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Tunisia Plans Solar Projects in Renewable Energy Drive

by Madaline Dunn

The Tunisian government recently signed agreements to construct two solar PV power plants in the governorates of Gafsa and Tataouine, totalling an investment of 800 million Tunisian dinars. 

With a capacity of 100 MW and 200 MW, respectively, these two solar projects are part of the planned development of 500 MW capacity across five plants. The remaining 200 MW is distributed across three other governorates: Tozeur (50 MW), Sidi Bouzid (50 MW), and Kairouan (100 MW).

The Tunisian project comes following 118 governments pledging to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030 at COP28. However, while a promising pledge, the world has a long way to go to realise it.

Tunisia targets 35 per cent renewable energy by 2030

According to a statement from the Tunisian presidency, through investing in renewable energy projects, Tunisia aims to reduce the cost of subsidies allocated to the energy sector, develop a green economy, and contribute to the global effort to reduce carbon emissions. 

Indeed, last year, the IMF revealed that fossil fuel subsidies reached unprecedented levels in 2022, totalling US$7 trillion, amid surging energy prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and economic recovery from the pandemic.

Commenting on the project, Minister of Industry, Mines, and Energy Fatma Thabet Chiboub said that it would accelerate progress towards achieving the objectives of the National Energy Sector Strategy – most notably reaching a 35 per cent integration rate of renewable energy in the national electricity mix in 2030, reducing the energy balance deficit, promoting investment in renewable energy, and diversifying energy sources by relying on clean energies.

In previous statements, during her participation at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Riyadh, the minister said that Tunisia had adopted a policy of rationalising energy consumption, aiming to ensure a secure supply of energy, in addition to equipping public institutions and buildings with solar plants. 

According to the Tunisian government, it is also encouraging citizens and the service sector to adopt solar to reduce their electricity bills.

According to Ouael Chouchene, Secretary of State for Energy Transition, the project will enable the country to reduce the cost of producing electricity from natural gas by approximately 50 million dinars by 2025.

Fossil fuels account for 80 per cent of global energy production

Indeed, while United Nations estimates detail that fossil fuels still account for more than 80 per cent of global energy production, cleaner energy sources are gaining favour. Renewables now account for around 29 per cent of electricity, a figure that is only growing. 

Moreover, reports from the likes of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) indicate that by 2050, 90 per cent of electricity could be derived from renewables.

At the same time, renewable energy is becoming less expensive, and prices continue to fall. 

According to IRENA, the cost of electricity generated from solar power fell by 85 per cent between 2010 and 2020, while the cost of onshore and offshore wind power fell by 56 per cent and 48 per cent, respectively.

Kaioruan Project to serve 43,000 households

In Tunisia, these renewable energy projects signal a shift in the right direction. When operational, the Kaioruan Solar PV project, for example, is set to generate 222GWh of clean energy per year, powering more than 43,000 households and offsetting 117,000 tonnes of carbon emission over the course of its life.

Implemented by Kairouan Solar Plant, a project company registered in Tunisia and fully owned by AMEA Power, the project will be built under a Build-Own-Operate (BOO) model and is the country’s first privately-funded solar power project.

Indeed, the USD 86 million project is being financed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

This project announcement is the latest in a series of renewable energy developments in the country. 

In a workshop on electric vehicles earlier this month, Chouchene shared that a series of measures have been devised to promote electric mobility in the country. He noted that a working group of the National Agency for Energy Management, various ministries, the Tunisian Company of Electricity and Gas, Tunisian Customs and the National Trade Union Chamber of Automobile Dealers conducted research into the potential of promoting EVs in Tunisia. The group noted that adoption would result in an increase in the percentage of renewable energy in the electricity mix and reduce both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Looking ahead, according to the United Nations, globally, at least $4 trillion per year will be required in renewable energy investments by 2030 – particularly for technology and infrastructure – to reach zero emissions by 2050. 

Speaking on the imperative of the transition, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “Renewables are the only path to real energy security, stable power prices and sustainable employment opportunities.”

By Hadeer Elhadary, Lead Journalist, ESG Mena – Arabic

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