North Africa:

Morocco's Bakkoury and Benkhadra discuss country's evolving energy landscape

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Morocco has 20 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale oil and gas resources. What are the country's plans for exploring these shale deposits? During today's OnPoint, Mustapha Bakkoury, president of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, and Amina Benkhadra, Morocco's director general of the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines, discuss Morocco's evolving domestic energy supply landscape and its aggressive target to produce 42 percent of its electricity through renewables by 2020.

Transcript

Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today are Mustapha Bakkoury, president of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, and Amina Benkhadra, Morocco's director general of the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines. Thank you both for joining me today.

Amina Benkhadra: Thank you.

Mustapha Bakkoury: It's a pleasure.

Monica Trauzzi: Amina, you're both in Washington as part of the Moroccan delegation that's visiting with King Mohammed VI as he meets with President Obama, and Morocco's energy story is really rapidly evolving. According to the USEIA Morocco has 20 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale oil and gas resources. What are the country's plans for exploring shale gas?

Amina Benkhadra: First of all we have no production right now but we are conducting big program of exploration for conventional oil and gas with more than 30 companies working in the sedimentary basins of Morocco. At the same time we have just started the first phase of exploration for shale gas since it have ... the revolution in the United States, and we hope to have evaluation in the next years probably.

Monica Trauzzi: Mustapha, Morocco has up until now not been known for its abundant supplies of domestic sources of energy, and in fact up until this point you've been a net importer of hydrocarbons. You're hoping to reduce some of that demand through renewables and there is an aggressive target of 42 percent electricity through renewables by 2020. How are you going to get to that goal?

Mustapha Bakkoury: Well, and first I have to mention that we have a new challenge. We have to double our energy production for the next, at the end of the decade, and we want to reduce the energy dependency. Of course the idea is to develop our national resources for ... solar, wind, and hydro, and there is only one way to do it, is to start working. That's what we did, developing huge products in either wind and solar. We are developing it under partnership with private sector and also international community, the industries, and financial sector.

Monica Trauzzi: Can you tell me a little bit more about the solar projects that are being developed?

Mustapha Bakkoury: The strategy was set up in late 2010 and since then we started, we are constructing the first big project, 160 megawatts ... one of the best places in the world. And we launched the process for the next two projects. The idea is to have a big park of 500 megawatts in this place and to continue developing other places in order to achieve the 2,000 megawatt by 2020. For all these projects we had interest from American companies like, I don't know if I can mention names. I can ...

Monica Trauzzi: If you can, we'd love to hear them. [Laughter]

Mustapha Bakkoury: Yeah, SolarReserve and BrightSource, for example, and of course other players from other countries. The international community is very excited about our program.

Monica Trauzzi: Amina, how much U.S. aid is Morocco getting, and how much is that impacting the energy growth that we're seeing at this point?

Amina Benkhadra: Our relationship with the United States in the energy sector is quite important. If I spoke about hydrocarbon exploration, we have now big companies like Chevron, like Anadarko, like Kosmos which are conducting big programs and they are investing hundred billions of dollars right now for the geological, seismic, and drilling in the different areas that they are working on. At the same time we have a relationship with the Department of Energy to exchange on the experiences of Morocco that can be used in other areas of the world, and especially in Africa for instance. Morocco has great success with its rural electrification and we succeed in bringing 98 percent of rural electrification in the last 20 years. It can be a model and it's a model for other areas. So there are several areas of cooperation. In the renewable energy we also discuss with the Department of Energy how we can strengthen our relationship. And as Mr. Bakkoury said, all our big project are done in a public-private partnership, so it can bring investment from any part or any company.

Monica Trauzzi: So is Morocco a safe investment place for U.S. business dollars?

Amina Benkhadra: Effectively, Morocco is benefiting from a very secure environment. It's a secure country for many from the past, today, in the future, as our region is in a very specific ... . Since the Arab Spring, Morocco is considered as a safe country bringing very good conditions of investment. And we had yesterday testimonial for several U.S. company telling how it was very interesting to invest in Morocco, how the environment is transparent and clear, and how they are happy to work in our country.

Mustapha Bakkoury: Maybe we can also add that the free-trade agreement between Morocco and the United States, that helps, doubling and multiplying by four the commerce between the two countries. But the potential is still there to increase either commerce and investment, of course.

Monica Trauzzi: And what could energy development in Morocco mean for your economy?

Mustapha Bakkoury: Of course it's key. To help the other sectors, to meet their objectives we have to generate enough energy and at competitive prices. This is the challenge. That's why we have this prospective strategy to make sure we have all the needs of energy we have to use for the different needs.

Amina Benkhadra: We have almost $25 billion of investment for the energy development from now to 2020 in the solar, wind energy, but also for a future LNG plant on the Atlantic Coast. And there are several big opportunities for companies and especially U.S. companies.

Monica Trauzzi: So you're really putting big efforts behind this. What would you each identify as the weakest element of Morocco's energy policy right now? Amina, if you want to start?

Amina Benkhadra: The weakest, we keep positive because despite our low levels of oil and gas production, we had a clear strategy with specific plans for the short, medium, and long term. We are security our supply by a diversified mix with the new coal plant, with the development of our renewable energies like solar and wind which has been launched by his Majesty, and the development also of the LNG sector and development of gas. So this is a diversified and secure objective for the energy sector. The weakest is the fact that we are still depending, 95 percent of our imports, but we developing different programs in different fields, in the renewable energy and exploration to lower this dependency in the future.

Monica Trauzzi: Mustapha, are you in agreement? Is that the weakest?

Mustapha Bakkoury: Yes, and we are trying to show all the opportunities we can share with partners in order to meet our objectives, but also in order to continue improving the integration with the regional integration and mainly with Europe. Our objective is also to export energy, and mainly the renewable energy, to Europe in the next coming years thanks to the interconnection we have with Europe through Spain.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, very interesting story. Thank you both for coming on the show.

Amina Benkhadra: Thank you, thank you.

Mustapha Bakkoury: Thank you very much.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

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