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South Africa offers hope

MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA: While Egypt dominates the Middle East and African wind markets with 550MW online, the big buzz among the sector during the COP17 climate summit in Durban was host country South Africa's 634MW wind allocation.

The allocation is part of 1.4GW assigned to all renewables.

Elsewhere in Africa, there is still a big gap between intentions and action, according to Luis Merino of Spanish research and media firm Energias Renovables. The Arab Spring shake-up is holding back progress.

The South African government allocated 2GW of new renewable generation capacity in August. By then, nearly 500MW of wind power was already in process. Bid winners have until early June 2012 to close financial and power purchase agreements (PPAs) with state utility Eskom. Projects must be online by mid-2014. Turbine contracts are little more than a formality as agreements have already been made with Germany's Siemens (138MW) and Nordex (174MW), India's Suzlon (135MW) and Vestas of Denmark (138MW). Suzlon boss Tulsi Tanti is adamant the entire entitlement will be built on time: "South Africa is a rapidly growing economy with an immense wind resource," he said. Two more bidding rounds are due in 2012, concluding in March and August. A further two are planned for 2013.

Patchy progress

Egypt and Morocco remain the only markets with significant and proven track records. Despite the political turmoil, the Egyptian government remains committed to wind. Egypt hopes to increase its 550MW online capacity to 2.7GW by 2016 and 7.2GW by 2020, when wind power must meet 12% of electricity demand. In July 2011, Spain's Gamesa bagged the contract to supply and build a 200MW contract at the Gulf of El Zeit on Egypt's Red Sea coast.

In the rest of the region, the Arab Spring and the lack of solid mechanisms guaranteeing returns on projects are slowing things down. Gamesa chairman Jorge Calvet recently turned his back on a concession for the 40-50MW Qatineh project, Syria's first wind project. And, due to the civil war, Egypt's Elseewedy froze work on Libya's first wind plant, a 61.75MW development at Al Fetaih — although Libyan officials at COP17 did commit to supporting renewable energy.

In Tunisia, Spain's Gamesa is progressing with the first 60MW phase of the 120MW Bizerte project — part of the country's goal to reach 2.7GW by 2030. But a call for proposals for the 100MW El Haouria, planned for early 2011, has still not happened.

The global debt crisis has hit Morocco hard, slowing its pace of development. The country has 286MW online but no new capacity was commissioned last year. Still, the 100MW Akhfenir project on the Atlantic coast, developed by public holding company Nareva and using 1.63MW Alstom turbines, is close to completion. State power company Office National d'Electricite has sealed a PPA with International Power and Nareva Holding for a 300MW wind farm at Tarfaya and a call to tender for the 150MW Taza project, the first of five schemes totalling 1GW that it plans to build by 2020.

Ethiopia and Kenya are struggling to turn talk into action. The developer of the 310MW Lake Turkana project in Kenya - armed with a letter of support but no legal guarantee from the government - has yet to secure finance. A recent €72.20/MWh PPA with Kenya Power might help move that along. Similarly, there is no more than a memorandum of understanding between US developer Terra Energy and the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation to build the 400MW Debre Berhan plant near Ethiopia's capital, with feasibility studies still pending.

Still, installation of 34 Goldwind 1.5MW turbines was completed in December at Ethiopia's 51MW Nazret development, a joint venture between HydroChina International Engineering Company and Chinese construction firm CGCOC. As Merino puts it: "Africa is thirsty for electricity and full of surprises; it's hard to say just where big projects will crystallise."

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