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The official launch of the first phase of the Ouarzazate solar power plant took place on Friday, 10 May 2013 in the Moroccan rural municipality of Ghessate (Ouarzazate Province). The event was attended by King Mohammed VI and representatives of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group.
The AfDB is financing the first phase of the works, with EUR 168 million, from its own resources, in addition to a concessional loan of USD 100 million granted through the Clean Technology Fund (CTF), one of the AfDB-hosted Climate Investment Funds (CIF). The loan agreements were signed on 19 November 2012. MASEN Board Chair, Mustapha Bakkoury, hailed AfDB support in making this project a reality.
The project involves installing a 160 MW power plant which is the first phase of the Ouarzazate solar complex whose final capacity will be 500 MW. The Ouarzazate power plant will be the largest in the world using "concentrated solar power technology." The project is structured as a public-private partnership (PPP) between MASEN and a consortium led by the Saudi International Company for Water and Power (ACWA Power).
In a statement released during the launch, AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, hailed the project’s innovative nature: "This is an example of innovative financing packaging which illustrates Morocco’s approach, combining public, private and climate funding.” He added that "The Ouarzazate solar project is the first project in Africa to use concentrated solar power technology." "This plant is an important step in Morocco’s green and inclusive growth strategy."
The Ouarzazate project will help to diversify the Kingdom’s energy production sources (mainly based on fossil fuels). The country imports almost 97% of its energy to meet its energy needs. The first phase of construction will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, avoiding the emission of 240,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year over a 25-year period. A local industry capable of providing locally-manufactured inputs to the solar programme will also be developed. According to a recent study by Ernst & Young, Morocco has become the second most attractive country in the world with regard to developing concentrated solar power projects.
This project is the third of its kind that the AfDB is financing in Morocco’s renewable energy sector after the Ain Beni Mathar Solar Power Plant and the Integrated Wind, Water and Rural Electrification Project. Approved by the AfDB Board of Directors in June 2012, the integrated programme’s financing comprises a EUR 359 million loan and a USD 125 million concessional loan provided through the Clean Technology Fund.
The partnership and cooperation between the AfDB and Morocco date back to more than forty years. Kaberuka recalled that the AfDB was Morocco’s premier development partner and that the country was the AfDB’s leading client. The AfDB’s cumulative commitment in the country’s energy sector is estimated at EUR 1.35 billion (15 billion dirhams) out of a total commitment of EUR 10 billion to all economic sectors.