March 23, 2012 / 12:05 PM / in 7 years

UPDATE 1-Morocco axes Orascom-led group from solar project

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RABAT, March 23 (Reuters) - Morocco has excluded a group led by Egypt-based Orascom Construction Industries from the bidding for the first phase of a major solar energy project, l’Economiste newspaper reported on Friday.

The newspaper gave no reason for the exclusion and a spokeswoman for Masen, the government agency managing the project, declined to comment.

Quoting sources familiar with the plan, l’Economiste said Masen would select a winner within a few weeks from the three remaining consortiums it selected in December, 2010.

The 500 megawatt project, in the southern region of Ouarzazate, is the first of five in a $9 billion solar programme that will account for 38 percent of Morocco’s installed power generation capacity by 2020.

The plan is vital to a country without its own oil or gas and which aims to diversify its exports to an energy-hungry trade partner, the European Union.

The four consortiums selected to bid for the design, finance, construction, operation and maintenance of a thermal solar plant in Ouarzazate were:

- Abeinsa ICI, Abengoa Solar, Mitsui and Abu Dhabi National Energy Co.

- Enel and ACS SCE

- International Company for Water and Power (ACWA), Aries IS and TSK EE.

- Orascom Construction Industries (OCIC.CA), Solar Millennium (S2MG.DE) and Evonik Steag.

The Ouarzazate project is to start as a 125 megawatt unit and undergo gradual upgrades to 500 MW by the end of 2015. (Reporting By Souhail Karam; Editing by David Cowell)

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