Green Mosques and the transition to clean energy

‘An entirely homegrown initiative’

Jan-Christoph Kuntze leads the ‘Green Mosques’ project in Morocco.

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Mr Kunze, what exactly is the ‘Green Mosques’ project about?

In 2014, four government institutions in Morocco launched the ‘Green Mosques’ initiative: the Energy Ministry, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the National Agency for Energy Efficiency Morocco (AMEE) and the state-owned SIE energy investment company (Société d’investissements Energétiques). In other words, this initiative is entirely homegrown in Morocco. The four partners have set out to modernise the country’s mosques by installing energy-efficient and sustainable technologies, such as solar thermal panels, sustainable LED lighting or photovoltaic systems. The scheme aims to help Morocco meet 52 per cent of its domestic energy needs from renewable sources by the year 2030. At the same time, it will foster job creation and raise awareness amongst the Moroccan people about the benefits of renewable energies and energy-efficient technologies.

Haven’t there been any previous efforts to promote renewable energies?

Certainly, there have been others. But the innovative thing about the ‘Green Mosques’ initiative is that it relies on Islamic clerics to act as multipliers – and their outreach encompasses the majority of the Moroccan population. Furthermore, a new energy service approach has been developed to modernise energy use in public buildings – one that creates jobs, too.

How is this clean energy modification of the mosques being financed?

Via so-called energy performance contracts (EPCs). The idea is that the companies contracted to provide the services invest their own capital in the energy modification. Their earnings come from the actual energy savings this technology generates. This means that potential clients do not have to foot the bill for modernisation themselves – and that makes for better market opportunities for the energy companies.

How did the idea of putting the mosques at the heart of the clean energy debate come about?

There are very pragmatic reasons for this: religion plays an important role in Moroccan society and so the country’s 51,000 mosques are central to the daily lives of many people there. Consequently, the imams exert a strong influence – and their Friday sermons, for example, attract large numbers of worshippers.

This means the imams can help to spread knowledge about certain topics amongst the population?

Precisely. We offer further training as part of the project and a lot of imams have proven keen to get involved. At the workshops, they engage in lively debates about renewable energies, energy-saving measures and environmental protection. And they pass this enthusiasm on to the members of their congregation. We hope that those imams that have already undergone training will have sufficient experience by next year to conduct the courses themselves.

Are there any other potential multipliers besides the imams?

In addition to the imams, the project also provides training for mourchidates. These female clerics organise literacy courses in the community and are an authority on everyday religious practices. More than one quarter of our workshop participants are mourchidates. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has specifically targeted them as they mainly interact with women.