03 March 2014 - 14 March 2014
Quarzazate and Zagora, Morocco

Field work in Morocco

Public acceptance of large scale solar power in Morocco – RPV’s Susanne Hanger and Nadya Komendantova went into the field to survey the population of the provinces of Ouarzazate and Zagora

One important aspect of RPV’s work is on-the-ground research, in direct contact with people affected by high-level economic and political visions such as the idea to generate large amounts of electricity from renewable energy sources, such as solar, in the Sahara Desert.

From 3 to 14 March, we relocated from Laxenburg, Austria, to Ouarzazate, Morocco, to personally coordinate and supervise the collection of the first set of data for a comparative study on public acceptance of large scale renewable energy in North Africa. The object of interest was the Noor 1 concentrated solar power (CSP) plant near the province capital Ouarzazate (cf. Box 1). Noor 1 is a flagship project in the region as it is the first commercial CSP plant of this size to be built in North Africa, generating electricity for local use. If successful, it will serve as a best case for similar projects in the region.

Together with our Moroccan colleagues we used the first days to explore the region, get an authorization for our work from the local authorities and put the finishing touches to the questionnaire and the field work strategy. The second half of our stay was dedicated to the actual data collection, i.e. interviewing. We conducted interviews in the communities in a radius of 60 km around the power plant. While a large part of the interviews was conducted in urbanized areas in and around Ouarzazate, where most people in the region live, our work also took us to remote rural villages to collect people’s perceptions. 

The main challenges of the data collection phase were the design of the sampling strategy in an area where no form of population register, phone book or street registry are available, as well as working in a multi-lingual environment (English, French, Arabic and Berber as well as many local dialects). However, going into the field together with our Moroccan colleagues, we also experienced the local hospitality. Invitations for mint tea and sweets or lunch were frequent and the kindness of people seemed boundless.

This research is part of the project “Social and environmental challenges of EU-MENA renewable power cooperation”, supported by the European Research Council and under the leadership of Prof. Anthony Patt, Department of Environmental Systems, ETH Zurich, and guest research scholar at IIASA’s Risk, Policy and Vulnerability Program (RPV). The fieldwork was realized as cooperation between the Chair of Human Systems, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), IIASA, the Moroccan Society for Renewable Energy Development (SMADER), and the University of Agadir. Our efforts greatly benefited from related work by Germanwatch and the Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC). Colleagues from these organizations had been working in the region the previous two months, conducting qualitative interviews about the socio-economic impacts of Noor I and trained the local researchers who conducted the interviews for our survey. (The data analysis is ongoing and will provide concrete results in the coming months.)

Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power Plant (Noor I)

The construction of a large scale commercial CSP plant (parabolic trough) in the province of Ouarzazate is one step in realizing the Moroccan Solar Plan. It is only the first phase of a 500 MW project on this site. The prequalification process for the second phase has been recently launched to develop 300 MW to be added to current 160 MW of the first phase. The Moroccan government has plans to have 2 GW of solar energy installed by 2020, about 38% of country's currently installed power. The project lead was assigned to Saudi's ACWA in a tendering process. ACWA in turn awarded the EPC construction contract to a consortium comprised by Spanish companies SENER, Acciona, Aries and TSK. The project, valued at roughly 1 billion US Dollars, is backed by the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, Germany's KfW and the Clean Technology Fund.

The Power Purchase Agreement was signed in November 2012 and the groundbreaking ceremony took place in May 2013, the presence of Morocco's king, Mohamed VI, at this event was crucial for the popularity of the project. The finalization of the first project phase is planned for late 2015.

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Last edited: 03 April 2014


Susanne Hanger-Kopp

Research Scholar

Risk and Resilience

T +43(0) 2236 807 508

Nadejda Komendantova

Research Scholar

Advanced Systems Analysis

T +43(0) 2236 807 285

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313