Renewables Readiness Assessment: The Republic Of Tunisia

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Tunisia has experienced growing dependence on imported fossil fuels over the past two decades, largely due to increasing energy consumption across its national economy and falling domestic hydrocarbon production. The country’s electricity generation mix is dominated by natural gas, production of which has stagnated in recent years, leaving Tunisia increasingly vulnerable to supply disruptions and volatile energy prices.

For these reasons, energy efficiency and renewables have received increasing attention as the country embarks on an energy transition process as part of its sustainable economic and social development strategy. Key goals include reducing primary energy demand by 30% compared to a business-as-usual scenario, and increasing the contribution of renewables in electricity production to 30% by 2030.

The National Agency for Energy Conservation (ANME) and the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mines, this assessment identifies the main challenges faced by Tunisia in meeting these goals. It identifies various existing barriers to the development of renewable energy in the country and proposes a number of corresponding solutions to assist Tunisia’s energy transition.

Tunisia has witnessed growing deficits in its energy balance over the past two decades. This trend is largely the result of increasing energy consumption in all economic sectors, coupled with the decline of hydrocarbon production. This led to an energy deficit amounting to 50% in 2019 compared to 7% in 2010, thus leading the country to become more dependent on imported fossil energy. 

The electricity generation mix is dominated by natural gas, while renewable energy resources represented only 3.0% in 2019. This strong dependence on natural gas has serious implications for Tunisia’s energy security, since domestic production of gas has stagnated to the point of even declining in recent years. 

In response to the energy security challenges of the early 2000s, and Tunisia’s vulnerability to volatile international energy prices, the country has decided to embark on an energy transition process as part of its wider sustainable economic and social development strategy. Amid the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020, renewables and energy efficiency have become a key part of the country’s recovery plans. 

Tunisia’s energy transition is notably based on

  • Diversification of the energy mix and integration of renewable energies 
  • Strengthening energy efficiency 
  • Rationalization of the energy subsidy 
  • Strengthening of the grid and the interconnections 

The implementation of an energy management strategy that is built on the increase of two components: (i) energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy, with a 30/30 target to reduce primary energy demand by 30% in 2030 compared to the trend scenario; and (ii) renewable energy to 30% of the electricity production by 2030. 

The Tunisian Solar Plan (TSP) is intended as the key tool to implement the strategy to increase the share of renewable electricity. The latest TSP version was updated by Tunisia’s National Agency for Energy Management (ANME – Agence Nationale pour la Maîtrise de l’Energie) in 2015 and adopted by the government in July 2016. To achieve the country’s update objectives, the TSP has established a target for total installed renewable energy capacity at 1 860 megawatts (MW) by 2023 and 3 815 MW by 2030, a five-fold and ten-fold increase, respectively, from the 2017 installed renewable energy capacity. 

The targets were updated to reflect Tunisia’s climate commitment, specifically as pledged in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. The bulk of the country’s mitigation potential arises from the energy sector, including 68% from energy efficiency and 32% from renewables. 

The considerable amount of installed renewable energy capacity needed to meet the targets set out in the TSP will require extensive private investment support. In response, the Tunisian state adopted regulatory reforms in 2015 through a new law (Law No. 2015-12) relating to the production of electricity from renewable energy. The objective is to establish a legal framework that is conducive to private sector investment in the production of electricity that will arise from renewable energy sources through three new regulatory regimes: (i) self generation/consumption; (ii) independent power production for local consumption (concession and authorization); and (iii) independent power production for export. 

Notwithstanding the new legal framework and the various measures adopted by the Tunisian government over the past two years, several of these measures include enabling policy initiatives, update of the current documentation surrounding current electricity purchase agreements, and establishment of guarantees to encourage the development of renewable energy. There remain several challenges that hinder the transition, however; these have been identified under Tunisia’s national energy strategy. 

Various barriers to renewable energy development were identified through the Renewables Readiness Assessment (RRA) process. These could be addressed through eight key recommended actions. 

The RRA’s main recommendations can be summarised as follows: 

  • Establish a renewable energy planning and scheduling framework
  • Enhance renewables resource assessment through zoning 
  • Simplify procurement procedures for power grid development
  • Clarify institutional roles and strengthen human resources
  • Establish an independent electric power regulator
  • Operationalise the Energy Transition Fund
  • Create a dedicated financing mechanism for solar water pumping
  • Involve local banks in the financing of renewable energy

Source : IRENA

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