Analysis - Egypt and Libya lead region's wind power revival

MIDDLE EAST: Wind power development was among the many casualties of the 2011 Arab Spring, though Egypt, the region's biggest market, has sprung back with requests for offers to add 850MW to its existing 550MW of online wind capacity.

Egypt is developing projects near the Gulf of Suez
Egypt is developing projects near the Gulf of Suez

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War-ravaged Syria is understandably a no-go area and Tunisia's wind plans have also ground to a halt, but players in Libya's recovery say building is imminent on the country's first 61MW.

"Power is among tight spending priorities for recovery," said one Spanish developer active in the region, who prefers to remain anonymous. "Wind planning in Egypt and Libya was already advancing before the Arab Spring; it makes sense to pick up from where things left off."

The Egyptian government has confirmed its commitment to the pre-existing wind programme, including a 7.2GW wind target to 2020. But whether institutional and political stability offers a solid enough base remains under evaluation, says Silvia Macri, regional specialist at global wind consultants IHS-EER.

However, there are clear signals of government determination. In March, Egypt's state-run New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) resumed an international contest for wind prospecting concessions at six sites in the Gabal El Zeit area of the Gulf of Suez, each earmarked for up to 100MW of development. The call had initially been scheduled for January 2013 but the institutional pieces were still not in place, says Macri, underlining NREA's perseverance.

In April, NREA also made a request for proposals (RFP) to build, own and operate a 250MW wind project in the same area. The process has secured central bank guarantees for energy off-take and is backed by a financing agreement with the Japanese Agency for International Co-operation (JICA).

On 5 May the government held its first clarification meeting with international qualified bidders, confirms Faisal Eissa, who heads El-Sewedy Wind Energy Generation (SWEG), the wind turbine and services division of Egyptian electrical engineering firm El-Sewedy. Contenders, including SWEG, are competing on a power-sales auction basis.

Egypt's existing capacity and the planned new capacity depend on government established power sales agreements, points out Macri. Government discussions to establish a renewables feed-in tariff for a free market take off are still far from crystallisation, she adds. Much depends on negotiations between Egypt and the IMF for recovery funding.


Encouraged by Egypt's example, Libya's government is pushing ahead with wind power and will soon start building the country's first wind plant, the 61MW Al-Fatayeh development in the windy port town of Dernah, between Benghazi and the Egyptian border.

SWEG, the project's turbine supplier, through its 70% ownership of Spanish manufacturer M Torres Olvega Industrial (MTOI), had already shipped the first eight 1.65MW turbines to Dernah before the 2011 civil war put everything on hold. Another 13 turbines were shipped from Spain last year. "We are preparing the final stages to start civil engineering work," says Eissa. He expects the plant to operating at its full 61MW capacity by the end of 2014.

Virtually all Libya's energy generation is fired by its vast oil and gas resources, sufficient to cope with power consumption that more than doubled between 2000 and 2010. But within its Kyoto commitments, the state-run Renewable Energy Authority of Libya (REAOL) has upheld Gaddafi's former wind targets of 750MW by 2015 and 1.5GW by 2020, to help reach renewables penetration targets of 6% and 10% respectively.

The only other authorised wind project, according to a leaked REAOL document, is the 120MW Al-Magrun development on the other side of Benghazi. However, a 120MW extension to that project is under negotiation and REAOL is planning for two more 250MW concessions in the west and south of the country. The General Electric Company of Libya (GECOL) also intends to double the capacity of two existing transmission links with Algeria and Egypt.


The REAOL document highlights the obstacles to a wind market in the region, particularly the lack of power purchase frameworks and local technical expertise and institutional instability. The outcome of the Al-Fatayeh development will demonstrate how those barriers can be overcome.

Eissa points out the security fears arising from a militant arson attack at the 190MW Metline and Kchabta plant in Tunisia 2012, which, together with funding issues and low transmission capacity, have halted that country's development. He believes the Al-Fatayeh wind plant stands as a symbol of recovery and enjoys government protection. But whether such government commitment endures in Egypt and Libya won't become clear until the Arab Spring dust settles more convincingly.

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