UK's gamble on the sun with £18bn Morocco solar and wind farms hit a snag

UK's gamble on the sun with £18bn Morocco solar and wind farms hit a snag
The UK is looking to diversify its energy options with a huge solar and wind farm in Morocco.
2 min read
05 December, 2022
Morocco has taken advantage of its long hours of sunshine with solar farms [Getty-file photo]

The UK's plan to build a huge solar and wind farm in Morocco will be delayed by at least a year, following political fall-outs in London.

The project, linking Morocco to the UK via a 3,800km underwater cable, was supposed to go online by 2027 and was expected to provide the country with 8 percent of its energy needs, powering 7 million homes by 2030.

Start-up Xlinks, which is behind the project, said the launch date will now be delayed by at least a year due to recent political crises in the UK, which saw three prime ministers in just six months.

"We spent a long time with the then business secretary [Kwasi Kwarteng] who said: 'We like it a lot but it needs to go through Treasury.' There was a review with Treasury, Cabinet Office and the business department, which was very positive," Xlinks’ executive chair, Sir Dave Lewis, told The Guardian.

"Then we came back to them to start the detail and the political world exploded and, as a result, everything stopped. And everybody has changed, so it's sort of like you're starting again."

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Part of the reason for the delay was the inability of Xlinks to obtain a "contract for difference" with the UK government, which would allow for a subsidised fixed price for low-carbon generators.

Lewis said he is hoping for a price of £48 per megawatt hour, which is just over half the cost of energy generated from the also-delayed  Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

The delay could also hit the UK's pledge to cut emissions by 78 percent by 2035 and go carbon neutral by 2050.

"Time is important for the UK to meet its net zero ambitions, to secure energy supplies and to reduce bills. We have lost a year," Lewis said.

Key to this will be the site in Morocco's Guelmim-Oued Noun region with 12 million solar panels and 530 wind farms stretching across 960 sq km area of desert.

Morocco has become a key player in the renewables energy market with one of the highest rates of solar insolation in the world.