Is nuclear power a solar energy

Solar energy or nuclear power?

When it comes to solar parks in the desert, Abdellah Alaoui's eyes light up. Alaoui is the head of the Moroccan Energy Association. He is considered the gray eminence of energy policy - and a man of great influence:

"I think we could have the first solar park in Morocco as early as 2015. The electricity will not only meet the demand in Morocco, but can also be exported abroad. That is our contribution to the development of Europe."

Electricity development aid from Morocco for Europe - this is how you can see the project. Abderrahim El Hafidi is also impressed by the plan. He is responsible for renewable energies in the Moroccan Ministry of Energy. When it comes to the subject, his voice almost cracks with enthusiasm:

"The solar plan would be an opportunity for Morocco to fully exploit its potential for renewable energies: an enormous potential that is still untapped today. We will supply the national market first. We can share the rest with our partners in the north of the Mediterranean how to fully utilize our energy sources. "

For El Hafidi, the priorities are clear: the electricity first has to supply Morocco - only then does the foreign country come: No wonder, because Morocco has a massive energy problem. The country has to get 97 percent of its energy sources from abroad: coal from Mauritania, gas from Algeria, oil from the Gulf States. And if your own electricity production is not sufficient at peak times, electricity has to be bought in from Spain. That happens more and more often.

Last year Morocco had to pay a hefty bill: around seven billion euros - in foreign currency: a big chunk for an emerging country. And the bill is likely to rise, because Morocco's population is growing and using more and more energy. Industry, too, is hungry for energy - and the government has to act. It relies primarily on coal-fired power plants - but also increasingly on renewable energies. Morocco is made for them: a stiff breeze usually blows on the coasts and the sun usually shines in the country. So far there are very few wind and solar power plants. That has to change, says Said Mouline, President of the Moroccan Association for Solar and Wind Energy:

"We are lucky not to be an oil country. We have abundant sun and wind resources. With renewable energies we can create jobs, protect the environment and work economically at the same time. Germany, with its experience in this area, can set standards together with Morocco - and other countries to be an example. "

The plan to build solar fields in the desert is ambitious. And not everyone in Morocco is enthusiastic about it. There are voices in the Moroccan energy ministry who warn that Morocco could be colonized again; this time from German energy companies. There is also a lot of skepticism from the French camp. Jean-Noel Roulleau, Head of the French National Development Service AFD in Morocco:

"Of course the idea of ​​promoting solar energy from an uninhabited desert region is tempting. However, nomads live there, even if not too many - but still: The problem has to be dealt with. In addition, we have already seen what it means with oil. when you tie yourself to a region as a source of energy. And then the loss of energy over the long distance. Overall: a good idea, but full of risks. "

France's energy industry is also interested in Morocco. However, it does not want to build solar power plants in the country, but rather nuclear reactors. The words of French President Sarkozy on a state visit to Morocco last year also point in this direction. At that time he announced that Morocco and France wanted to work together in the field of civil nuclear energy. Since October Morocco has also joined the "Worldwide Partnership for Atomic Energy" - an American initiative that campaigns for civilian nuclear power.

Abdellah Alaoui from the Moroccan Energy Association also relies on nuclear power. He maintains close ties with the French energy industry. Two years ago he received the Order of Merit of the Republic of France for his commitment to the Moroccan-French friendship.

"We expect to have two nuclear reactors in 2020. Moroccan and foreign experts are already investigating which locations would be suitable for this and are investigating the question of whether we really need nuclear power."

Alaoui points out that the kilowatt hour of nuclear power is unrivaled cheap - and therefore very attractive for an energy-thirsty country like Morocco. A calculation that advocates of renewable energies reject - after all, the high investment costs for a nuclear power plant have to be included in the electricity price.

In any case, the issue of nuclear power in Morocco is highly sensitive, because neighboring countries like Spain would not like to see Morocco building nuclear power plants in the near future. The French nuclear company AREVA canceled an agreed interview for this article at short notice.

Renewable energies versus nuclear power - the energy lobbies are preparing for battle in Morocco. A competition that could also turn into a dispute between Germany and France. Dieter Uh, energy expert at the German development aid organization GTZ in Morocco:

"Of course there is this conflict to a certain extent. You don't have to ignore it. Not just that you can only spend the investment money once. Morocco consumes 24 terawatt hours today - a nuclear reactor produces seven terawatt hours. That is about the additional energy demand of today by 2014. That means: the moment a nuclear reactor arrives, there is less need in real terms. "

That means: to change direction less demand - and to rely on renewable energies. The race for Morocco's future energy supply is on. Ultimately, it could decide which lobby is better positioned here in the francophone country. And so far, the former colonial power France has a clear advantage.