Energy Capital & Power

Small-Scale PV Capacity: an Ace Up Morocco’s Sleeve

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MENA countries receive around 24% of the solar energy striking the Earth: a true godsend for a region whose destiny is inextricably linked with the massive deployment and utilization of renewable energy sources, but which is still quite far away from accomplishing such a salvific milestone. At the forefront of this march there is one country, which perfectly embodies the MENA’s strive to fully exploit the regional renewable potential: Morocco.

According to multiple analyses, the country is one of the most attractive ones in the MENA region in terms of solar power potential: Morocco enjoys one of the highest rates of insolation in the world, with about 3,000 hours per year of sunshine (up to 3,600 hours in the desert). Aware of such a valuable potential, the Moroccan government didn’t just sit and watch: it inaugurated an ambitious national energy strategy, aiming at having 52% of the energy mix coming from renewable sources by 2030 (an astonishing amount of 12 new GWs, of which 20% should derive from solar energy).

The keystone of such an audacious agenda dwells in something “little”, but Incredibly powerful: small-scale PV solutions. According to the findings of the Office National De L’electricite Et De L’eau Potable (ONEE), the segment alone would be more than sufficient to guarantee Morocco’s accomplishment of the proposed renewable energy targets.

This position finds an unequivocal confirmation In Morocco’s economic, social and geographical features: small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for more than 95% of the country’s economic actors, with the tertiary sector consuming 10% of the national electricity, corresponding to an estimated PV potential of around 1 GW. Together with infrastructures and activities belonging to the public administration, the sector boasts privileged access to funds and financial benefits (differently, for instance, from private households): such a condition identifies the aforementioned sectors as potential development accelerators of the national small PV industry.

The real world, however, tells us another story: a mere 36% of the foreseen energy quota has been deployed and, at the current pace, 2030 will not see Morocco fulfilling its renewable energy commitments.

Such a deadlock has a precise set of reasons: the full development of the Kingdom’s small PV industry is in fact hampered by a complex and unfriendly regulatory framework, which makes it hard, for private developers, to smoothly invest and undertake projects in the country. The problem is worsened by a generalized lack of clear regulations for low-voltage connection and net-metering schemes, an almost total absence of incentives, and a heavy reliance on import for the components of PV systems.

The good news, however, is that solutions do exist and are fully within Morocco’s feasibility range. They are systematically analyzed in the last RES4Africa’s study, Small-scale PV Capacity: Is Morocco Ready? The first step should consist in enabling connection of REs plants to the low voltage grid, while inaugurating net-metering schemes, introducing direct incentives/refunds of investments costs, and import tax exemptions aiming at reducing upfront costs caused by an increasing dependency from foreign components. These measures should be inserted in clear and comprehensive governance plans, and accompanied by structured campaigns of public awareness and community engagement.

Morocco fully embodies all the potential and the contradictions of the MENA region: endless renewable sources, a strong will to make the most of them, but manifold structural criticalities still standing in the way. Believing in its PV sector and collaborating in order to see it blossom will guarantee a sustainable future to its population, as bright as the sun that shines in its skies.

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Roberto Vigotti

Roberto Vigotti

Roberto Vigotti is the Secretary General of RES4Africa Foundation, which gathers more than 30 stakeholders to accelerate the renewable energy transformation in Africa, with Africa and for Africa. In his 30+ year-long career he has covered various positions at Enel, University of Pisa, IEA and IRENA. When it was still considered an unlikely option, he was already convinced that deploying renewable energy in Africa would result in a positive socioeconomic impact for its population. In 2012, he therefore embarked on the RES4Africa adventure, to support a wider participation of private players in delivering investments in Africa. He also coordinates renewAfrica, an industry-backed Initiative that advocates the creation of a European comprehensive Programme for RE investments in Africa, to be promoted and owned by EU institutions