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Opinion

Hydrogen geopolitics

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In the space of just ten days, two very important official events on alternative energies were recently held at the Royal Palace in Rabat. On 22 November, King Mohammed VI chaired a working meeting devoted to the development of renewable energies and new prospects in this field, before presiding again on 3 December over a ceremony to present the OCP group's new green investment programme (2023-2027) and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the government and the OCP group's programme related to this programme.

The two meetings are perfectly in line with the proactive orientation promoted by His Majesty the King for several years on the transition to green energy and a low-carbon economy. It should also be noted that the sovereign's regular monitoring of the strategic objectives of this transition reflects the Kingdom of Morocco's serious commitment to the geopolitical commitment to renewable energies and, in particular, to the considerable potential of green hydrogen.

The global energy spectrum is undoubtedly changing, on the one hand because the war in Ukraine highlights a new situation of crises and opportunities for energy transition, in which the key challenge of security of supply and the need to reduce dependence on oil and gas from Russia are becoming more acute, and on the other because the climate emergency poses the challenge of being able to produce energy that is both competitive and decarbonised. It is in this context that green hydrogen technology has positioned itself in recent years as a real solution in response to the challenges related to the decarbonisation of the different economies. 

It is worth remembering that at the recent COP27 held in Egypt, some European countries such as Germany, Holland and Belgium announced gigantic green hydrogen development programmes within the Old Continent. Spain, for its part, making the promotion of renewable hydrogen a State strategy, already has a portfolio of renewable hydrogen projects, focused mainly on the southern, Cantabrian and Mediterranean coasts, in addition to the fact that the Government is currently working on the revision of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (Pniec) to raise the renewable hydrogen target to 2030.

However, while Europe, the leader in electrolysers, will undoubtedly struggle to produce enough green hydrogen, Morocco, Chile or Australia aspire to become future exporters, with climatic or logistical advantages. Today, many countries, especially in the South, with optimal sunshine conditions, are building ambitious strategies that in a few years could profoundly change the geopolitics of energy. But for today's hydrocarbon importers to become tomorrow's green hydrogen exporters, massive investment and the necessary technical and financial feasibility will be required. In this context, the Kingdom of Morocco, which is highly committed to solar and wind energy production, has also made green hydrogen one of its most promising targets in this field, which is gradually enabling it to position itself as a true pioneer in renewable energies.

For the deployment of this new source of clean energy, key to the green transition of the energy and industrial sectors, a green hydrogen development strategy has been launched in Morocco, following the recommendations of the study that confirmed Morocco's significant potential for the development of this sector. Morocco can capture up to 4% of world demand for green molecules. The implementation of this strategy, which aims to meet local demand and optimise the exploitation of national potential, particularly through exports, is structured around three strategic axes: the first concerns technological development and cost savings, the second concerns investment and supply, including the creation of an industrial cluster and the development of a master plan for the corresponding infrastructures, while the third axis consists of the realisation of demand opportunities, giving rise to new markets. This green hydrogen development strategy in Morocco will be under the impetus of His Majesty King Mohammed VI reinforced by the OCP Group's new green investment programme, which is articulated around increasing fertiliser production capacities, while committing to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040.

It is clear that one of the major problems of international relations in the 21st century will be energy and, in the medium term, the supply of hydrocarbon resources, renewable energies being neither sufficiently efficient nor perfectly substitutable, hence the importance of the geopolitics of hydrogen, which focuses on the analysis of all the movements between governments and companies that are structuring the energy transition with hydrogen, thus giving rise to a reorganisation of energy alliances in the world market, where consumers and producers seek to diversify their partnerships in order to limit their dependence.

In this sense, we can highlight that great hopes rest on the Moroccan energy transition, not only in the North African kingdom itself, but also for Europe, where Spain has a historic opportunity to lead this revolutionary renewable energy in the Old Continent. By developing an energy alliance in this area, the two kingdoms can move more quickly and with more guarantees towards a more decarbonised economy. 

After the new bilateral roadmap established by the recent joint declaration includes the reactivation of energy cooperation, and after the Spanish government spokeswoman, Isabel Rodríguez, assured that her country is committed to building an energy partnership with Morocco, attention is now turning to the upcoming High Level Meeting that could lay the foundations for an energy partnership between the two countries, a key alliance for the new geopolitics of green hydrogen.