Africa Intelligence today reports that the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN) has released some details on its solar plant project in Dakhla, a town located along the mid-coast in occupied Western Sahara.
The plant will constitute the third unit in the territory that Morocco has held under illegal military occupation since 1975. An 80 MW plant near El Aaiún (referred to as NOOR Laayoune) and a 20 MW plant near Boujdour (referred to as NOOR Boujdour) have been operational since 2018.
The released information is mainly connected to the location of the plant: in El Argoub, on Dakhla bay, just opposite the town. With reason. Many hotels have opened on the west bank of Dakhla in recent years - most owned by princess Lalla Noufissa El-Yacoubi, a cousin of the king of Morocco. Locating the solar plant on the other side of the bay will not spoil the view of visiting tourists. In addition, El Argoub lies close to "several large export-oriented and power-hungry greenhouses", as Africa Intelligence describes. Some of these greenhouses are owned by the king of Morocco.
An environmental impact study has reportedly been carried out in August by the wali of the Dakhla Oued Ed-Dahab region, Lamine Benomar.
The operational solar plants in Western Sahara were developed by Saudi company ACWA Power, whose offtake contract with MASEN runs 20 years. It is not yet clear whether ACWA Power will play a role in this new, third, plant in the territory.
Western Sahara Resource Watch wrote ACWA on 5 June 2020 and 29 November 2016 relating to construction of two solar energy parks near Boujdour and El Aaiún and on 2 July 2013 as ACWA was prequalified for a tender on wind energy for the territory. We never received response from the company to the letters.
Morocco has for long had plans for a solar project at El Argoub. In 2016, the Moroccan body Société d’Investissement Energétiques signed an agreement with the local municipality for the development of such project.
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.