Important hydrogen alliance is shaky

According to the Federal Foreign Office, the much-touted cooperation with Morocco is suddenly “on the test bench”. The first business representatives are already preparing for a significant shift.

Energy transition in Morocco: wind farm near the city of Tangier

DOn the way to climate neutrality, Germany will now need significantly more green hydrogen produced on the basis of green electricity than can be produced in this country. The federal government is therefore relying on energy partnerships with other countries. The national hydrogen strategy has earmarked 2 billion euros for their development.

The great hope among future hydrogen suppliers is Morocco, which scores with a lot of wind and sun as well as geographical proximity. Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller (CSU) forged an “alliance” in June 2020, and plans to build a first hybrid power plant with a seawater desalination plant and 100 megawatt electrolyser are well advanced. In March, the German government responded to a Green request that the implementation of the “reference system” in Morocco was “on schedule”.

Suddenly, however, doubts about the realization are great. If there were previously skeptical objections that Morocco could need the precious energy source on the way to climate neutrality in the medium term, the German-Moroccan hydrogen partnership threatens to collapse due to diplomatic resentments.

“Due to the current development on the test bench”

The reason is the German attitude towards Western Sahara: Berlin had criticized the decision of the Americans to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the area. The kingdom then accused the Federal Republic of hostility and withdrew its ambassador from Berlin at the beginning of May. German-Moroccan cooperation in development policy has been suspended. It is questionable whether hydrogen production can really start soon as planned.

The Foreign Office confirms the doubts in a response to a request from the FDP parliamentary group that the FAZ has received. It says: “The German-Moroccan hydrogen alliance is based on long-term, successful development cooperation and the German-Moroccan energy partnership. From the perspective of the federal government, this cooperation remains in the interests of both parties, but is being put to the test due to current developments. ” become.”

German money should not flow until further notice. “Funds are only paid out if the partner fulfills his contractual obligations,” clarifies the Federal Foreign Office. A spokeswoman for KfW estimates the project costs for the reference system in Morocco at EUR 325 million. It is planned to finance a “large part” of the project costs through loans and grants from the development bank. But KfW now also says: “Current project activities are currently being postponed. To what extent this will lead to delays in the implementation of the project, we cannot yet say. “

“Morocco has always been an anchor of stability”

The first business representatives are already preparing for a significant shift. “I don’t think that the diplomatic resentments with Morocco can be cleared up in the short term,” says Stefan Liebing, chairman of the Africa Association of German Business. But there is progress in other African countries.

A large number of new projects are currently being developed there with the participation of German companies, which primarily focus on a decrease in hydrogen as part of the Federal Ministry of Economics’ H2global project; In contrast to the partnership with Morocco, for which the Development Ministry is responsible, the focus is on more cost-efficient differential contracts instead of traditional loans.

“That seems more promising to me,” says Liebing. “And who knows whether a Moroccan pilot project will still be of great importance in a year or two when hydrogen is already being produced in other countries and delivered to Germany.”

Christoph Hoffmann, the development policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, warns against rashly writing off the North African kingdom. “It is not in Germany’s interest to create a threatening backdrop against Morocco and to claim that the projects for green hydrogen are at risk,” he says. After all, Germany urgently needs green hydrogen for a CO2-free future. “Morocco has always been an anchor of stability in North Africa, so a visit by the Foreign Minister to Morocco would be all the more important to smooth things over,” says Hoffmann.