Why Morocco is emerging as Europe’s renewable-energy partner of choice

Special Why Morocco is emerging as Europe’s renewable-energy partner of choice
Experts view solar as a viable solution for underdeveloped areas in Morocco. (AFP)
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Updated 09 August 2023
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Why Morocco is emerging as Europe’s renewable-energy partner of choice

Why Morocco is emerging as Europe’s renewable-energy partner of choice
  • North African country has plans to generate 52 percent of its domestic electricity from renewables by 2030
  • The EU has committed to programs worth $688.6 million to support Morocco’s transition to “green energy”

JUBA, South Sudan: Blistering heatwaves across the Northern Hemisphere throughout this summer are a stark reminder of the need for sustainable energy solutions. The good news is that one Arab country has positioned itself as a potential supplier of solar power to energy-hungry Europe.

Morocco has developed a vibrant solar energy sector, making use of year-round sunshine, wide open spaces for infrastructure projects, and access to millions of euros in EU development funding.

Europe’s energy crisis, coupled with the urgency of tackling the challenge of global warming and climate change, has catalyzed efforts to seek new sources of clean and renewable energy.

Located on Europe’s doorstep and armed with ambitious plans to generate 52 percent of its domestic electricity from renewables by 2030, Morocco has emerged as a promising energy partner.

The vision is to export a significant amount of its solar energy capacity via undersea cables to Europe — an initiative that holds the promise of bolstering the continent’s clean energy transition while helping Morocco achieve its development goals.

Earlier this year, the EU committed itself to programs worth €624 million ($688.6 million) to support Morocco’s transition to “green energy,” as well as tackling irregular migration, and facilitating key reforms in crucial areas like social protection, climate policy and public administration.

Despite its enormous untapped potential, Morocco faces challenges in expanding its renewable energy capacity. Currently, the nation relies on imports for 90 percent of its energy, mostly from fossil fuels.




Increasing solar and wind power generation could spur economic growth, create much-needed jobs, and decouple the country from fossil fuel price volatility. (AFP/File)

The transition to renewables alone requires substantial investment, estimated at $52 billion, to achieve Morocco’s 2030 targets.

Global institutions have been supportive, providing financial assistance for the renewable energy sector’s growth, but removal of bureaucratic bottlenecks from the path of private investment is of the essence.

Furthermore, the region’s embrace of renewable energy is not without its critics, who have concerns about the environmental impact of massive infrastructure projects and increased water usage in arid regions.

What is indisputable is that Morocco, by envisioning itself as a clean energy hub with the potential to export electricity to Europe, has set a precedent for other nations to emulate.

“Morocco’s renewable energy ambitions present a win-win proposition for both Europe and the country itself,” Grammenos Mastrojeni, senior deputy secretary-general of the Union for the Mediterranean, told Arab News.

“Historically energy has always been considered a national and a sovereignty issue. Now, climate change is calling to something which is quite new. To make the system functional we need to start reasoning in terms of regional cooperation.”

Morocco is not the only Arab country prioritizing solar-energy development. The Gulf states too are accelerating their transition to renewable energy by launching ambitious infrastructure projects designed to help reduce their reliance on oil and gas to meet domestic energy needs.

Saudi Arabia aims to expand its total solar-energy capacity substantially by 2030. Specific development plans in the Kingdom include the NEOM smart city, which will include a $5 billion hydrogen plant, and the Red Sea Project, which will have the capacity to generate 400 MW of solar power and will host the world’s largest off-grid energy-storage project to date.

As Europe and North Africa are marked by fragmented markets, significant economic inequalities and uneven demographic patterns, the potentially adverse consequences of climate change cannot be overstated.

Mastrojeni believes a solution to overcoming these challenges lies in the integration of energy markets, as doing so holds the potential for shared energy security and macroeconomic advantages within the region.

INNUMBERS

• 52% Morocco’s renewable power target for 2030.

• 18.3% Morocco’s target for emissions reduction by 2030.

• 58.7 GW Saudi Arabia’s renewable power target for 2030.

• 14 GW UAE’s clean energy target for 2030.

• 33 GW Expected addition to MENA-installed renewables capacity by 2026.

“One significant benefit of regionally integrated energy production is its capacity to stimulate strong economic growth,” he said.

Increasing solar and wind power generation could spur economic growth, create much-needed jobs, and decouple the country from fossil fuel price volatility.

For Europe, sourcing clean energy from Morocco offers a viable solution to diversify energy sources and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, particularly in the wake of the Ukraine conflict-related energy crisis.

Historically, North Africa has been a significant supplier of fossil fuels to Europe, powering cars and heating homes across the continent.

But owing to the urgent need to transition to sustainability, at least six new projects are being considered to carry electricity from solar and wind installations in North Africa to Europe through undersea cables.

One notable project, spearheaded by Xlinks Ltd., plans to connect a 2,000-mile undersea cable from Morocco’s Atlantic coast to southern England. The ambitious venture has generated considerable investor interest, with £30 million ($38.5 million) committed by investors from the UK and the UAE.

Although the project comes with substantial costs, it has the potential to power approximately 7 million homes in the UK and help the country meet its net-zero carbon emissions target by 2035. However, some experts have cautioned against relying solely on any single supplier for energy.

Laura El-Katiri, an energy economist, has suggested that connecting solar and wind installations in Africa fully with the European grid would ensure a more robust and secure energy supply.

Several countries are now exploring two-way connections, which would also allow electricity to flow southward during periods of excess power on European grids.

The proposals highlight the advantages of connecting countries with diverse weather patterns, enabling them to support each other during periods of low local wind or limited sunlight.

Despite previous failed attempts to harness renewable energy in the region, the potential benefits of utilizing North Africa’s abundant sun- and wind-power resources outweigh the risks.

Morocco’s strides in renewable energy are evident through projects like the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex, which stands as the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant.

Spanning thousands of hectares with its mirror arrays, this facility exemplifies the transformative potential of harnessing solar energy.

In a coastal town in southeastern Morocco is located another giant renewable-energy project, the Tarfaya wind farm, one of the largest such facilities in entire Africa.

While the prospect of cheaper and cleaner electricity has raised expectations in a region plagued by high unemployment and limited purchasing power, there are still communities waiting for promises to be fulfilled.

Hajar Knamlichi, a board member of the Moroccan Alliance for Climate and Sustainable Development, a network of 800 environmental civil society organizations, says all regional parties concerned should strive for equitable benefits when it comes to energy cooperation.

“It is not correct to solely focus on producing clean energy for exports, leaving behind the benefits that more people can have access to locally, such as electricity access, fighting electricity poverty, and economic benefits from producing renewable energy for local use,” she told Arab News.




Solar is seen as a viable solution in the wider North Africa region as well as a new industrial paradigm for electricity production. (AFP/File)

That being said, in the face of extreme weather events and rising temperatures, adaptation is equally critical. Experts in natural resources stress the importance of carbon capture and storage technology to mitigate emissions from existing oil and gas production facilities.

In addition, as Morocco seeks to shift from traditional energy sources to eco-friendly alternatives, its pursuit of cutting-edge solutions has sparked a surge in exploration for wave energy, which marks a pioneering effort in Africa.

As the first of its kind on the continent, this ambitious venture is turning heads and attracting global interest.

Mohamed Taha El-Ouaryachi, a co-founder of WAVE BEAT, an innovative energy company, has developed technologies capable of harnessing the power of ocean tides to generate electricity.

“The company is driven by a strong sense of responsibility toward society and the environment,” El-Ouaryachi told Arab News. “We strive to contribute significantly to Morocco’s ongoing energy transition.”

With more than 3,100 km of coastline along the Atlantic and Africa, Morocco possesses a vast expanse of untapped wave energy potential, attracting investments from various sources, including the World Bank and private investors from the Middle East, the US, and Europe.

For Mastrojeni, of the Union for the Mediterranean, the Northern Hemisphere’s scorching heatwaves and volatile weather patterns are proof, if any further is required, that the transition to sustainable energy sources cannot wait.

That is why “our shared commitment to adapt, innovate, and build resilience against climate challenges has the power to reshape the realities of climate change,” he said.


ICC prosecutor says Israel not ‘akin’ to Hamas

ICC prosecutor says Israel not ‘akin’ to Hamas
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ICC prosecutor says Israel not ‘akin’ to Hamas

ICC prosecutor says Israel not ‘akin’ to Hamas
  • Karim Khan: ‘Are powerful states sincere when they say there’s a body of law or is this rules-based system all a nonsense, simply a tool of NATO and a post-colonial world, with no real intention of ap
LONDON: International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan justified his decision to request arrest warrants for Israel’s prime minister and defense minister in an interview with a British newspaper published on Sunday.
Khan said on Monday that he was seeking warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, as well as top Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh and Mohamed Deif, on suspicions of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
His announcement sparked the ire of Israel and its allies the United States and United Kingdom, all of which criticized Khan for putting together Hamas, which attacked Israel on October 7, and Israel, which has carried out a relentless military campaign in Gaza since then.
“It’s a precarious moment internationally and if we don’t hold on to the law, we have nothing to cling onto,” Khan, who rarely speaks publicly, told the Sunday Times newspaper.
He added that countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia were watching closely as to whether global institutions would seek to uphold international law.
“Are powerful states sincere when they say there’s a body of law or is this rules-based system all a nonsense, simply a tool of NATO and a post-colonial world, with no real intention of applying law equally?” Khan asked.
The warrants, if granted by the ICC judges, would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would technically be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others if they traveled there.
However the court has no mechanism to enforce its orders.
Netanyahu rejected “with disgust ... the comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas,” and US President Joe Biden also stressed that “there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”
“I am not saying that Israel with its democracy and its supreme court is akin to Hamas, of course not,” Khan added in his interview.
“I couldn’t be clearer, Israel has every right to protect its population and to get the hostages back. But nobody has a license to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity. The means define us.”
He cited a number of allegations against Israel, including “the fact that water was turned off... that people queuing for food [were] targeted, that people from aid agencies have been killed.”
“This is not how war is supposed to be waged,” said Khan.
“If this is what compliance with international humanitarian law looks like, then the Geneva Conventions serve no purpose.”
The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,984 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Yemen’s Houthis freed over 100 war prisoners, the Red Cross says

Yemen’s Houthis freed over 100 war prisoners, the Red Cross says
Updated 26 May 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis freed over 100 war prisoners, the Red Cross says

Yemen’s Houthis freed over 100 war prisoners, the Red Cross says
  • The unilateral release comes more than a year after Yemen’s warring sides freed more than 800 prisoners in a major exchange in the country in April last year

CAIRO: The Iranian-backed Houthis rebels in Yemen on Sunday released more than 100 war prisoners linked to the country’s long-running conflict, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
The unilateral release came more than a year after Yemen’s warring sides freed more than 800 prisoners in a major exchange in the country in April last year.
The release of 113 prisoners took place Sunday morning in the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa, the Red Cross said in a statement, adding that the released detainees were among those the ICRC visited and assisted regularly in their detention in the Yemeni capital.
“We hope this paves the way for further releases, bringing comfort to families eagerly anticipating reunification with their loved ones,” said Daphnee Maret, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Yemen.
One of the released detainees with health issues was transferred in an ambulance to his hometown inside Yemen, the ICRC said without elaborating.
The release was delayed by a day because of apparent logistical reasons, said Abdul-Qader Al-Murtaza, a Houthi official in charge of prisoner exchange talks.
Thousands of people are still believed to be held as prisoners of war since the conflict erupted in 2014, with others missing. The Red Cross viewed Sunday’s releases as a “positive step” to revive prisoner exchange negotiations.
“We are ready to play our role as a neutral intermediary in facilitating the release, transfer, and repatriation of detainees,” it said.
Yemen was plunged into a devastating conflict when the Houthis descended from their northern stronghold and seized Sanaa and much of northern Yemen, forcing the government into exile.
More than 150,000 people, including fighters and civilians, have died in one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.


Ahead of another donor conference for Syria, humanitarian workers fear more aid cuts

Ahead of another donor conference for Syria, humanitarian workers fear more aid cuts
Updated 26 May 2024
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Ahead of another donor conference for Syria, humanitarian workers fear more aid cuts

Ahead of another donor conference for Syria, humanitarian workers fear more aid cuts
  • Meanwhile, millions of Syrians have been pulled into poverty, and struggle with accessing food and health care as the economy deteriorates across the country’s front lines
  • id organizations are making their annual pitches to donors ahead of a fundraising conference in Brussels for Syria on Monday

BEIRUT: Living in a tent in rebel-held northwestern Syria, Rudaina Al-Salim and her family struggle to find enough water for drinking and other basic needs such as cooking and washing. Their encampment north of the city of Idlib hasn’t seen any aid in six months.
“We used to get food aid, hygiene items,” said the mother of four. “Now we haven’t had much in a while.”
Al-Salim’s story is similar to that of many in this region of Syria, where most of the 5.1 million people have been internally displaced — sometimes more than once — in the country’s civil war, now in its 14th year, and rely on aid to survive.
UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations have for years struggled with shrinking budgets, further worsened by the coronavirus pandemic and conflicts elsewhere. The wars in Ukraine and Sudan, and more recently Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip are the focus of the world’s attention.
Syria’s war, which has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of of 23 million, has long remained largely frozen and so are also efforts to find a viable political solution to end it. Meanwhile, millions of Syrians have been pulled into poverty, and struggle with accessing food and health care as the economy deteriorates across the country’s front lines.
Along with the deepening poverty, there is growing hostility in neighboring countries that host Syrian refugees and that struggle with crises of their own.
Aid organizations are now making their annual pitches to donors ahead of a fundraising conference in Brussels for Syria on Monday. But humanitarian workers believe that pledges will likely fall short and that further aid cuts would follow.
“We have moved from assisting 5.5 million a year to about 1.5 million people in Syria,” Carl Skau, the UN World Food Program’s deputy executive director, told The Associated Press. He spoke during a recent visit to Lebanon, which hosts almost 780,000 registered Syrian refugees — and hundreds of thousands of others who are undocumented.
“When I look across the world, this is the (aid) program that has shrunk the most in the shortest period for time,” Skau said.
Just 6 percent of the United Nations’ appeal for aid to Syria in 2024 has so far been secured ahead of Monday’s annual fundraising conference organized by the European Union, said David Carden, UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria.
For the northwestern region of Syria, that means the UN is only able to feed 600,000 out of the 3.6 million people facing food insecurity, meaning they lack access to sufficient food. The UN says some 12.9 million Syrians are food insecure across the country.
The UN hopes the Brussels conference can raise more than $4 billion in “lifesaving aid” to support almost two-thirds of the 16.7 million Syrians in need, both within the war-torn country and in neighboring countries, particularly Turkiye, Lebanon and Jordan.
At last year’s conference, donors pledged $10.3 billion — about $6 billion in grants and the rest in loans — just months after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkiye and much of northern Syria, killing over 59,000 people, including 6,000 in Syria.
For northwestern Syria, an enclave under rebel control, aid “is literally a matter of life and death” this year, Carden told the AP during a recent visit to Idlib province. Without funding, 160 health facilities there would close by end of June, he said.
The International Rescue Committee’s head for Syria, Tanya Evans, said needs are “at their highest ever,” with increasing numbers of Syrians turning to child labor and taking on debt to pay for food and basics.
In Lebanon, where nearly 90 percent of Syrian refugees live in poverty, they also face flagging aid and increasing resentment from the Lebanese, struggling with their own country’s economic crisis since 2019. Disgruntled officials have accused the refugees of surging crime and competition in the job market.
Lebanon’s bickering political parties have united in a call for a crackdown on undocumented Syrian migrants and demand refugees return to so-called “safe zones” in Syria.
UN agencies, human rights groups and Western governments say there are no such areas.
Um Omar, a Syrian refugee from Homs, works in a grocery store in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli — an impoverished community that once warmly welcomed Syrian refugees.
For her work, she gets to bring home every day a bundle of bread and some vegetables to feed her family of five. They live rent-free in a tent on a plot of land that belongs to the grocery store’s owners.
“I have to leave the kids early in the morning without breakfast so I can work,” she said, asking to be identified only by her nickname, Arabic for “Omar’s mother.” She fears reprisals because of heightened hostilities against Syrians.
The shrinking UN aid they receive does not pay the bills. Her husband, who shares her fears for their safety, used to work as a day laborer but has rarely left their home in weeks.
She says deportation to Syria, where President Bashar Assad’s government is firmly entrenched, would spell doom for her family.
“If my husband was returned to Syria, he’ll either go to jail or (face) forced conscription,” she explains.
Still, many in Lebanon tell her family, “you took our livelihoods,” Um Omar said. There are also those who tell them they should leave, she added, so that the Lebanese “will finally catch a break.”


Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
Updated 8 sec ago
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Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
  • Hamas armed wing says fired ‘large rocket barrage’ at Tel Aviv
  • Aid trucks begin entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing

CAIRO/TEL AVIV: Rocket sirens blared Sunday in Israel’s commercial hub of Tel Aviv for the first time in months, with at least three blasts reported across central Israel, AFP correspondents said.

The Israeli military said sirens had been activated over central Israel as fighting raged in Gaza, including in the far-southern city of Rafah.

The armed wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas said it had launched a “large rocket barrage” on Tel Aviv.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in a post on Telegram that they had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the latest barrage.

Earlier on Sunday, aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel through a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month. But was unclear if humanitarian groups would be able to access the aid because of ongoing fighting in the area.

A total of “200 trucks” had moved from the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, which has been shut since early May when Israel seized the Palestinian side of the terminal, to the Kerem Shalom crossing, some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the south.

Egypt has refused to coordinate aid through Rafah as long as Israeli troops control the Palestinian side.

But on Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed in a call with his US counterpart Joe Biden to allow aid through Kerem Shalom, the other entry point into southern Gaza, the White House said.

Al-Qahera News did not specify how many trucks had made their way through inspection into besieged Gaza, but said “four fuel trucks” had already crossed and were heading to hospitals.

All aid from Egypt is inspected by Israeli authorities and distributed via the United Nations.

The remainder of the 200 trucks were “expected to cross into Gaza today,” Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in Al-Arish — where the bulk of aid arrives — said.


Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza

Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza
Updated 26 May 2024
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Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza

Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza
  • Al-Qassam Brigades spokesman: ‘Our fighters lured a Zionist force into an ambush inside a tunnel’
  • The Israeli military, in a statement, denied the claim of Hamas’ armed wing

CAIRO: A spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing said on Sunday its fighters had captured Israeli soldiers during fighting in Jabalia in northern Gaza on Saturday, though the Israeli military denied the claim.
The Hamas armed wing spokesman did not say how many soldiers had been abducted and showed no proof of the claim.
“Our fighters lured a Zionist force into an ambush inside a tunnel ... The fighters withdrew after they left all members of the force dead, wounded, and captured,” Abu Ubaida, the spokesman for Al Qassam Brigades, said in a recorded message broadcast by Al Jazeera early on Sunday.
The Israeli military on Sunday denied the claim by Hamas’ armed wing.
“The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) clarifies that there is no incident in which a soldier was abducted,” the military said in a statement.
Hamas released a video that appeared to show a bloodied person being dragged along the ground in a tunnel and photos of military fatigue and rifle. Reuters could not independently verify the identity of the person shown in the video nor his or her condition.
The comments by Abu Ubaida came hours after prospects for a resumption of mediated Gaza ceasefire talks grew on Saturday.
An official with knowledge of the matter said a decision had been taken to resume the talks next week after the chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency met the head of the CIA and the prime minister of Qatar.
The source, who declined to be identified by name or nationality, said it had been decided that “in the coming week negotiations will open based on new proposals led by the mediators, Egypt and Qatar and with active US involvement.”
A Hamas official later denied Israeli media reports the talks would resume in Cairo on Tuesday, telling Reuters: “There is no date.”
After more than seven months of war in Gaza, the mediators have struggled to secure a breakthrough, with Israel seeking the release of hostages held by Hamas and Hamas seeking an end to the war and a release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry says. Israel began the operation in response to Hamas-led militants attacking southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.