Building on its pioneering role in renewable energies, Morocco aims to become a major player in the green hydrogen market in North Africa both for export to Europe and for use in fertiliser production.
At the end of July, King Mohammed VI reaffirmed his country's ambition in a speech and called on the government to "rapidly and qualitatively implement" the "Moroccan offer" of green hydrogen.
It is necessary to "highlight the virtues of our country and respond in the best possible way to the projects proposed by world investors in this promising field".
Hydrogen is obtained through the electrolysis of water, which separates this gas from oxygen. But it is only "green" when it is produced by electricity from renewable energies: wind, solar or hydro.
There are high hopes for this resource, which can be used to reduce carbon emissions in the iron and steel, cement, chemical and fertiliser industries, but also to store clean energy.
Morocco wants to become a regional leader, even if the sector is "embryonic and the big global projects will not see the light of day for three to five years", Samir Rachidi, director of the Moroccan research institute Iresen, told AFP.
In mid-August, the economy ministry announced that it had set aside 1.5 million public hectares - almost twice the size of Puerto Rico - to host "eight green hydrogen and ammonia production plants".
Moroccan media reported projects by Australian, Indian, German, French and British investors.
Morocco is entering this race with the advantage of having invested heavily over the past 15 years in clean energy, which generates 38% of the electricity produced today and is expected to reach 52% by 2030.
This industry requires low-cost electricity production. The aim is not to exceed a cost of one to two dollars per kilo of green hydrogen, Ahmed Reda Chami, president of the Economic Council (a public body), explained to the weekly La Vie Eco.
Algeria and Tunisia on the lookout
Rabat also sees green hydrogen as crucial to help in the production of ammonia, the basis for agricultural fertilisers, a sector in which the country stands out globally for its huge phosphate reserves.
On the back of strong global demand, which has driven the price to more than $1,000 per tonne since COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, the public phosphate management monopoly expects to produce one million tonnes of "green ammonia", produced from green hydrogen, by 2027. The plan is to triple this by 2032.
The rest of the Maghreb is also taking positions in this race. According to a recent report by the consulting firm Deloitte, North Africa will be the world's leading region in green hydrogen exports by 2050.
Algeria "aspires to be a major player" by taking advantage of "one of the most important potentials in the world" in terms of solar and wind energy and "its transport infrastructures" such as gas pipelines, Rabah Sellami, director of the Commission for Renewable Energies, told AFP.
The oil- and gas-producing country currently generates only 3% of its electricity from renewables, but has invested massively to achieve an installed capacity of 4 gigawatts by 2024.
Its roadmap for the development of green hydrogen envisages "an annual production of one million tonnes in 2040, destined for export to the European market" and 250,000 tonnes for domestic consumption, says Sellami.
As for Tunisia, it will be "capable of exporting between 5.5 and 6 tonnes of green hydrogen to Europe by 2050," Belhassen Chiboub, director general at the energy ministry, said recently.
But to do so, it will have to increase its clean electricity production rate from the current 3 per cent to the promised 35 per cent by 2030.