Morocco’s power utility l’Office National de l’Electricite (ONE) is to launch a major independent power project (IPP) at Safi, halfway between Casablanca and Agadir on the kingdom’s west coast.

The coal-fired thermal power plant will have capacity of about 1,320 MW and will be the kingdom’s second IPP after Jorf Lasfar. When it comes on stream in 2012, the plant will produce 27 per cent of Morocco’s annual energy demand, a figure which is growing by 8.3 per cent a year.

The project has a total cost of MD20bn ($2.7bn), including MD3bn of clean-coal technology, which will help to reduce the facility’s carbon dioxide emissions.

The deal to develop the plant will be awarded on a 30-year build-operate-transfer basis, with the successful developer group taking responsibility for the financing, design, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance of the new power station, as well as selling the electricity produced to ONE.

Construction of the facility is scheduled to start this time next year and will take 42 months.

It is unclear if ONE or another Moroccan entity will take a stake in the developer group, or if it will be the state’s responsibility to supply the coal feedstock. ONE plans to build a dedicated coal import terminal close to Safi, at a cost of MD3bn, which will be capable of receiving 14 million tonnes a year of coal.

Construction of the terminal is due to start in March 2009 and will take 40 months to complete.

Last year, ONE planned to develop an IPP at Cap Ghir close to Agadir. However, despite reaching the state of prequalifying potential developers, the project was cancelled over what were understood to be environmental issues and concerns about the impact of a plant on the local tourist industry (MEED 12:10:07).

This time, the government is stressing the environmental aspects of the Safi scheme, including the adoption of clean-coal technology.

The plant will also employ soundproofing technology and will be designed to ensure that it blends in with the environment of the surrounding countryside. The project will be one of the few in the region to use coal feedstock. Coal has been deemed by Morocco to be the most economically feasible feedstock even if it has to be imported.

The kingdom has very little oil and natural gas resources of its own and does not wish to rely on Algeria for gas feedstock because of political tensions between the two countries.

According to a study carried out by ONE, a clean-coal power plant will produce electricity at a cost of less than $0.05 a kilowatt hour (kWh), compared with almost $0.06 a kWh for coal gasification technology, more than $0.06 a kWh for wind energy and more than $0.08 a kWh for marine wave energy.

Only nuclear power, at a cost of less than $0.04 a kWh, proves a cheaper option in the short term, although nuclear plants generally take far longer to develop than conventional power plants.