Posted by: Bloomberg Markets

Morocco attracted bids from France’s Engie SA and EDF Energies Nouvellesto build 800 megawatts of solar power as the North African country seeks to curb energy imports.

The French utilities, as well as Riyadh-based ACWA Power International, led groups bidding last month for engineering, procurement and construction contracts, Obaid Amrane, a member of the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy’s management board, said in an interview.

Morocco, on the western fringes of the Middle East, is joining a regional push to expand in renewables. The country imports almost all its energy and has scant reserves of oil and natural gas, unlike neighboring Algeria and Egypt. In an effort to cut purchases from abroad, it plans to produce more than 40 percent of its electricity from renewables by the end of the decade.

The government will award contracts for the solar projects — comprising two 400-megawatt facilities — by the end of this year, and the plants could take 2 1/2 years to build, Amrane said in Abu Dhabi. ACWA Power confirmed its bid and said it expects to submit a financial proposal by April or May. Engie also confirmed its offer, while EDF Energies Nouvelles declined to comment.

Development banks are likely to provide financing and a bond sale is also an option, according to Amrane. Morocco plans to have 6 gigawatts of installed renewables capacity — including solar, wind and hydropower — by 2020, he said, adding that the country anticipates “a lot of innovation” and lower prices in the battery market as the use of intermittent renewables grows.

By: Mahmoud Habboush — With assistance by Anna Hirtenstein, and Francois De Beaupuy