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China visits Morocco, Egypt & finds the light of the future

Yanqin Song's picture
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中文 | Chinese

Managing energy demand in a country like China, where millions of businesses and households rely on a steady supply, is definitely one of China’s greatest challenges. The thorny question is how can the country find a sustainable way to provide reliable sources of energy to such a huge and demanding market? Well, answers are starting to appear on the horizon, or rather, in the sky.

“Renewable energies” is the new catch-phrase you hear everywhere these days. But China isn’t just talking. The country is making plans to invest in the current trend as a means to achieve economic transformation and energy security. China has already moved rapidly along the path of renewable energy development, with about 17 percent of China's electricity coming from renewable sources in 2007.

And why not rely much more on such natural and sustainable sources like the wind and the sun? Concentrated solar power (CSP) is definitely a solution that the country is planning to develop, along the lines of “learning by doing.”

World BankAs part of a South-South knowledge exchange project, a delegation of Chinese policy makers and practitioners visited Egypt and Morocco last month to learn about their successful concentrated solar power projects. It was interesting and probably strange for the Egyptians and Moroccans to see a group from China coming to learn from their countries. “It’s usually the other way around,” they said. Some even asked incredulously, “Are you really hoping to reproduce our experience in China?” But the Chinese are well aware that they have a lot to learn from the two countries that are leading the CSP experience in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA).

The visit’s objective was to gain an improved knowledge and understanding of issues related to piloting and scaling up the technology for both the practitioners and the policy makers at the national level in China. The facility combined field visits and technical meetings with all the players in the CSP field in both MENA countries.

Egypt, our first stop, is one of the countries with the most solar potential in the region. Located in the MENA “Sunbelt” area and endowed with a sunshine duration of 9 to 11 hours per day, the country is aiming to generate 20% of its energy production from renewable resources by 2020, equivalent to around 7GW of electricity. The Egyptian New & Renewable Energy Authority shared with their visitors the country’s renewable energy development scheme, mainly based on solar and wind, and presented policy and institutional issues that must be considered in the implementation of CSP projects. The delegation visited the World Bank-financed Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) Power Project at Kureimat, which is one of the three of its kind implemented around the world and one of the first World Bank CSP projects to be launched. Kureimat has now been turned into a beautiful sea of mirrors, giving hope that the desert landscapes will be a future source of productivity and economic opportunities. Both sides expressed strong interests in continuing their cooperation and exchanges.

World BankMorocco, was our next stop and OUARZAZATE! A city whose name is impossible to pronounce, but oh so famous for being the future host city of one of the largest solar complexes in the world, with an expected total output of 500 MW. But as this mega complex is just starting to be built, the delegation headed to Ain Beni Mathar, a complex about 500 km away from Rabat, which combines solar and thermal water. Impressed by such a modern and state-of-the-art plant, the Chinese delegation was keen to learn as much as possible from their Moroccan counterparts; especially why the country has been so much in the vanguard of CSP. Representatives from the Moroccan Ministry of Energy, Mining, Electricity, Environment and the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) discussed Morocco’s ambition to further develop its renewable energies, focusing especially on solar energy. MASEN in particular plays a key role in creating synergies between the government, international financial institutes and project developers to promote solar energy in Morocco, and also cooperates and shares knowledge with other parts of the world.

This is a very unique opportunity for us to learn how to carry out resource assessment, project design, construction and operation from real practitioners,” said Renli Xiao, the vice-general manager of the first CSP project developer in China. Wenke Han, Director General of the Chinese National Energy Research Institute, added that “the study tour opened a window for exchange between China, Egypt and Morocco. Learning from successful CSP experiences in MENA is important for us to scale up our CSP program, based on acquired knowledge.

China envisages developing 1000 MW CSP projects by 2015 and to reach a total installed CSP capacity of 3000 MW by 2020. The World Bank is supporting China in this promising shift to renewable energy by providing technical and financial support to develop the first CSP pilot project in the province of Inner Mongolia.

So yes, China is reaching for the stars, but with a lot of help from the sun.

 

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