Morocco is moving closer to realising its ambitious plan of connecting people in every corner of its vast territory to the national electric grid. Soon it will provide what is called “universal service”: continuous and reliable access to electricity for the entire population.
When work started in 1996, only 22 per cent of countless rural villages that dot the Moroccan landscape were connected to the grid. Fifteen years and a series of massive investments later, that figure had risen to 97 per cent.
Now, an EBRD investment of €60 million is supporting the National Office of Electricity and Water (ONEE) with the final stage of this huge operation, which will connect a further 1200 small villages.
“Our life has really changed,” said Hanane, one of 250 local residents of one of them, Aghouatim, a few kilometres from Marrakesh, and a mother of two. “Now we have a fridge.”
“Before, we couldn’t store food. After one day it would go bad and we could not eat it. We also bought a washing machine so we no longer have to use the bucket, which was so tiring and bad for our hands.”
Video: Bringing power to rural Morocco
The EBRD and its donors are backing the government’s investment plan to bring 24/7 electricity access to over 1200 rural villages in Morocco for the very first time.
Besides providing crucial financing, the EBRD adds value to the operations by supporting ONEE’s efforts to improve its sustainability as part of the gradual liberalisation and commercialisation of the electricity sector.
For example, a technical cooperation project supported by the Southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) Multi-Donor Account (MDA) is helping ONEE to introduce International Financial Reporting Standards.
Crucially, the EBRD is also helping improve the sustainability of the service itself by financing the first smart metering installations. Smart meters, which can also measure electricity being sent on to the grid, are essential for the development of decentralised renewable energy generation capacity, in particular rooftop solar photovoltaic generation.
They represent one step further in the modernisation of the Moroccan energy sector, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuel imports to cover growing demand.
Impact on social inclusion and the environment is also being thoroughly assessed thanks to the backing of the SEMED Cooperation Funds Account.
For isolated villages, grid connection is nothing short of a revolution. High in the majestic Atlas Mountains, for example, reaching the Berber community of N’Kob - counting 25 settlements almost in the middle of nowhere - has certainly posed some logistical headaches for ONEE.
The team is working tirelessly to extend the network and erect pylons and poles in these ancient mountains. But the bigger the challenge, the more life-changing opportunities electricity will bring.
“With reliable electricity we can power our water pumps for the irrigation of the henna cultivation, our main agricultural product,” said Daoud Nkoubi, president of the community’s Committee.
“Many families here have members abroad and communication was an issue. Reliable electricity brings them closer to their families through mobile phones and the internet. It’s such a joy for all!”
The project will also promote enhanced educational enrolment and improve safety, hygiene and medical services. It promises a brighter future for future generations and a major boost for Morocco’s economic development.
SEMED MDA donors are: Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taipei China and the United Kingdom.