The African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank, various international financial institutions and the government of Morocco have committed substantial concessional finance to developing solar power projects. As long ago as 2009, Morocco announced a hugely ambitious $9bn plan to produce no less than 2,000MW of electricity by 2020.
The country currently imports nearly 2.5m tons of fossil fuels such as oil and coal, much of which is utilised to generate its electricity needs in thermal power stations, and those fuels account for around one-quarter of Morocco's total imports bill.
Morocco inaugurated the Ain Beni Mathar Integrated Solar Thermal Combined Cycle Power Station in 2010 and this represented the AfDB's first investment in concentrated solar power. This plant combines solar power and thermal gas power. The use of this system helped reduce the national fuel bill, and avoids emissions of woo tons of [CO.sub.2] per year compared to a fully gas-powered plant.
Ain Beni Mathar in Morocco, near the border with Algeria, was considered the perfect site to build a thermal and solar hybrid plant. The first of its kind in Africa, Ain Beni Mathar underpins the decision to build five concentrated solar power (CSP) plants.
The first CSP site being planned is now under construction and is scheduled to become operational next year. It leverages the huge amount of solar energy that falls on the North African region in general. Morocco receives more than 3,000 hours of dependable sunshine every year, and studies have shown that 15% of Europe's energy could be provided by North African solar power plants by 2050.
It is estimated that this plant, to be built at Ouarzazate, south-west of Marrakesh, will be three times as efficient as a similar plant built in northern Europe latitudes, in Manchester or Warsaw for example.
The first phase of the Ouarzazate concentrated solar power plant will generate 160MW of power, but eventually this site will be expanded in a second phase to generate a further 300MW.
Concessional clean technology funds (CTF) were provided by the AfDB and the World Bank. Other Multilateral Development Banks--European Investment Bank, Agence Francaise de Developpment, German Development Bank (KfW), and the EU's Neighbourhood Investment Facility--as well as Moroccan financial institutions and the government, have all committed finance for the first phase of the...