The Maghreb region offers good conditions for renewable generation and rising domestic gas reserves, but strategies for power sector development across the region differ widely.
The power sector across North African region is characterised by innovation and the rapid development of renewables in Morocco and Egypt, and a much slower pace of transition in the countries between them.
Libya’s ongoing civil conflict means that the country’s two rival governments have other priorities, while both Algeria and Tunisia have been reluctant to deregulate the power sector and encourage private-sector investment. Their state power companies continue to rely on thermal generating capacity and struggle to maintain power supplies.
Morocco is the most ambitious of the Maghreb nations in terms of boosting renewables as a proportion of overall generating capacity. According to the Ministry of Energy, Mining and Sustainable Development, renewables accounted for 35% of Moroccan power production in 2018, suggesting that the country is on track to meet the government’s target of 52% by 2030.
However, the pace of new capacity additions will have to pick up substantially over the next 11 years for the country to cope with projected increases in population and power demand. There is also still some way to go before Morocco reaches its interim target of 42% by the end of 2020. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that these ambitious targets are a powerful motivator for developing renewable energy.
Morocco had 2GW of renewable energy generating capacity by the end of last year, but Rabat forecasts that 10GW will be needed if the 52% target is to be met. This is to be achieved through 4.5GW of solar, 4.2GW of wind and 1.3GW of hydro capacity. The in-vestment required is estimated at some $30bn over the next 11 years. Some $13bn in public and private investment is already lined up for the 2017-22 period, according to the government.
CAIRO SCALES UP
Egypt’s renewable energy targets are less ambitious in terms of share of generation, but the scope of Cairo’s overall power strategy is huge, as it seeks to meet the fast-rising demand for electricity.
The country wants to capitalise on the massive gas discoveries made in the Mediterranean Sea over the past few years with the construction of new gas-ﬁred plants, at the same time as it ﬁnally looks set to embark on the construction of its ﬁrst nuclear power plants.
The Egyptian government is banking on private-sector investment in a wide range of solar and wind schemes, as it hopes to increase renewables’ share of total power production to 42% by 2035. The Ministry of Electricity forecasts that 20% of all electricity will come from renewables by 2022 and has swung its support behind a wide range of technologies in order to achieve this target.
A string of solar photovoltaic (PV) projects are to be developed at Ben-ban, near Aswan, which the government hopes will add 3-4GW in generating capacity in the longer term, of which almost 1.5GW is currently under development. A consortium of Scatec Solar KLP, Norfund and Africa50 recently announced it had connected 65MW of its 400MW tranche to the grid by April. The consortium holds a 25-year power purchase agreement for the six phases, which are expected to be connected by the end of this year, making it the biggest single solar power project on the African continent. A total of 32 solar energy companies are currently developing 1.43GW of capacity, with a combined investment of about $2bn.
Scatec Solar Chief Executive Raymond Carlsen highlighted how new technology is helping of get the most out of solar power. “This is our ﬁrst power plant with bi-facial solar panels, capturing the sun from both sides of the panels to increase the total clean energy generation,” he said.
In April, the International Finance Corporation announced that it had signed a deal with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) to provide ﬁnance for the development of another solar power complex, this time in the West Nile Province totalling 600MW. The contracts to build and operate the project will be awarded under a tender that has already been launched. Sources inside the country have revealed that bids with a maximum tariﬀ of $0.025/kWh will be accepted, far lower than analysts had expected even a year ago and even lower than the $0.027/kWh that EETC has sanctioned for the 200MW Kom Ombo solar project.
TUNISIA STRUGGLES FOR INVESTMENT
The Tunisian power sector is still dominated by the national power utility, Société Tunisienne de l’Électricité et du Gaz (STEG). It controls 5.31GW out of total installed generating capacity of 6.09GW, with gas-ﬁ red plants pro-viding about three-quarters of all production.
Tunisia’s own gas industry is unable to satisfy domestic demand and so imports, mainly from neighbouring Algeria, are needed to provide the required feedstock. STEG has been forced to introduce power rationing, particularly during peak demand in the summer. The need for a response to this situation – and with national demand forecast to double over the next 15 years – seems to have prompted the government to con-sider encouraging more competition in the sector.
Legislation passed in 2017 set out the rules for power purchase agreements, but independent power producers (IPPs) were initially unable to directly target residential customers. They are permitted to sell electricity to industrial customers, with 30% of their output sold to STEG, but only at low, regulated rates.
With other more liberal markets on oﬀer internationally, this reduces the attractiveness of the Tunisian market to investors, with the 471MW Radès plant – which came on stream in 2002 – still the country’s only substantial IPP. The government has set goals of achieving 12% renewable energy-generating capacity by 2020 and 30% by 2030, but there was just 5% at the end of last year, comprising 245MW wind and 62MW hydro.
This article is an extract from the Africa Energy Yearbook 2019, a partnership between African Business and EnergyNet.