On 19 November 2019, in Rabat, the Italian company Enel Green Power signed a contract with the Moroccan National Office of Electricity and Drinking Water (ONEE) and the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN) for the construction of a 300 MW wind farm near the town of Boujdour, located along the mid-coast of occupied Western Sahara. According to the press release by ONEE [or download], the partnership consists of Moroccan group Nareva Holding and Italy's Enel Green Power. Implementation of the project will kick off in 2021 and comes with a reported price tag of over 375 million [download].
The Boujdour wind farm is part of Morocco's 850 MW Integrated Wind Energy Program, which includes a total of five wind farms: three in Morocco proper (Midelt, Jbel Lahdid and Tangier) and two in Western Sahara (Boujdour and Tiskrad near El Aaiun).
Morocco has no sovereignty over or international mandate to administer Western Sahara - as concluded by the International Court of Justice, and in recent years in four consecutive rulings by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
"We condemn Enel's decision to build these energy projects on occupied land. The company contributes to making Morocco dependent on energy produced in the territory of Western Sahara and in securing income for the Moroccan king's personal energy company. The king will have less incentive to engage in any UN peace talks when Enel aids to connect the territory of Western Sahara to the Moroccan grid and to the king's treasury", stated Davide Contini of Western Sahara Resource Watch.
The tender for development, design, financing, construction, operation and maintenance of the entire Integrated Wind Energy Project was won in March 2016 by a consortium of three companies: Enel Green Power, Siemens and Nareva Holding - the latter being part of the vast ownership-portfolio of the Moroccan monarchy.
While the Boujdour wind farm constitutes Enel's first effective involvement in the construction of energy projects in the occupied territory, Siemens has been connected to previous, similar wind farm projects. The 50 MW Foum el Oued wind farm, constructed in 2013 and responsible for 95% of the energy Morocco needs to exploit Western Sahara's phosphate mines, consists of 22 Siemens wind mills. The 200 MW Aftissat wind farm, also located near Boujdour, hosts 56 Siemens-Gamesa wind mills.
Construction work is starting later than originally anticipated. This is mainly due to the difficulty of raising the required funds. While Morocco has little problem in finding financial backing for its renewable energy projects within its internationally recognised borders, several large institutional funders - KfW, World Bank, European Investment Bank and the EU - have stated they would not invest in similar projects in Western Sahara.
Enel appears to be proud to operate with the highest ethical standards in partnership with the Moroccan king on the land that is under illegal occupation. From 2017 to 2018, Enel removed all references to "Western Sahara" from its sustainability reports. Spot the difference between the 2017 and 2018 sustainability report below.
Enel sustainability report, 2017
Enel sustainability report, 2018
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Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.