Tunisia is increasingly using wind power to reduce energy costs. Taming the wind to generate electricity is a wise choice. The goal is to become one of the largest African producer of such energy , Bekkari Nafaa, head of the wind energy department at the National Agency for Energy Management (ANME) emphasizes, in an interview with Africanmanager, the gains made by stressing the usefulness of strengthening the existing capacity to achieve the goal sought-after.
Apparently, there is not a single farm wind but many. How far they are used in Tunisia?
Wind power has experienced in recent years a significant increase designating it as an indispensable source of energy. Several projects have been implemented in wind energy. As such, there are two types of wind power: there is the small wind (domestic) and the big wind that is connected to networks.
Regarding wind power connected to networks that is run by STEG, the first project was completed in 2000 with a capacity of 10MW in the region of El Haouaria. The first extension was completed in 2003 with a capacity of 10 MW and another expansion in 2008 of around 54 MW in Sidi Daoud. Another project is underway in Bizerte with a total production capacity of approximately 120 MW. With the extension of this project, Tunisia will achieve an installed capacity of 175 megawatts of wind energy by 2011.An opportunity that will allow Tunisia to rank third in Africa and 35th worldwide in wind connection.
Moreover, the four-year program of energy management plans to continue this development policy through two options: extend the wind farm operated by STEG to achieve an installed capacity of about 190MW at the end of the program, and development of self-generation of electricity from wind power. The program provides for that purpose to install 60MW by 2011.
What about the Wind Atlas?
Interest in wind power has attracted extensive applied research prompting a significant development of this sector. Countries that have developed their wind map are rare. Indeed, ANME, in collaboration with the Spanish Agency for Cooperation and Development and the National Renewable Energy Center were able to establish the Wind Atlas of countries that allow investors to promote business in the production and exports of wind energy while reducing the time of the realization of wind farms. It is, in fact, a document that listed all the sites geographically favorable to the installation of wind turbines for generating electricity from wind.
Moreover and according to a study conducted recently and based on the Wind Atlas, the wind energy potential in Tunisia could reach 8000 MW. This study provides for the achievement of 2700 megawatts by 2030.
Is the institutional framework equipped to foster the development of this type of energy?
The Tunisian government has been working to develop the institutional and regulatory framework. The new law of February 9, 2009 came to open new prospects for the production of renewable energy in Tunisia. Any Tunisian company can thus generate its own electricity consumption. The Act aims, inter alia, to encourage individuals to produce photovoltaic energy. Thus, companies that produce electricity from wind power for their own consumption can inject the produced energy to the national grid from their wind farm to the point of consumption, through a tariff fixed by the Ministry in charge of energy and sell the surplus electricity production, only to STEG.
We are currently conducting feasibility studies at an office of the Board for the establishment of a regulatory framework. The existing regulatory framework requires clarification especially as there is a shortage of skills capable of conducting such studies. For this reason, we need to build capacity of stakeholders.
In this context, an agreement was signed in 2009 between the Tunisian government and UNDP in order to realize the project. This project aims to support government efforts to open the market of wind power to private developers, and this, through the creation of a regulatory framework for the concession process.
Two international offices have been recruited, the first focuses on developing a regulatory and institutional framework conducive to renewable energy. The second office deals with the development and implementation of a program of technical and organizational capacity building of stakeholders. In fact, this office has submitted a training plan spanning 18 months.
However, wind power finds it very hard to take off in Tunisia because of numerous legislative, regulatory, financial, technical and informational barriers that still hinder its full development. This highlights the importance attached to such activities as the setting up of an appropriate legislative and regulatory framework, in-depth evaluation of the wind resource of the country, study of electrical networks and national capacity building in all aspects of wind power.