Solar power, state power, and the politics of energy transition in pre-Saharan Morocco

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80 Scopus citations


In 2009, the Kingdom of Morocco embarked on the Solar Plan, an ambitious 10-year plan to become a leading solar power producer. This paper examines the genesis of the first project in the plan, a concentrated solar power plant near the pre-Saharan city of Ouarzazate, in order to explore the “energy transition” as a political as well as geographic project. I specifically address how the government's acquisition of land drew on colonial strategies for dispossession that were subsequently embraced by the post-colonial state. At the same time, bureaucratic processes for responding to community demands effectively narrowed popular opposition to a set of technocratic problems to be solved by development interventions. The official discourse of global environmental remediation obscured the socio-ecological relations at work in the project, constructing the land as marginal so as to facilitate investment and foreclosing resident's broader political claims. Attending to the political dynamics surrounding solar power challenges assumptions that an energy transition necessarily involves a transition away from an environmentally destructive carbon-based economy—or from the forms of governmentality that support current energy regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-557
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: the American Institute for Maghrib Studies, the National Science Foundation (Award numbers: 0920370 and 3048110665), and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (Award number: 0920370).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, The Author(s) 2015.


  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Morocco
  • Solar power
  • energy transition
  • green grabbing
  • land tenure
  • renewable energy
  • state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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