Morocco has selected Saudi company ACWA Power to develop 100 MW of solar power in occupied Western Sahara. The deal was inked at the UN's Climate Conference, COP22.
Yesterday, at what Moroccan media refers to as 'a ceremony at COP22', Saudi-Arabia's ACWA Power signed an agreement with the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) to develop and operate a complex of three power stations Solar photo-voltaic (PV) totaling 170 MW.
Two of those power stations, totaling 100 MW, will however not be located in Morocco, but inside the territory that Morocco has largely illegally occupied since 1975; the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara, also known as Africa's last colony.
The 170 MW deal, referred to as the Noor PV (Photo-voltaic) program, follows an international call for tenders, in which 20 consortia - grouping together 37 international firms - competed. The Noor PV 1 program comes with a price tag of US $ 220 million. The programme foresees in the development of an 80 MW solar plant in El Aaiun, called the Noor Laâyoune (Moroccan spelling of Western Sahara's capital city) and another 20 MW plant in Boujdour, the Noor Boujdour. The remaining 70 MW will be added to the Ouerzazate solar plant.
"We condemn Morocco's increasing energy infrastructure programmes in the territory it holds under occupation. Despite being remarkably green, they are fundamentally dirty, contributing to the upholding of the occupation", Erik Hagen of Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) stated.
On 2 November, WSRW published a report on Morocco's renewable energy programmes in Western Sahara, which entrench the occupation by deepening Morocco's ties to the occupied territories. By 2020, more than a quarter of the green energy produced by Morocco will be located in areas under military occupation. No less than 40% of Morocco's solar capacity will then come from Western Sahara.
Earlier this month, former UN Legal Counsel Hans Corell slammed Morocco's renewable energy plans in Western Sahara. "If one uses the territory of Western Sahara for the benefit of Morocco and for foreign enterprises, without properly consulting the people of Western Sahara or ensuring that they are the ones profiting from the wind energy, it will be in violation of international law and UN principles for responsible business”, he stated to Danish media. Former chief commander of the UN Mission in Western Sahara, Danish Kurt Mosgaard, fears that the energy infrastructure could contribute to prolong the conflict
ACWA Power specializes in power generation and water desalination, and has worked for the Moroccan government before at the giant Ouerzazate solar plant, located in Morocco proper.
No state in the world recognises the Moroccan annexation of the territory.
Companies that want to be perceived as taking human rights responsibly, should not bid on a large tender that will connect Morocco's illegal energy production in Western Sahara to the Moroccan grid, WSRW warns.
Morocco must immediately release a group of leading human rights defenders, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention demands.
Up to 81% of all land that the Moroccan government has allocated for new, gigantic plans for renewable energy, green hydrogen and ammonia, is located outside of Morocco's international borders, in occupied Western Sahara.