Re­new­able en­ergy and Middle East eco­nomic re­newal

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The global oil-price bust has dev­as­tated economies across the Middle East and North Africa. Hav­ing seen se­vere price de­clines in the past, many lead­ers in the re­gion may be tempted to wait for prices to rise again. But this col­lapse is dif­fer­ent, and gov­ern­ments need new en­ergy and de­vel­op­ment strate­gies. Morocco’s drive to be­come a re­gional re­new­able-en­ergy pow­er­house of­fers a real op­tion for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in other Arab coun­tries.

Morocco has been in­vest­ing in large-scale re­new­ableen­ergy projects for some time; but only now are th­ese in­vest­ments com­ing on­line. Per­haps the most im­pres­sive is the gi­gan­tic Noor-1 so­lar-en­ergy com­pound, lo­cated in the Moroc­can desert near Ouarza­zate. Opened on Fe­bru­ary 4, Noor-1 uses highly ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy to store en­ergy for use at night and on cloudy days.

Con­sid­ered the largest so­lar power plant in the world, Noor-1 is ex­pected to pro­duce enough en­ergy for more than a mil­lion peo­ple, with ex­tra power even­tu­ally to be ex­ported to Europe and Africa, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank. Given that Morocco im­ports around 97% of its en­ergy sup­ply, and pos­sesses no oil or nat­u­ral gas de­posits of its own, the govern­ment has viewed de­vel­op­ing re­new­able en­ergy as the only way to en­sure the coun­try’s con­tin­u­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. This is an in­sight oth­ers in the re­gion should heed.

The Noor-1 pro­ject, cov­er­ing an area of more than 4.5 square kilo­me­ters with 500,000 curved mir­rors – some as high as 12 me­ters – cost around $700 mil­lion. But it is in­tended to be only one part of a huge so­lar com­pound ex­tend­ing over 30 sq. kms. In­deed, by 2018, three more plants, Noor-II, Noor-III, and Noor-Midelt will be con­structed, us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing ther­moso­lar and pho­to­voltaic. The pro­ject will gen­er­ate up to 2,000 megawatts daily by 2020, help­ing to dock and a 400-kilome­ter pipe­line. pro­ject will cost an­other $4.5 bil­lion, come from the pri­vate sec­tor.

With de­mand for elec­tric­ity, mostly from the coun­try’s ex­pand­ing in­dus­tries, ris­ing by 7% an­nu­ally, Morocco’s govern­ment has long known that it could not sit still. To­day, 90% of the Moroc­can pop­u­la­tion is con­nected to the grid, up dra­mat­i­cally from the 1990s, when that fig­ure stood at just 18%. Over this pe­riod, the coun­try’s in­vest­ments in elec­tri­fi­ca­tion rose to more than $3 bil­lion an­nu­ally.

Morocco’s govern­ment is con­vinced that re­form and de­vel­op­ment will con­firm its emer­gence as a re­gional leader and gate­way to Africa. In­creased ac­cess to re­new­able en­ergy will mean that all com­pa­nies will have suf­fi­cient power to meet their needs, which is es­sen­tial to the coun­try’s abil­ity to di­ver­sify its econ­omy.

In­vestors are aware of Morocco’s ex­cep­tional geo­graphic po­si­tion and its political sta­bil­ity in a re­gion all too of­ten held back by un­cer­tainty. The coun­try’s gi­ant so­lar com­plex and other in­vest­ments will help boost the coun­try’s en­ergy in­de­pen­dence, re­duce costs, and ex­pand ac­cess to power. Oth­ers in Africa and the Middle East should take note. This re­mark­able all of which will

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