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Morocco plans to expand use of renewable energy

Reporter: Dan Williams 丨 CCTV.com

11-09-2016 00:39 BJT

Morocco is looking to become a world leader in renewable energy. The country currently imports almost all of its energy requirements. But that might soon change.

On the edge of the Sahara, the Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is known as the door to the desert. But it is also set to become a gateway to Morocco's energy future. The Noor Solar power station is a vast complex.

Phase one opened earlier this year. It uses half a million mirrors, across 450 hectares, producing 160 megawatts of electricity. When all four phases are completed, it is hoped the plant will generate enough electricity to power almost two million homes, reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 760,000 tons per year.

“We started the construction of the solar complex in 2012 and as you see right now, in something like four years, we already finish the construction of the first solar plant for the aim to achieve this objective which is 2000 megawatt by 2020. And this is the first step. So we are at the beginning of a big, big journey,” said Rachid Bayed with Moroccan Agency For Solar Energy.

The construction of Noor 2 and 3 are also well underway. Both will have a storage capacity of seven hours. Morocco's reliance on energy imports prompted the new direction. By 2030, the country hopes to generate 52 percent of its energy requirements through renewables. The project is funded largely by the European Union.

“In the last 10 years, the Moroccan government has been clearly been putting forward a very ambitious strategy probably the most ambitious strategy in the whole Mediterranean area. Certainly they are taking the right options in the long run,” said Roman Escolano, vice president of European Investment Bank.

The ambition of Morocco’s solar project is impressive. But at a cost of more than two billion dollars, questions remain as to whether the outlay is worth the energy return. Morocco is also investing heavily in wind farms and hydropower plants. Despite being more expensive than fossil fuels, those behind the policy say it is worth it.

“A few years ago, I would have hesitated before replying but now there is no hesitation at all. Renewable power is going to be competitive compared to fossil fuels. Faster than we think. The most important thing when it comes to renewables is to create well thought through projects to make sure that you have conceived of a project that is useful and practical,” said Mustapha Bakkoury, CEO of Moroccan Agency For Solar Energy.

In the meantime, construction continues at pace at Noor. The country hopes this project will shine a light for solar energy to the rest of the world.

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