Voltalia to construct wind farm in occupied Western Sahara

The French company plans to commence construction later this year.

10 August 2020

Moroccan media reports (or download) that three years after Morocco accorded it the status of independent electricity producer for the "province of Laayoune", French company Voltalia SA can now kick-off the actual construction of its envisioned 75 MW wind farm.

But the "province of Laayoune" is a Moroccan administrative denomination for a part of the territory of Western Sahara that it holds under military occupation. The province comprises the area around the occupied capital of the territory, El Aaiún.

According to a press release of the Moroccan Council for Competition of 28 May this year, two of Voltalia's 100% owned subsidiaries, Voltalia Maroc and VLT Investment 6 B.V. have set up a joint company called "Parc Eolien de Ghrad Jrad SAS", for the development, realisation and exploitation of the wind farm.

Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) has sent a letter to Voltalia SA, asking the company to clarify how it assesses the legal status of Morocco vis-à-vis the territory of Western Sahara, and whether it has obtained obtained the consent of the people of Western Sahara, through their internationally recognised representative body, the Frente Polisario, to becoming an independent producer of electricity on the territory.

"We are convinced that it is not in the interest of any company to become associated with continued occupation and colonisation, and the plunder of resources. Accordingly, we ask that you limit any cooperation with Morocco to the territory of Morocco proper, and refrain from undertaking activities on occupied land", WSRW wrote in the letter to the company.

In June 2016, Voltalia acquired Alterrya Maroc, a Rabat-based development company for renewable projects in Morocco. Voltalia also bought Alterrya Wind, which is based in El Aaiún. The Alterrya-transaction enabled Voltalia to acquire a portfolio of 185 MW wind and 100 MW solar projects which at the time of the take-over were still at the conception stage. WSRW considers the Ghrad Jrad wind farm to be part of that portfolio. It is unclear how many more projects of the Alterrya portfolio are planned to be implemented in occupied Western Sahara. 

Voltalia also obtained a company called VMA Sahara in 2016, which is also based in El Aaiún.

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