Lessons from Power Sector Reforms : The Case of Morocco
World Bank 2019.08.14
Morocco charted its own distinctive path of power sector reform. It selectively introduced private sector participation for generation capacity expansion and electricity distribution, while retaining a strong, state-owned and vertically-integrated national power utility operating as a single buyer at the core of the sector. Until recently, the country eschewed an independent regulatory entity. The power sector has been guided by strong top-down policy mandates that have served to align the disparate actions of political parties and sector institutions. Ambitious targets for electricity access, liberalization, and renewable energy investments were conceived as an integrated approach to contribute to economic development by relieving fiscal pressures, reducing external dependence on fossil fuels, and positioning the country as a regional leader in renewable energy. The results have been impressive. Since 1990, Morocco has more than tripled its power supply, while growing renewable energy to account for one-third of the total and relying on the private sector to supply just over half of the electricity generated. Rural electrification has accelerated rapidly from 18 percent in 1995 to virtually 100 percent in 2017. While operational efficiency has been broadly adequate, performance has fluctuated over time. Moreover, the sector’s achievements through this selective approach to reform have come somewhat at the expense of the financial viability of the incumbent utility, the National Office for Electricity and Water (ONEE), which has suffered from lack of cost-reflective tariff-setting and an array of entrenched cross-subsidies. Other vulnerabilities include the continued but declining dependence on electricity imports, external price volatilities of imported fossil fuels, and a territorialized electricity distribution model that could be disrupted by grid integration of renewable energy.