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Tunisia steps up solar ambitions with launch of new tenders

Worker, Person, Solar Panels Creative Commons/Mark Mühlhaus/attenzione
The company has signed key implementation pacts with the energy ministry for development of renewable projects

Tunisia has released tenders for two solar power projects as the North African country seeks to deliver 35 percent of its energy needs through renewables by the end of the decade.

The Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy is seeking companies to implement the solar photovoltaic (PV) independent power projects (IPPs).

Both will have capacity of 100mw, with one scheme located in the concession area of Hecha in the Governorate of Gabes and the other in Khobna, in the Governorate of Sidi Bouzid. The closing date for bids is May 18.

The tenders comes as the Tunisian government aims to reach 3.8gw of installed solar power by 2030 in a strategy known as Plan Solaire Tunisien.

While the installed solar capacity in Tunisia in 2020 was just 95mw, the government has since awarded contracts or launched tenders for more than 1gw of solar capacity.

In June the first floating PV plant in the Mena region, located in Tunis, started operations.

“The plant reflects Tunisia’s potential in the production of alternative energy in the desert or in arid areas,” said Neila Gonji, minister of industry, energy and mines at the inauguration.

In August the UK’s renewable energy developer TuNur said it plans to invest $1.5 billion in building an export-oriented solar power plant in Tunisia with a capacity of 500mw.

And last month the African Development Bank Group approved a $27 million and €10 million loan package to co-finance the construction of a 100mw solar power plant in Kairouan, Tunisia.

SolarPower Europe said in a recent research report that Tunisia’s climate presents a “key solar energy opportunity” but added that the country has so far “fallen short of its intermediate solar PV targets”.

Approximately 97 percent of Tunisia’s electricity was generated from fossil fuels, mainly natural gas in 2021 and nearly 45 percent of its natural gas needs were met through imports, mainly from Algeria.

Through to March 2022 Tunisia had about 472mw of installed renewable energy capacity of which 244mw was wind power, 166mw solar power, and 62mw of hydroelectric power, representing a combined 8 percent of national energy production capacity.  

The World Economic Forum described Africa’s solar energy potential as immense while the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Africa has 60 percent of the world’s best solar resources, but only 1 percent of solar generation capacity.

To achieve its energy and climate goals, Africa needs $190 billion of investment a year between 2026 to 2030, with two-thirds of this going to clean energy, the IEA added.