All Morocco’s Mosques Transitioning to Solar Power

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. Credit: Pixabay
Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. Credit: Pixabay

With the first phase deadline set for 2019, Morocco has launched an ambitious “Energy Efficiency in Mosques” program aiming to provide solar power for all the mosques in the kingdom.

By switching to energy-saving LED lighting, solar water heating, and rooftop solar PV electricity generation, significant savings are anticipated for the Moroccan Ministry of Religious Affairs, the agency responsible for paying the mosques’ energy bills.

Launching a “Green Mosques” Program

More than two years in the planning, the Energy Efficiency in Mosques program was announced by Morocco’s Ministry of Energy (MEMEE) and Ministry of Religious Affairs (MHAI). The program, also known as the “Green Mosques” program, is likewise partnering with the national agency for renewable energies and energy efficiency (ADREE) and the state energy investment company (SIE).

The Green Mosques program was designed by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). With a full 99 percent of Morocco’s population registered as Muslim, mosques are very effective launching pads for raising awareness of renewable energy.

In total, there are around 15,000 mosques in the kingdom. “In a first phase,” reports GIZ, “at least 600 mosques across Morocco will be equipped with LED lighting, photovoltaic systems, and solar water heaters.” Offering expert support to government partners, GIZ is assisting in all phases of design and implementation of project activities to be launched in all of Morocco’s mosques.

Morocco Boasts one of the World’s Largest Mosques

After 32 years in the planning, Morocco’s Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca finally opened its doors to worshippers and tourists in 1993. Now an iconic national landmark, the Hassan II Mosque was built in part as a mausoleum to honor King Hassan II’s father, Mohammed V, who passed away in 1961.

Plans to build the mausoleum had not progressed by 1980, and so, during a celebration to honor King Hassan II’s 60th birthday celebration, Hassan II directly requested a new building for Casablanca.

“I wish Casablanca to be endowed with a large, fine building of which it can be proud until the end of time,” stated King Hassan II. “I want to build this mosque on the water,” he added, referring to a verse in the Qur’an, “because God’s throne is on the water. Therefore, the faithful who go there to pray, to praise the creator on firm soil, can contemplate God’s sky and ocean.”

And He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth in six days
and His Throne was on the water

[Qur’an 11:7]

King Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco. Credit: EnglishtoIslam.net
King Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco. Credit: EnglishtoIslam.net

The Hassan II Mosque offers a beautiful realization of the king’s wishes. It is one of the largest mosques in the world, with a capacity for over 100,000 worshippers. Designed by French Architect Michel Pinseau, the iconic mosque is also one of the top tourist attractions in Morocco.





Promoting Morocco’s Economy

With the passing of Hassan II in 1999, the monarchy of Morocco passed to his son, King Mohammed VI. Working tirelessly to promote the economic welfare of his realm, Mohammed VI is beloved in his nation and around the world for his visionary efforts.

Especially in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency, Morocco is making far better progress than any other nation on the African continent. With a total of 2 gigawatts (GW) in capacity, Morocco’s Noor concentrating solar plant (CSP) is the largest in all of Africa and the Middle East.

Ouarzazate CSP plant, Morocco. Credit: CSPWorld
Ouarzazate CSP plant, Morocco. Credit: CSPWorld

Sermons Help Promote Conservation

Perceptions are changing all across the Middle East, with a similar solar PV program announced not long ago for all of Jordan’s mosques. As Morocco’s renewable energy and environmental ministers are also noting, mosques disseminate information at the grass-roots level.

Regarding the kingdom’s new “Green Mosques” plan, Morocco’s partners at GIZ point out, “The idea is to use mosques as a starting point.” GIZ adds, “Sermons play an important part in raising awareness of the need to conserve natural resources.”

In this way, the kingdom hopes to create “a market for private services in the field of energy efficiency.” After the green mosque stage, the plan is to enlarge the program “towards other public buildings in sectors such as education or health.

Solar PV in Morocco. Credit: Isofoton via Wikipedia commons
Solar PV in Morocco. Credit: Isofoton via Wikipedia commons

Expanding Renewable Energy Training Programs

Developing an energy efficiency market will also help launch the government of Morocco’s plan to boost green job creation. Although demand for such services are low right now, with the introduction of solar energy systems in mosques, interest is expected to grow. To nurture this interest, the government is rolling out training programs at all commercial levels, from corporate decision makers to company employees.

Starting with Morocco’s Imams, or worship leaders, and teachers in mosques, the government is focusing on training related to the mosque upgrades, such as LED lighting, solar thermal water heaters, and rooftop solar PV systems.

TV and radio programs are also ready for distribution through the Ministry of Habous and Islamic Affairs. These broadcasts are aimed at promoting “long-term consumer demand for new technologies and generating further business opportunities for energy service providers.”

Training Morocco's Imams and educators on solar energy systems. Credit: GIZ
Training Morocco’s Imams and educators on solar energy systems. Credit: GIZ

Prepping for the COP22 Summit

Much of this effort on Morocco’s renewable energy front stems from a national goal to meet 42 percent (or around 6 GW) of the kingdom’s energy demand with renewables by 2020. Approximately 14 percent (or 2 GW) is planned to be met by solar PV and solar thermal plants.

The approach of the 22nd United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP22) being held November 7-18 in Marrakech is spurring progress, but there is lots of room for improvement.

As of yet, Morocco has not developed any remuneration policy framework encouraging investors, be they residential homeowners, business owners, or even utility-scale plant developers.

However, as pv magazine noted recently, “the Moroccan government is finally moving to clear the regulatory hurdles in the way of PV development. This could include introducing provisions under which households and building owners can receive feed in payments for electricity produced by rooftop PV systems.”

It took 32 years and one big birthday bash to build the celebrated Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. Perhaps the COP22 in Marrakech is just what Morocco needs to successfully launch itself into the Renewable Energy Age.

Stay tuned, we’ll be covering the action!

The COP22 is being held November 7-18, 2016 in Marrakech, Morocco. Credit: COP22-Morocco.com
The COP22 is being held November 7-18, 2016 in Marrakech, Morocco. Credit: COP22-Morocco.com

 

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About the Author

Aisha Abdelhamid (Birth-name Kathleen Vail) is a freelance lifestyle and environmental science writer currently living in Vancouver, BC. Her interests include environmental conservation, climate science, renewable energy, faith-based environmental activism, sustainable economics, corporate social responsibility, creative lifestyles, and healthy living.