocco aims to create an additional 10,100 MW at least of electricity from renewables. Around 4,560 MW will come from solar power while 4,200 MW will come from wind and another 1,330 MW from hydropower.

Alongside other key institutions to lead the national energy strategy, the Research Institute for Solar Energy and New Energies, IRESEN, was created in 2011, by the Ministry of Energy, Mining, and Sustainable Development, with the participation of key players of the energy sector in Morocco. Research and innovation is fostering the energy transition by addressing optimally the energy needs in Morocco while including economic development through local manufacturing of new products and offering specific new services.

IRESEN, as a leading research organisation in the field of renewable energy, is facilitating and coordinating the setting up of adapted research and development infrastructure projects as well as national and international partnerships focused on knowledge acquisition and innovation. To reinforce innovation across Morocco in the field of renewable energy and to promote human resources development, IRESEN developed and set up the first innovation network in the African continent, called the FARABI Network. It is built around regional platforms for testing, research and training in the field of renewables. This territorial network is set around universities and education institutions while developing technology knowhow transfer mechanisms to local industries. It addresses strategic needs and challenges in relation to energy to position Morocco as a gamechanger in innovation in the field of renewable energies and sustainable development. In addition to the medium and long-term scientific vision, the network will enable the local industry, in close collaboration with academia, to seize market opportunities to expand renewable energy use.

The genesis of this network was marked by the creation of the Green Energy Park (GEP), the international platform for testing, researching and training in solar energy. The GEP, which is a unique platform in Africa, covers the entire research and development value chain, from basic research until proof of concept is reached. Built on an area of eight hectares, the GEP has an internal research platform of more than 3,000 square meters, which includes several labs with cutting-edge technologies in the field of solar photovoltaic and thermal energies. Topics such as treatment and desalination of water using solar energy, development of desert modules, design of innovative thermal and electrical storage solutions and development of industrial applications of solar thermal energy are considered major concerns of the GEP.

The investigation and understanding of solar technologies and how they fare in desert conditions will allow manufacturers to develop new products which are suitable for these conditions and thereafter enter a market which is difficult to penetrate. Project developers, investors and grid operators will be able to implement successful business plans and to deliver electricity with specified quality at least cost. The GEP will address markets worldwide with innovative, reliable and cost effective technologies, solutions, testing facilities and services and will position the local community as regional leaders making markets more competitive and flexible. Learning and innovation go hand in hand. IRESEN is offering through workshops and training courses at the GEP a know-how transfer programme for local communities on various levels. Partners from both academia and industry will gain enough knowledge to create the big next innovation in renewable technologies.

This article appears in the annual issue of World Energy Focus, the magazine of the World Energy Council, with content produced by Petroleum Economist. For more information and to read the annual in full, visit worldenergy.org.

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