With demand for power in Morocco growing at 7.5 per cent a year, Rabat is under pressure to upgrade the ageing power infrastructure and make the country more self-reliant.
Unlike its gas-rich neighbour Algeria, Morocco has no easily extractable oil and gas reserves of its own, so the kingdom is heavily dependent on imports of fossil fuels and electricity. It currently relies on Spain to provide almost a fifth of its power. Coal-fired power plants generate almost half its electricity.
This means Morocco is vulnerable to fluctuating commodity prices, a risk Rabat is understandably keen to address.
In March, the government unveiled its national energy strategy, which, while still proposing to keep coal-fired power plants at the heart of power generation, establishes a commitment to develop renewable energy and examine the potential for using oil shale mined in the country.
A pilot project is now under way, with the government having solicited expressions of interest in late August. But its renewable-energy programme is making less progress.
The 200MW Tarfaya wind project, slated for completion in 2011, has made no progress since 16 companies were prequalified for the scheme in August 2007. And other renewable-energy sources such as biomass will not deliver the significant new power generation capacity Morocco needs.
King Mohammed VI’s ministers need to wean the country off its addiction to coal. Serious efforts to speed up long-planned renewable-energy and oil-shale projects are the least the Moroccan people should expect.