Rackam sent project manager Mathieu Larouche to COP22, which was held in Marrakech between November 7th and 18th. This international conference on climate brought together the world's leaders to discuss the fight against climate change. It was a journey rich in both experience and observations.
Mathieu, how was your arrival in Morocco?
I arrived on Tuesday, November 8th, though the conference had officially begun on Monday. Upon arrival at the airport, there were kiosks for the conference attendees. There were even Moroccan telephone companies distributing free SIM cards, which were valid for the duration of the conference.
After recovering from my trip and jet lag at the hotel, I participated in a cocktail reception hosted by Export Québec the next day at Kenzi Club Agdal Medina. Rackam was part of the Export Québec economic mission delegation and I was immediately taken care of by their team, who did an excellent job.
Was it warm there?
Surprisingly, not so much. Marrakech is situated at high altitude and at this time of year it was maybe 20 degrees during the day and the temperature dropped to 7 or 8 degrees at night. We slept very well!
How did you spend your days at this international conference?
Élise Roy from Export Québec sent us 5 or 6 emails a day to announce upcoming events, visits and to pass on useful information. Export Québec had also put us in touch with Mrs. Nouzha El Aouani from the company D-Event. She asked us to complete a questionnaire on the objectives we wanted to achieve at this conference, the type of resource person or company representative we wanted to meet, and so on. She then took charge of organizing meetings and visits, mostly at kiosks on site or in hotels in Marrakech.
Tell us a bit about the site - what it looked like and what was it like to get into?
The site was enclosed by a security perimeter, so entering it was like entering an airport. There were several security points, metal detectors, and so on. It was impressive. The site was built on a huge plot of land in the center of the city. There was the blue zone that was dedicated to political affairs and the green zone, dedicated to civil and commercial affairs. There were several canteens and restaurants, rest areas, large tents, and kiosks. It was very well laid out, organized and the site was very clean. There was always someone available to polish a window or clean the floor!
Though I did have the accreditation, I did not go to the blue zone - there was already ample activity in the green zone. There were a lot of corporate booths and civil projects, local environmental and educational initiatives. They even distributed USB devices to download the content of conferences and power points. It was always busy; there was a lot of brainstorming and effervescence in the air.
Did you feel that Morocco had a genuine desire to work towards renewable energies?
Yes, it was really palpable. King Mohammed VI made a very favourable speech in regards to green energies. Unlike neighbouring Algeria, Morocco is very dependent on fossil energies and has enormous solar potential. There is a very great willingness and a lot of effort being put into research for Morocco to concretize this state vision. I was able to attend several Side Events including a visit of the IRESEN (the research institute in solar and renewable energy of Morocco). They are at the forefront of research in the field and their researchers seem highly skilled. They are developing a great expertise in various solar technologies. Http://www.iresen.org/
I was also able to visit the Noor solar power plant in Ouarzazate whose phase I is in operation. In terms of solar concentration technologies, they are essentially the same ones as those used by Rackam, but on a very different scale, which leads to colossal technical challenges. The power developed by the first phase of this ambitious project is 160 MW electric and the deployed surface of the sensors is more than 600 times the surface of the sensors developed by Rackam which are used at the Alain Lemaire solar park! They are ultimately aiming to attain 580 MW electric by the end of the project.
The plant also has thermal storage to defer electricity production at peak consumption times of the network. For phase III of the project, the temperature attained will be so great that they will use molten salts as heat transfer fluid and not oil as is used more commonly. Morocco is therefore clearly in favour of solar energies and is becoming a world reference in the field.
You attended a cocktail party in the presence of Prime Minister Philippe Couillard and Minister of Environment David Heurtel. Did you feel a desire for change in them too?
At this cocktail party at the Savoy Grand Hotel, beyond certain palpable political tensions - particularly between union representatives and the government, I could definitely see the seriousness of Quebec's commitment in this area. First of all, the Prime Minister and his Minister of Environment came, which in itself was far from being the case for other Canadian provinces and even some countries. And the day after this cocktail, Philippe Couillard and David Heurtel announced that the Government of Quebec would invest 25 million in the fight against climate change via their international climate co-operation program.
Could Rackam benefit from this program in the future?
I was able to make very strong contacts with potential partners there. I think that the context is very favourable for the development of a first solar desalination project in Morocco, with the support of this subsidy. Time will tell, but I remain confident.
Interview by Johan Gass