Morocco tenders solar energy on occupied land
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Morocco has launched a tender for the construction of solar plants at nine different sites, including in occupied Western Sahara.

Published 10 February 2020

A new tender, issued by the Moroccan government on 29 January 2020, envisions the development of nine photovoltaic solar power plants with a combined capacity of 400 MW under the header "NOOR PV II". The photo to the right shows the project sites as included in the tender. Seven of the selected sites are effectively located in Morocco. 

But two sites are not: they are located in occupied Western Sahara, in El Aaiun (Laayoune) and Boujdour.

The NOOR PV II project can be viewed as a follow-up of NOOR PV I, which consisted of the development of 170 MW solar energy capacity in three different sites: 70 MW in Ouerzazate (Morocco proper) and 100 MW in occupied Western Sahara - 80 MW in El Aaiun and 20 MW in Boujdour. This project was carried out by ACWA Power, in consortium with Shapoorji Pallonji, Sterling & Wilson and Astronergy. 

Morocco has received international praise for its investment in renewable energy. However, there is a very dark side to the picture, as a significant part of Morocco's green energy potential is in reality being developed outside of its internationally recognised borders, and inside of the parts of Western Sahara that it holds under military control. The development is deeply worrisome, in that it makes Morocco even more dependent on its untenable presence in Western Sahara in order to secure its own energy needs - the energy being generated in occupied Western Sahara is connected to Morocco's national power grid. 

Moreover, the renewable energy installations in Western Sahara contribute to Morocco's taking of the territory's natural resources. The Foum El Oued wind park, for example, provides 95% of the energy that is needed to exploit the Bou Craa phosphate mines.

At present, Morocco's installed solar energy capacity in Western Sahara is modest at around 100 MW. But the plan is to raise the capacity substantially, to a level where Western Sahara would deliver 40% of Morocco's total solar energy production.

"The companies that will apply for this tender, ought to understand what they are really getting involved in. Any company that would develop Moroccan energy production in Western Sahara is contributing in fuelling the occupation", Sylvia Valentin chair of Western Sahara Resource Watch, stated. 

Over the years, international financial institutions such as KfW, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank have clarified that they would not invest in renewable energy projects in Western Sahara. As a result, Morocco had to look for alternative ways of financing the NOOR PV I program - through green bonds.

The tender will be closed on 28 February 2020. The winner of the bidding will be announced in the second quarter of 2020. The tender document can be downloaded here.

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