Morocco, the only North African state without oil of its own, plans to invest 90 billion dirhams ($10.29 billion) in projects across the energy spectrum, its energy minister said on Friday.

It will build more power plants, expand oil storage capacity and step up exploration for hydrocarbons for the six-year period to 2015, Amina Benkhadra said.

“This plan links the government and the private sector to implement a strategy aimed at securing energy supply and diversifying energy sources at the right costs,” he told a gathering of top government officials, bankers and executives.

Business leaders were worried Morocco might fail to produce enough power to meet the needs of an economy growing at an average 5.3 percent in the past five years.

Morocco’s gross domestic product is expected to expand by 6.7 percent this year, despite global economy downturn, from 5.8 percent last year, according to government forecasts.

The government is also under pressure to cap the bill for energy, 97 percent of which is imported. The costs strain its trade balance and test its capacity to avoid a wide budget deficit.

The value of energy imports soared to 71 billion dirhams last year from 53 billion in 2007 and 21 billion in 2003, according to official figures which also showed the government allocated 23 billion to subsidize fuel.

“This strategy guarantees that Morocco’s economy and population needs in energy are met all the time and throughout the country at the right prices,” Benkhadra said.

(AFX & Rigzone)