Making renewable energy a priority: An interview with Saïd Mouline, Director of the Moroccan agency of development for renewable energies and energy efficiency (ADEREE)

Saïd Mouline
Saïd Mouline

Saïd Mouline is Director of the new Moroccan agency of development for renewable energies and energy efficiency (ADEREE).

Mr. Mouline is an engineer specializing in development projects in the sectors of energy and environmental protection. He is a graduate of the Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, he is the former Chairman of the Commission on Sustainable Development in the CGEM and the Moroccan Center for Clean Production and Member of the Federation of Energy.

He was also advisor of the President of Sustainable Development OCP and consultant for national and international organizations (Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, UNDP, World Bank, IFC, GIZ, KfW). Mr. Mouline was previously the Managing Director of the National Agency for Development of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency and President MEDENER, the association of national agencies for energy efficiency in the Mediterranean.

 

Solar Server: Can you talk a little about ADEREE, its origins, and its work?

Saïd Mouline: Morocco has been involved in renewable energy for 30 years. But a new approach was developed two years ago.

It was decided then at the highest level of the state to give priority to renewable energy and energy efficiency in our energy policy. At the same level, we had created a renewable energy development center in 1982.

This center worked many years for the development of technologies, looking at sites, looking at different applications, mainly for rural electrification, communications, solar pumping. Then, in the 1990's, we started looking at the wind regime in the country, and we developed ambitious wind measurements.

ADEREE is the agency overseeing the development of renewable energy. We look at the resources: wind, solar, biomass. And we are also following the strategy, looking at buyers that can start some projects. We also propose the development, to change some laws, dedicated to that.

The implementation was done by the utilities, who had the monopoly of producing electricity in the country through their own power plant or private ones with a power purchase agreement. In 2010, it was decided to create a separate entity, MASEN, dedicated to the solar program for the development of power, in particular the 2 GW program that will be implemented on five different sites in the country. So they took over the mission of the utilities.

Concerning the wind program, we have a utility program, but we also have a private program. Today, it is because we changed the law concerning the grid access for any renewable energy project, to also allow for small applications concerning renewables.

So, with this strategy, we have a strong proactive policy, with support at the highest level of the state.

We also have some strong targets, 42% for renewable energy in 2020. Which means from 2 GW today, we are going to reach 6 GW by 2020, mainly by adding solar and wind power.

And of course, we transformed the renewable energy development center; ADEREE is in charge of the development of local resources for renewable energy, and also for training, looking for how to implement training in this field, as we have also a strategy for industry in this field, and we need to develop a new training program for that.

ADEREE is deeply involved in energy efficiency and the transport of electricity. When you are talking about renewable energy you want at the same level to develop efficiency programs. When we talk about solar energy, we are also talking about solar water heaters and other implementation.

In addition to MASEN, there is another actor, SIE, The Energy Investments Company - the prime investor within the framework of the Moroccan energy strategy. SIE was created in February 2010 in compliance with the objectives of the national energy strategy aiming to diversify resources, the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency. We also have an organization, IRESEN, dedicated to R&D in this field.

With all of this, all of the actors have specific roles. That is why, when you are talking about MASEN, as the agency for solar energy, it operates more as a company, because they are able to produce energy.

ADEREE are not producers, rather it is the agency for development for renewable energy.

We are really a team, we are all working together. I am in the board of SIE, which is in the board of MASEN, so everyone is linked. Overall it's a huge program for the country.

Morocco’s strategy is to develop such projects not only for environmental issues. We have a context, which is that we are very energy dependent, and we are looking to renewable energy projects for development of the country, with industry and job creation, and for our energy independence. It's not only a matter of producing energy, it's a new way of having more impact on our economy from the energy sector.

Until today, the energy sector was really a burden for our economy, because of energy bills, because also of some subsidies in this field. With our energy strategy, we need to change that.

 

Solar Server: Can you give us a brief overview of the economic and political forces that are driving Morocco's interest in renewable energy, and particularly solar?

Saïd Mouline: Yes, when we start talking about solar energy in the beginning, in the 80's and 90's, of course it was very expensive. But for some applications we started looking at small projects, such as for rural areas, and remote areas, and for solar pumping and other applications including telecommunications.

But when we start thinking about power, to decrease our energy dependence, a lot of people are saying: "Why? Why should we go to renewables? They are more expensive. Morocco as a country is not a big polluter. We produce less greenhouse gas, almost 20 times less than in America, so why should we go to clean energy if it is more expensive? We have plenty of coal plants here. Even if coal is imported, it is the cheapest way to produce electricity."

We said, one thing is that there is a huge change in the renewable energy sector all over the world. Secondly, there was a huge step down over the last 20 years. And thirdly, we have huge natural resources.

ADEREE is doing green measurement; we are looking at the solar sites. With all this potential, we said maybe we have something to present here. If we are not only looking at this project to reduce power, but to have a strategy including all these points, then maybe it will be a new way of development of our economy.

The second part is our energy bills, which total nine billion dollars. Before, we were paying four billion dollars per year of energy bills. Now it's more than doubled. So it has affected our approach, and we had more and more people, many also in Ministry of Finance, all of those who are looking at the financial part, that were more and more convinced that we should have this strategy.

And in 2009 when we had a big event on the energy sector, the King's letter mentioned that we will give priority to renewable energy and energy efficiency in our energy policy. So that was the first big step, as we start to look at the big projects to reach 2 GW solar, 2 GW wind to be implemented by 2020. So we have really a new way.

Because now it's not only Morocco, it's the renewable energy sector all over the world, even with the financial crisis, how this sector is still expanding. So we are quite optimistic that we chose a good approach.

Another point is because of our national context. I mentioned the energy dependency, but also the tariff that we have here. In Morocco, for example in the wind sector, we have already reached grid parity. That is why, without any feed-in tariff today, we have some big consumers, like cement plants, the steel industry, the mining industry; they are looking at developing their own wind parks, because they have the same price as grid electricity.

And this price will be the same for the next 20 years. Our agency, counsels all consumers to look at the renewable energy approach for your own (Morocco) energy needs.

So we have a role as an agency to disseminate some information in this field for all the actors.

 

Solar Server: Tell us more about ADEREE and its work. The specific policies and programs that ADEREE has been involved in, specifically to promote solar.

Saïd Mouline: Our role is to promote all renewable energies, not only solar but also wind, biomass, and micro-hydraulic. We are developing right now with some cities projects for biogas plants in the landfills, so we are looking at all areas where we can develop energy, looking at the resources at hand.

We have a regional program, to look at each region of the country, so that they can have their own energy in each region, that will be the potential for each region, with these different technologies, but also the huge program that we have now that we stressed two years ago, which is access concerning energy efficiency. We should not waste any more energy. We can have power coming from renewables, and that is why we have a program for industry transformation, habitat in this field.

On our website, we have all of our services that we are proposing to different actors, that can be communities, companies, or any citizens, so that everyone can benefit from the agency.

In the solar market, if there is any legal buyer, we have a role of proposing plans to the government,  that can be proposed by the ministry to the parliament to develop new legislation.

 

Solar Server: You mentioned a program that is underway for producers of renewable energy to sell their power back to the utilities. What is the legal structure like for renewable energy producers right now?

Saïd Mouline: You can produce for yourself, with this legislation. Because there is no feed-in tariff in the country. You can have access to the grid, and you can consume an unlimited amount.

What was the problem: We had the first private wind park in the country in a cement plant, and the cement plant was situated in a very windy area. We developed 10 MW project of wind, because the law allowed no more than 10 MW.

We said we should not have any limit to the power, so we changed this law. There is no limit anymore, and as soon as we changed the law, the cement plant added 20 MW. They have now expanded to 30 MW, private wind park for their own energy needs.

Other cement plants want to do the same, but they were not located in windy areas. So the limitation was linking to the grid. So we pushed in the legislation that anyone can have a wind park wherever it is windy, and can consume wherever he has a plant and has access to the grid.

We changed the law to have access to the grid for any renewable energy project, for very high-tension and mid-tension. We are working closely with those connected by low-tension, because we have in mind that in the near future we will have some rooftop PV plants  at the household scale. But at the moment, there is no possibility for injecting solar PV from households to the grid.

We are working on it, we are conducting due diligence studies for that, and that will be our next step. But for large consumers, they are connected to the very high-tension grid, so they have access to the grid today, and they pay a fee to the utility for the grid utilization.

 

Solar Server: So far the big news out of Morocco has been the nation's plan to build a series of large CSP plants. Are there other solar projects underway in Morocco, and what is the status?

Saïd Mouline: Of course, there is the big solar power project underway with MASEN. The first plant will be CSP because of the site, because of the water issues, the availability of water there, and because of the needs for the utility of power even after the sun sets.

So that is why, for the first plant, CSP was chosen. But all of the sites will be developed with solar energy, which can be PV or CSP, or CPV, or solar tower.

Because of decreases in the price of the solar PV, there is a strong possibility for solar roofs in the future. Some companies are already looking to implement projects for their own energy needs, similar to what they are already implementing with the wind, to start producing part of their electricity with solar PV on their roofs.

Another huge part will be the future program for the development of solar power, for exporting green energy to Europe. That is the approach proposed by the DESERTEC Industry Initiative (where a Moroccan company is involved) and by the Plan Solar Mediterranean.

Morocco is importing more than 17% of its electricity from Europe today. We can easily start exporting. That is why we already put in the law concerning renewable energy the rules for exporting green electricity. It will be the cheapest way for European countries to reach their objectives of GHG emissions reduction. Morocco is ready for that.

If the grid is situated, it will be available for them, even to develop a HVDC line from the site to the consumption points in Europe. We are already connected to Europe today, 15% of our electricity needs are already imported from Spain. We have a 1.4 GW power line, two lines of 700 MW each. We are going to add a third one, so we are going to reach 2.1 GW of transmission capacity.

So we have in mind that one day we are going to export green electricity to Europe. And it is really a new approach of co-development. It is not just a matter of producing energy, it is first of all clean energy, so if Europe wants to reach objective of CO2 emissions, it will be the cheapest way for them, and at some point of co-development, we are looking at development of projects not only for power production but also to develop jobs in the North.

 

Solar Server: What else needs to be done in Morocco to develop the nation’s PV industry?

Saïd Mouline: We are really amazed at what has happened in the last five years in this industry. When we started to developing PV 20 years ago, we were thinking about reaching grid parity in 2020. Now we are thinking that we may have already reached grid parity in some cases.

Almost 70% of the electricity production today is under the private sector. We think this will be good for the nation because we are very dependent upon imported energy, and also because we have the potential to develop a PV industry for our own consumption.

Tomorrow, each household in the country can start producing its own energy, because of what happened with the technology in the last five years.
We are also following what is going on with new technologies, with CPV, and we are thinking that may be to reach the best solution in solar PV, we will be amazed again in the next five years.

 We are already in a situation where wind is cheaper than grid power, and without any feed-in tariff renewables are starting here. When you have strong political support, when you have commitment, it is possible to develop rapidly.

 

Solar Server: Anything else that we didn't talk about that you think is important for our readers to know about ADEREE and solar energy in Morocco?

Saïd Mouline: ADEREE is also looking at new technologies like algae fuel. We are also looking at marine energy in the future, that is more R&D Projects. It is extremely important for our young population today, that we need to change our energy priorities, but also expand this new opportunity that renewable energy brings.

We are also looking for investors. All the developments are being done by private companies, and we are also looking to attract some funding. We have had assistance from the World Bank and European Investment Banks. We have a very low interest rate, so all of this it is very important in the strategy, since it is not only a matter of developing the strategy.

 

Interview performed by Solar Server International Correspondent Christian Roselund on July 17th, 2012