Middle East & North Africa - Political events bring delays but offer hope

NORTHERN AFRICA & MIDDLE EAST: Political and social unrest rocked much of the Middle East and north Africa in 2011, putting projects on hold and raising concerns for future investment. While a few countries did see progress, unrest still haunts much of the region. A lot will now depend on how quickly these countries manage to regain stability and restore confidence.


Morocco is one country that remains relatively stable and is driving forward plans to have 2GW of wind- power capacity turning by 2020.

To date, the country has 292MW installed capacity. Last year, a mere 5MW was added in the form of a new wind farm that supplies Italian firm Italcementi's cement factory at Laayoune, with excess power sold to state-owned utility Office National d'Electricite (ONE).

But, in March this year, the result of the country's first tender for 150MW at Taza in northern Morocco should be revealed. The tender was part of Morocco's 2010 integrated wind energy programme, which identified sites with a combined capacity of 1GW to be built as public-private partnerships. In January, ONE kicked off phase two with a prequalification round for 850MW divided between five sites, plus turbine supply for the 200MW expansion of the Koudia Al Baida plant near Tangier. ONE expects to launch the second round before the summer.

The Koudia Al Baida wind farm is owned by independent French producer Theolia. In May 2011, Theolia and ONE signed an agreement to double its installed capacity to 100MW by replacing the Vestas 600kW turbines dating from 2000 with more powerful units, and to extend it. Work on the repowering should start in June.

There appears to be stalemate, however, over the 300MW project at Tarfaya, put out to tender in 2008. In 2010, local conglomerate Nareva and the UK's International Power were selected as preferred bidders. Since then negotiations over the power purchase agreement have stalled.

On the other hand, Nareva should start construction of two 50MW projects this year at Foum el Oued, near Laayoune, and Haouma, near Tangier. Siemens is supplying the turbines.


While Egypt did not add any new capacity in 2011 to its 550MW already operating, the government's New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) has made progress on some projects despite the unrest. However, there will be no action on the long-awaited energy law until a new government is in place. Egypt is targeting 7.2GW of wind energy by 2020.

In June, NREA awarded a contract to Gamesa to supply, install and commission a 200MW facility at the Gulf of El-Zayt on the Red Sea coast. The project is jointly funded by Germany's KfW, the European Investment Bank, the European Union and the Egyptian government. Construction is set to start this spring, with commercial operation scheduled for 2014.

Projects totalling around 1GW to be built with development finance are slowly moving forward. The most advanced, comprising 340MW with funding in place from Japan and Spain, could come online in 2014.

There is still no sign of the second round of a tender for 250MW to be built by private investors on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis that was expected last year. However, NREA says a consultant has been contracted to help prepare the tender documents, land-use agreement and power purchase agreement. Likewise, tenders for 1GW to be offered in four lots of 250MW each on a BOO basis have also been delayed.

Another private project of 120MW developed by Italy's Italgen has now received environmental clearance and is waiting for government approval to sign the land-use agreement.

On the manufacturing side, Middle East component manufacturer Elsewedy Electric has put its plans for a turbine assembly plant on hold until the political situation settles down.


Tunisia experienced its third year running with no new wind power capacity added to its 54MW total, but now a new government is in place there is hope that things will start moving again. The new prime minister, Hamadi Jabali, has a background in renewable energy. With luck, he will be able to get the country back on track towards achieving its goal of 505MW of wind capacity by 2016 and 2.7GW by 2030.

This year should see completion of a 120MW project in the Bizerte region near the northern coast that was expected to come online last year. Gamesa is building the project and supplying the turbines, with concessional funding from the Spanish government. The facility will eventually be extended by 70MW.

There has not been much progress either on the various initiatives designed to attract private-sector investment. A tender for 60MW to be offered to large industrial, agricultural and tertiary-sector users at Thala, near Bizerte, is still on hold as the energy ministry works to revise the regulatory framework.

The authorities hope the framework will be ready by the summer.

Likewise, there is no sign yet of progress on the Elmed project. A tender, which was due to be issued last year, involves at least 100MW of wind energy at El Haouaria on the Nabeul peninsula. The project also includes an undersea interconnection to Italy being developed jointly by the Tunisian Electricity and Gas Company and Italian transmission-system operator Terna.


While Israel's installed capacity remains stuck at 6MW, this year should see some activity. By the end of 2012, Mei Golan Wind Energy should complete the repowering of its 6MW plant, taking it to 14MW. The turbine supplier has not yet been decided. Mei Golan also hopes to obtain approval this summer for a 155MW project it is developing on the Golan Heights and start construction in 2013.

In addition, Afcon E B Wind Energy hopes to reach financial close this spring on 22MW at Sirin and Gilboa. All being well, the planned 26 Gamesa 850kW turbines could start turning in early 2013.

Last year the government approved a renewable energy policy that set a target of 800MW of wind energy by 2020. It also introduced a feed-in tariff of NIS 0.53/kWh ($0.27) for wind power plants approved before 31 December 2013 and NIS 0.49/kWh after that date. While this is designed to encourage deployment, bureaucratic procedures remain grindingly slow.


Algeria's first industrial-scale wind facility is due to come online in late 2012. Last spring, the country adopted an ambitious renewable energy programme aimed at generating 40% of its electricity from green sources by 2030. This translates into around 12GW, the majority being solar power. The energy minister indicated that the programme will be financed by a tax on oil exports.

The first three-year phase consists of various pilot projects, including a 10MW plant being built by French electrical-engineering company Cegelec near Adrar, in the southern desert. Sites are also being studied at Tindouf and Bechar, on Algeria's western border.

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