“For us, it is an excuse to develop local industry capacity, so we also have in mind our competitiveness,” Saimi added. “We may need some subsidies in the first projects, but not going forward. We foresee local involvement of at least 30%.”

Overall, Morocco’s solar-plant program is designed to deliver 2,000 MW of power by 2020. The $9-billion project is expected to reduce oil consumption by one million tons and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 3.7 million tons.

Morocco also is continuing to add solar water-heater capacity through its PROMASOL program, in part funded by the United Nations. From just nine acres in 1998, the installed collector area increased to 60 acres by 2008; an additional 109 acres were installed last year, with 420 acres more to come online by 2020. PROMASOL is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 920,000 tons.

Morocco’s wind-power program is just as ambitious: Plants with a total capacity of 720 MW are currently under construction, and another 1,000 MW across five sites are planned over the next seven years for a $1.7-billion development, for which RFPs are expected to go out before July. In February, France’s GDF Suez and Morocco’s Nareva Holdings started construction on a $700 million, 300-MW wind farm in the southern city of Tarfaya; it will be the largest wind farm in Africa. Siemens Wind Power is supplying and installing the turbines, while Siemens Maroc is supplying the electrical works. In total, Morocco’s wind-power capacity is expected to reach 2,000 MW by 2020.

With the Tarfaya wind farm, ONEE, which is overseeing the wind-power projects, has selected two sites in the north of the country and four in the south ranging from 115 MW to 300 MW. Because of Morocco’s favorable wind patterns and its available  land, there is greater potential for further development in the south, according to Taoufik Laabi, development director at ONEE.

Finally, Morocco already generates 1,700 MW of hydro power; it is in the prequalification stage for a 170-MW project and evaluating bids for a 350-MW project, both scheduled for operation by 2018. Investment in each plant is expected to be about $300 million.

Between wind, solar and hydro, Morocco expects to get 42% of its energy from renewable energy by 2020. Is there a limit? Is 95% possible?

“It’s possible, but not now,” Laabi said. “We have to go progressively, but it is achievable as an objective.”

Luckily, Morocco is well positioned to be an energy exporter: the only high-voltage transmission link between North Africa and Europe stretches from Morocco to Spain. Morocco is also likely to benefit from the $528-billion DESERTEC initiative, spearheaded in Germany to harness power mainly from the Sahara. Morocco and Spain are studying the feasibility of expanding the existing transmission capacity to 1,400 MW by adding a third cable to the existing two. According to Laabi, the cable could be laid by 2020.