Morocco Leading the World Toward a Green Energy Future
By Paul E McGinniss
Morocco was the first country in the world to recognize the fledgling American Republic in 1777. Now, they are seeking clean energy independence and asking the world to join them in a green revolution.
This North African country, a constitutional monarchy about the size of California, has recently set a royal goal to ensure that 40 percent of its electricity demand is met from renewable energy sources by 2020. This is an extremely aggressive goal considering more than 90 percent of its current energy use is fossil fuel based and imported.
Astoundingly, with the cooperation of European and worldwide partners, Morocco has even grander plans to power itself entirely by renewable energy and potentially, in cooperation with other Northern African countries, export excess clean energy to Europe.
With these aggressive goals, it shouldn't be surprising that King Mohammed VI of Morocco isn't afraid of what anyone thinks when he talks about the reality of climate change. And talk he does.
In a message to world participants at the September 2102 conference in Morocco, Energy Challenges in the Euro-Mediterranean Region, King Mohammed said:
"Convinced of the vital importance of protecting and preserving the environment, and having realized at an early stage—thanks to its geographical location—the potential impact of climate change, my country resolutely opted for sustainable development which, needless to say, goes hand in hand with human development."
In 2009, King Mohammed announced at a ceremony attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a $9 billion solar project with the target of creating 2,000 megawatts of renewable power by 2020. According to the Moroccan Minister of Energy and Mining at the time, Amina Benkhadra, the "massive project" will combine economic and social development with environmental protection and efforts to tackle climate change. "The project will reduce energy imports by saving the equivalent of a million tonnes of oil per year and help protect the environment by cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 3.7 million tonnes annually," said Benkhadra."
Morocco's foray into its green future started small, with encouragement of individual solar systems on homes, especially in remote areas with no power. The country rightly understood the importance of localized sources of power generation and micro grids. It was only in 2007 when Morocco installed its first, small 50 kilowatt photovoltaic power plant in Tit Mellil. Then things got on a roll. In 2007, Morocco installed 200,000 square meters of solar water heating panels. In 2008, a combined cycle solar and thermal plant of 427 megawatts was established. But, all this was just the tip of a huge wave of renewable activity which has positioned Morocco to be a major geopolitical player in renewable energy.
In 2010, the largest wind farm in Africa, consisting of 165 turbines, was inaugurated in northern Morocco.
Clean Technica reported in October 2012, that a new memorandum of understanding was signed between the Moroccan government and the Desertec Foundation, a German based entity, to strengthen plans to build a massive series of solar power plants in the northern part of Morocco. These plants will supply not only power for Morocco, but also feed clean energy to Europe via high voltage direct current transmission lines.
“Morocco is a not just a visionary in the region, but also a successful pioneer in the global transition to renewables," said Dr Thiemo Gropp, director of the Desertec Foundation.
In a Clean Technica article, Morocco Stays Renewable Energy Course Amidst Arab Spring, it notes that, "also vital to the renewable energy/energy efficiency strategy’s success and job creation, Morocco is investing in building out a modern electricity grid and distribution lines. These are key to the government’s plans to export green energy to Europe."
The green headway Morocco is making shows the vital importance of strong leadership.
A Forbes article, Is Morocco the Mediterranean's Green Energy Savior?, states that Fouad Douiri, Morocco’s newly appointed Minister of Energy, Mines, Water and the Environment, cited a series of laws passed in 2009. The legislation provided the foundation and grid support for the country’s renewable efforts, including the creation of the National Agency for Renewable Energy Development and Energy Efficiency and the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy.
King Mohammed and his government understand that being energy independent is not just about national security, it's also about bettering the lives of the citizens in the process, protecting a fragile environment, creating jobs and educating the youth.
With an eye toward protecting air and water quality and not just developing energy security, in 2010 Morocco introduced a "green tax" for polluters.
"Although the cost of solar energy is still high, this source of renewable energy opens up promising, strategic prospects since state-of-the-art technologies in this field are readily available ... In addition to generating electricity, this energy sector provides a basis for green growth in addition to contributing to economic and social development. It should also enable our country to sharpen its industrial competitive edge and help us encourage development-oriented scientific research and technological innovations, sensitize our young people about civic environmental values and promote optimal use of alternative energy sources," explains King Mohammed.
On Nov. 12, the Moroccan King announced the creation of a "green city" which has at its heart a university which includes a focus on sustainable development and clean technology. This creative and bold initiative is similar to the visionary green city cum university, Masdar, that is in the works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Granted, Morocco, unlike the U.S. and some of the neighboring, oil rich countries like Libya, is not blessed with fossil fuel riches. So, obviously, they are not able to develop an energy security plan that relies on fossil fuels. Nonetheless, they are showing larger, wealthier and more powerful countries that with vision and leadership they can modernize and develop themselves sustainably, without fossil fuels.
The fact that Morocco, a country with a GDP of 100.22 billion dollars, an economy much smaller than the state of California—$1.9 trillion economy, the 8th largest GDP in the world), has manged to move so far so fast is a lesson for us all.
Interestingly, many thought California's renewable energy mandates were unrealistic when in 2011 it set a goal of achieving renewable electricity generation of 33 percent by 2020. The LA Times reported after Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation, "the new law, known as a renewable portfolio standard, is the most aggressive of any state. Several attempts to introduce a federal version have stalled in a divided and preoccupied Congress."
But, the naysayers who doubted that California could do what it set out to accomplish are being proved wrong. The Natural Resources Defense Council reported in California Utilities Exceed Renewable Power Goals, "at a time when there’s plenty of disheartening news about the environment, yesterday’s report that California is continuing to make rapid progress toward its goals for clean, renewable power generation is reason to cheer. The California Public Utilities Commission’s progress report shows that the state’s three largest private electric utilities—Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric—have met the renewable portfolio Sstandard goal of 20 percent of renewable energy from 2011-2013—and are on track to surpass that milestone this year en route to achieving the mandated one-third share by 2020."
Disappointingly, the U.S. government, unlike Morocco and an increasing number of other countries around the world, has not passed a federal renewable portfolio standard. However, most U.S. states across the country are moving in the direction of clean energy with 38 states setting Renewable Portfolio Standards or at least having renewable energy goals.
According to Reuters, the Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said this month that the German government remained committed to expanding its renewable energy capacity and would strive to coordinate policies better with the country's 16 states. Further, Merkel and state leaders told reporters that better coordination would help Germany achieve its goal of getting 40 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, up from 25 percent currently.
With Morocco managing to address local environmental concerns, develop a resilient energy security program and connect to a larger world energy strategy in such a short time, hopefully it will inspire policy makers around the world. The accomplishments in Morocco are especially important for American politicians to consider as they weigh the merits of continued extreme fossil fuel extraction, including approving the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, fracking and offshore oil drilling.
America should recognize Morocco's achievements and join them on a path toward a clean, peaceful green energy world.
Check out this Al Jazeera English video from 2010, Going Green in Morocco:
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
Paul E McGinniss is The New York Green Advocate. He is a green building consultant and real estate broker in New York. He is pretty much obsessed with all things environment and has lately become a resiliency addict.
By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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