Morocco's mosques join the fight against climate change

Story highlights

  • Morocco's mosques are getting a green makeover
  • 600 are part of the initial plan

Marrakech, Morocco (CNN)Morocco has started retrofitting 600 of its mosques with renewable energy, switching to efficient LED lighting, photovoltaic electricity, and solar water heating.

The initial plan will be completed by early 2019, with the rest of the country's mosques to follow -- 15,000 of them in total.
    The project's goal is to use mosques as a starting point to raise awareness on clean energy and kickstart the diffusion of renewables among the public.

    A matter of behavior

    "Mosques are not a big consumer of electricity: there is some lighting, some water heating. What we want to do is inform people," Said Mouline, director of the National Agency for the Development of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, told CNN.
    "Energy efficiency is not only a matter of technology, it's also a matter of behavior."
    Mouline hopes that with the help of imams and teachers in the mosques, people will apply what they've learned to reduce their energy bill at home.
    "The main problem for renewables is the initial investment, and only rich people can afford them. To help less affluent people finance this switch, we are offering 10 million energy efficient light bulbs to households and let them pay in installments through the electricity bill, which at the same time will be reduced because of the more efficient bulbs."

    German know-how

    The plan was developed in 2014 from a collaboration between Moroccan institutions and GIZ, a German company that specializes in international development.
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    The Hassan II mosque, Casablanca.

    The financial volume of the initial phase is 5 million euros (about $5.4 million), with Moroccan service providers bearing the costs of the installations and then receiving payment from the savings they achieve. GIZ estimates that the first round of contracts will create 130 jobs, with potential for far more as the program expands.
    That means the German partners are only providing technological support, rather than investment opportunities for non-Moroccan companies.

    All state buildings

    "In 2011, Morocco integrated sustainable development in its constitution, around three pillars: protection of the environment, economical policy, and considering climate change as a structural threat to Morocco," Hakima El Haité, Minister of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment of Morocco, told CNN.
    One of the government's targets is to power all state buildings via renewable energy by 2030.
    "The 'green' mosques are the perfect example of what we're doing with all our institutions. We started with the mosques because, just like churches or any other religious institution, they can play a very important role in terms of education."
    Morocco has steered heavily towards sustainable development since altering its constitution, and is now regarded as an example in the fight against climate change.
    El Haité believes that religion can, too, offer new ways to expand that conversation.
    "In the world, 85 percent of people declare to belong to a faith, which means that 85 percent of the population has a chance to hear about this global transformation when attending services, giving us a great tool of awareness over the issue of climate change."