China’s Sepco III has been awarded a contract by Morocco’s l’Office National de l’Electricite (ONE) to build a 318MW coal-fired plant in Jerada, Morocco.

The 318MW power plant will be built on the same site as the existing 165MW Jerada plant,which is located near the Algerian border. The power plant is due for commissioning by the end of 2016. The construction of the plant is being financed by a MD3bn ($356m) loan from the Chinese Export-Import (Exim) Bank.

Morocco currently imports most of its coal, but ONE has signed an agreement to buy 25 per cent of the national requirement from a 1,320MW planned coal-fired plant near the city of Safi, on the Atlantic coast. The UK/French GDF Suez, Japan’s Mitsui and the local Navera Holding were named preferred bidder on the Safi project in November 2010. The plant was scheduled for operation in 2017, but has faced a number of delays.

The projects are part of Morocco’s efforts to meet the rapidly growing demand for electricity, which is growing at a rate of 10 per cent a year.

It is not just thermal power plants that Morocco is moving ahead with. ONE recently prequalified companies to bid for the contracts to build the M’dez and El-Menzel hydropower projects in Haut Sebou.

ONE prequalified six consortiums for the contract to build the 125MW El-Menzel plant and seven groups for the contract to build the 45MW M’Dez plant, both of which will be constructed at the Haut Sebou complex, which is located 45 kilometres south east of the city of Sefrou.

The M’dez-El-Menzel complex will form the centrepiece of the High Dam Sebou, which will have a capacity of 700 million cubic metres. The dam will provide protection for downstream areas and improve water control for the upper Sebou for irrigation development in the basin and the production of electrical energy.

The facilities at each component will consist of a power plant intake, headrace tunnel, access gallery, surge tank and 225kV substation. The complex is planned to contribute to the Haut Sebou development programme.

ONE has received a loan from the African Development Bank (AFDB) to go toward the construction of the plant. The complex is part of Morocco’s national strategy to reach the target of producing 42 per cent of the country’s electricity by renewable methods by 2020.

In April, as part of the country’s ambitious renewables targets, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen) invited companies to submit prequalification entries for the next phases of the 500MW solar power complex planned for Ouarzazate in Morocco.