World 'in better place to cope with energy crisis' after Ukraine invasion

Moroccan energy minister says next 12 months 'critical' for nations to increase energy security and meet net-zero targets

A solar power plant in central Morocco, where the government says investment in renewables is attracting interest at home and abroad. AP
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The international community is in a much more robust position to deal with an energy crisis than it was before Russia invaded Ukraine, a Moroccan government minister has said.

Leila Benali, the kingdom’s minister for the energy transition and sustainable development, said a proactive approach to energy efficiency in the coming months would prove critical to countries’ ability to meet consumers’ demand.

Her comments came after it emerged that Morocco’s energy bill reached a record high of more than 153 billion dirhams (£14 billion) last year.

Speaking at London think tank Chatham House’s Energy Transitions conference, Ms Benali noted the seismic shift in governments’ attitude towards energy security.

“The whole world is now in that more proactive mode as opposed to reactive,” she told the audience during her virtual appearance.

Ms Benali said the energy sector can cushion itself against blows caused by wars, crises and geopolitical tensions by increasing connectivity.

“The world, in general, is better equipped today … to tackle major energy disruptions compared to [how it was in] the last century because we have built more and more resilience and agility and connectivity in our systems that enable us to [respond] better than in the last century to navigate these uncertainties,” she said.

While huge strides have been taken by the sector, the minister said there was need for more to be done in terms of forward planning.

Looking ahead to what infrastructure will be needed in the future and how to deliver it is a “big area of innovation that the world would need going forward,” she added.

She cited microgrids, small collections of power-gathering assets often run at community level, as an example of how useful localised infrastructure can be to delivering energy security.

“I think the pace of development of those localised distribution solutions is still very slow, especially in the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] markets where we would want to increase the connection with and to the pipes and wires that …. need to be properly invested in,” she said.

Innovation on the energy storage side is also required to “increase and embed that resilience and flexibility in our system”.

The minister went on to note the importance of taking the views of consumers into account when making energy decisions.

Turning to the transition from fossil fuels to green energy, she predicted the year ahead would play a major role in determining how countries would perform in the race to reach net zero.

Last month, Ms Benali was reported to have announced the launch of renewable energy projects valued at 20 billion dirhams in the disputed Western Sahara region.

She was quoted as telling a government session that Moroccan green energy projects are attracting “great interest” from investors at home and abroad.

Updated: March 01, 2023, 4:15 PM