We are often asked about how we cope with the utilities in Morocco. Utilities in Morocco are pretty good in general, but it does depend on where you are. Cities are generally modern, have excellent services and have high availability. Smaller towns and villages close to cities also benefit from good services, but as you get more rural, the services drop off to very basic services – or even none.
We live in a small village, about 10km from Agadir, so our services into the village are really good, but the further away from the village centre, then it drops off to basic.
Electricity is run by a government-owned organisation called Office National de l’Electricité (ONE). Amazingly, 90% of all Moroccan electricity used is imported. Electricity is charged by the consumption – the more you use, the higher the cost per KW.
The “tranche” levels are pretty steep, so you can pay from 0.7dh to 1.40dh per KW without using much at all – the step up levels are really close together – that is similar to costs in the UK. As there is no competition, prices are high and service is generally fairly poor outside the cities.
For instance, we have many power surges and low voltage almost all the time – we have had a Mac power supply go due to the constant voltage fluctuations, so have installed a UPS to regulate voltage and provide battery back up to stop the mini power cuts – we get a few per day! Obviously, we have complained, but in Morocco, a complaint is for the complainer to vent off not the complainee to actually resolve anything!
The bill is delivered each month by a guy on a moped. Paying the bill is also a trauma. There is an online portal, but the payment gateway does not work and there are no plans to make it work. You can set up a direct debit with 5 trips to the bank and the ONE office, but good luck with that! You have to go and pay in cash each month and queue for hours to be sure it is recorded. Meters are read once every 3 months, so the rest is just made up (estimated), mostly based around the top tranche cost so you are always in credit until the meter is read and the actual readings are calculated, mostly resulting in a credit note – you will never get the cash back!
So why not use solar panels? Makes perfect sense. There is loads of sunshine and so electricity should be cheap and in abundance. A government scheme to do this was announced about 10 years ago and there is a very large solar array is based in Ouarzazate which generates 160MW, with 2 more plants due to open in 2018, increasing output to 2,000MW by 2020.
Private Solar panels are not common and are heavily priced, with no subsidies in place, thus discouraging this practice (potential loss of revenue by the state-owned electricity companies is blamed for these penalties). Payback on investment is 10 – 15 years based on the costs to install, so uptake is limited. Personally, it is something we would definitely do, but not at the costs available currently. We hope this will change and make it more attractive.
Again, in most cities and towns, the water is on mains supply but as you move further out or even at the edge of villages, water is then delivered by lorry into wells or you have a waterhole and collect it yourself.
RAMSA is the water provider and provider of sanitation in the Agadir region. As we are on the edge of the village, we have a lorry deliver water to our private well in the garden and our sanitation is provided via a french drain system under the house.
Our well holds around 7000 litres of water and deliveries are around 5000 litres per delivery – we have one every 4 – 6 weeks depending on how many visitors we have! We are used to using small amounts of water each day, but visitors tend to shower a lot and for a long time. It is a big change coming from England to Morocco.
Getting a delivery is pretty easy, we use the same guy and a quick call to him and a lorry arrives in about an hour – it costs 80dh per load about the same as the monthly cost of RAMSA which is metered use. Plans are to have mains water at some point, however, the cost to do this is quite high, so there is no reason to change at the moment.
Maroc Telecom provides landline and internet as well as mobile. There are a few competitors on the mobile front, but not on fixed lines. You can do a deal with Maroc Telecom to get mobile, fixed-line and internet – a good deal can be had. Our internet connection is pretty good most of the time, but as we are on the end of the line spur, we do get limited speeds and quite a lot of contention on the fixed-line internet service.
4G mobile services are everywhere and really quick, so if we get issues on the fixed-line, we just use 4G instead. Mobile data is the most common service used by Moroccans and Moroccans have an addiction to mobile phones – even more so than in the UK. Literally, everybody has a phone and they use them all the time.
We do have a direct debit with Maroc Telecom, which was painful to set up but saves a monthly trip to Agadir to queue and pay by cash – so it was worth it. You can only get a phone contract if you are a resident, otherwise its PAYG. Apple phones, whilst popular are really expensive so most go for Samsung. iTunes apps are also a problem in Morocco, so Android is the most common operating system.