The ruling elite have made private concessionary production, whether of fossil or renewable origin, a fundamental tenet and element of the energy system. This benefits first and foremost French (Engie), Spanish (Gamesa), Saudi (Acwa), Emirati (Taqa) and German (Siemens) transnational corporations, usually in cooperation with national companies owned by the royal family (Nareva) or by powerful and politically connected families, such as the Akhannouch and Benjelloun families (Green of Africa).
As an example, the May 2021 international solar energy tender for the design, financing, construction, operation and maintenance of the 800 megawatt (MW) Noor Midelt I project was awarded to a consortium led by EDF Renouvelables (France) which included Masdar (United Arab Emirates) and Green of Africa (Morocco).24 It is worth noting that Green of Africa is owned by three of the richest families in Morocco: Benjelloun (Financecom and BMCE group), Amhal (Omafu and Somepi group) and Akhannouch (Akwa Group). Before being appointed head of government by the King in September 2021, Aziz Akhannouch had held the post of Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for over 15 years.
In the field of wind energy, Nareva, a company belonging to the royal group Al Mada (formerly SNI and ONA), is taking the lion’s share via its subsidiary Énergie Éolienne du Maroc (EEM). It currently owns five ‘merchant plant’ wind farms under Law No. 13-09, with a total capacity of over 500 MW, the electrical energy from which is sold directly to industrial customers.25 Nareva also owns the Tarfaya park, one of the largest in Africa, in a joint venture with the large French company Engie. The energy produced in this 300MW-capacity park is sold exclusively to ONE under a 20-year PPA.26
In 2016, Nareva was declared the successful bidder for the huge 850 MW Integrated Wind Project, consisting of Midelt (210 MW), Boujdour (300 MW), Jbel Lahdid (270 MW), and Tiskrad (in Tarfaya) (100 MW). Nareva won this project by partnering with wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Gamesa Renewables (Germany–Spain).
It should be stressed that while the Al Mada group, which owns Nareva, presents itself as a leader in the field of sustainable development, it is responsible for the destruction and pollution of several ecosystems. As the author has explained elsewhere: ‘Not only has its sugar producing company Cosumar been involved in pollution disasters but its mining branch Managem in its “Imider” silver mine, located in the south of Morocco, has seen the contamination of aquifers and there is still an ongoing conflict with the local population over water resources’.27
In Morocco, as is seen in other countries, those who benefit from green projects generally have a long track record of polluting and destroying ecosystems. Reorienting part of their investments towards renewable energy is in reality just another, often even more profitable, way of generating financial profits and dispossessing local populations of their territories.
Who pays the price?
The population, both as taxpayers and as consumers as a whole, bears the financial consequences of a system that is designed to be totally inequitable and to benefit exclusively private investors. The concession contracts signed in the 1990s and early 2000s, in particular the PPAs, obliged ONE not only to buy energy from private operators according to availability and at prices that are higher than the effective selling prices for distribution and consumption, but also to bear the cost of fluctuations in the prices of raw materials, in particular coal.
This plunged ONE into an unprecedented structural financial crisis, with the government then bailing it out, through the signing of a programme contract that allowed ONE to increase consumer prices. As a result, consumer bills rose by 20 per cent in 2014.28 As recent renewable projects are all based on similar 30-year contracts, this situation of massive public investment without any guarantee for the population of lower electricity prices is likely to be repeated.
Masen’s decision to pursue CSP technology, which was made without consulting any public body including the ONE, has proven disastrous, with a cost price per kilowatt-hour (KWh) of 1.62 dirham for Noor 1, 1.38 dirham for Noor 2 and 1.42 dirham for Noor 3, while the price at which each KWh is sold to ONE is 0.85 dirham. Masen thus records an annual deficit that is estimated by CESE29 at €80 million for the Noor I, II and III plants.
The issue of debt and financing is fundamental. All recent power generation projects, including the so-called ‘green’ projects, are financed by loans from international private banks, multilateral banks, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and French, German and Japanese development agencies. In the solar energy sector, Masen contracts debts that are guaranteed by the Moroccan state. It uses these funds to develop the infrastructure (roads, hydraulic infrastructure, fences, lines and transformer stations for the transport of energy) needed for project development. And it also uses the funds to finance its participation in the special purpose companies created for specific projects (Noor ourzaztae, Noor Midelt, etc.), as illustrated in Figure 3 below: