An international consortium that includes the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) is one of four in the running to develop a major solar energy complex in Morocco.
If the group wins the contract at the end of next month, the complex would be Taqa's first venture into solar power.
The company's push to invest in north African renewable energy falls in line with a strategic shift away from entering new markets and towards organic growth of existing businesses. Taqa, in which the Abu Dhabi Government has a 72 per cent holding, already operates a power station in Morocco and has signed agreements to explore wind power there.
"It has a growing population," said Mohammed Mubaideen, Taqa's investor relations manager. "Power is needed."
The public-private venture that is commissioning the solar complex, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen), says it plans to award a contract near the end of next month.
The Taqa consortium, which includes the Spanish engineering and construction firm Abeinsa, Abengoa Solar, also based in Spain, and the Japanese conglomerate Mitsui, hopes to develop a 500-megawatt (mw) thermal solar plant. The complex, scheduled to be completed by 2015, would use a mix of solar technologies, including photovoltaics.
Masen pre-selected three other consortiums, including the Saudi conglomerate ACWA Power International, Egypt's Orascom Construction Industries and Germany's Solar Millennium. The finalists beat out 15 other groups including Siemens and Alstom.
Mr Mubaideen said Taqa could limit its level of risk by doing business with countries "that have good ties with the UAE government".
In 2008, Taqa entered a strategic partnership with the European renewable energy firm Theolia to explore a bid to construct a 300mw wind farm in the Moroccan city of Tarfaya and to study the possibility of optimising existing wind power facilities throughout the country.
Peter Barker-Homek Taqa's chief executive at the time, called it the company's "first step into renewable energy". No projects have been finalised so far.
Taqa also plans in the next four years to increase the capacity of a 1,356mw coal-fired power plant in Morocco's Jorf Lasfar port by more than 50 per cent, with two new 350mw units.
The portion of Taqa not owned by the Abu Dhabi Government is floated on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.