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Only 43 thousand households use solar energy, yet classified as national priority in Tunisia

Some 43,000 households used solar energy to produce electricity by late August, figures released by the  Company of Electricity and Gas (French: STEG) show. 

The country is lagging behind its 30% target for renewable energy share in electricity production by 2030 though it opted for investment in renewables since 2010 through grants by the Energy Transition Fund.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the decision by the National Agency of Energy Command (French: ANME) to bring down the grant rate per Kilowatt from 1200 dinars to 500 dinars now will impede the achievement of goals.
Manager of an enterprise installing solar panels Houssem Khlifi told TAP this decrease impacted the activity of businesses as well as households. The increasing costs of solar panels (+17% in 2021) also contributed to the slump.

The ANME said it kept unchanged the value of the grant for photovoltaic systems
which have a capacity of 1.5 KW or less (1500 dinars/kilowatt).

// Subsidies not disbursed on time The ANME grants subsidies to companies that install solar panels to households, under programme contracts. The State grants as part of its programme to promote renewable energy in the housing sector, a subsidy to citizens for the installation of solar panels. This subsidy is granted to companies, which then proceed to its deduction from the customer’s bill.
Thus, the ANME pledges to reimburse the company that installs the solar panels, the amount of this subsidy deducted from the customer’s bill, once the system begins to operate.
However, since September 2020, no company has received this subsidy, while ANME assures to have solved all the technical, financial and contractual problems and promised to start disbursing the amounts due to the companies.
This situation has worsened the difficulties of companies active in the field of installation of solar panels, said the young investor, adding that these companies are no longer able to meet their commitments to suppliers or pay their employees.
/ / The state does not make sufficient efforts to promote renewable energy
While the authorities have always proclaimed that renewable energy is a national priority in Tunisia, given the problem of energy deficit, which has reached about 55%, they have not made sufficient efforts to create a climate conducive to the development of investment in this field. In fact, they do not work to encourage companies in this field, nor to accelerate the implementation of programmes assigned.
Worse still, the authorities in charge of the energy sector drag to pay the subsidies in time, which would have allowed companies in this sector to meet their administrative and financial burdens.
“The state does not care, also, to ensure the necessary promotion, able to encourage citizens to join the efforts to promote renewable energy, and convince them that solar energy is the only alternative to establish a national system of clean energy in Tunisia, “said the solar installer.  For his part, Sales and Marketing Director of STEG Sami Ben Hmida reported the delay recorded since March 2021, in the supply of meters to be installed in customers of photovoltaic.
According to him, this delay is due to the fact that the acquisition of meters is subject to the legislation governing public procurement. However, the official said that about 3,500 three-phase meters and 1,500 single-phase meters are available since June 2021 and that STEG is preparing to launch a tender, late 2021, for the acquisition of 25 thousand additional meters.
These meters can return the excess energy on the network of STEG, and provide the customer its electricity needs directly from STEG, in case of non-production of electricity from solar energy.
The official said that the consumption bill of the customer installing solar energy system can be reduced to minus 70%.
STEG has established two photovoltaic plants in Tozeur with a capacity of 10 megawatts each. The plant of Tozeur 1 is already in operation. It is important to note that solar energy provides only 1% of the electricity produced by STEG, according to data published by the National Observatory of Energy and Mining.
Although officials in the renewable energy sector have repeatedly stated that their goal is to have “solar panels on all roofs of Tunisian homes”, families are still reluctant to use this clean energy, either because of the complexity of administrative procedures, or lack of awareness of the benefits of this energy, or incentives granted by the state in this area.
 Thus, the objective of Tunisia, to bring the contribution of renewable energy to 30% of energy mix, by 2030, remains a simple slogan launched at national and international events, but the reality does not seem to match this ambition.
As proof, renewable energies represent, until today, only 6% of the energy mix and even this figure could be inflated…


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