Tunisia, an emerging country in North Africa, is historically presenting an energy mix mainly based of gas (part of it is locally produced or imported from Algeria, a cross-border country).The decrease of its domestic fossil energy production and the recent COP 21 commitments have pushed the country to review its energy strategy for the next 20 years.

This article starts with making an overview of the key issues and challenges that the Tunisian government is facing. Then explores the different alternatives that could improve the energy independence and focuses on renewables.

1. The Tunisian energy area … a growing deficit 

The Tunisian energy mix is composed of fossil resources – mainly gas with 53% of the total primary energy consumed in 2014(1). The electricity production, distribution and transport activities are mostly held by STEG (Gaz and electricity national company), with 85% of the electricity produced in 2012 (14). The rest of electricity is produced by 2 IPPs(b) (Carthage Power Company and El Bibane Power Company).

Today Tunisia is facing a huge energy deficit which has reached 4 Mtep in 2015 and which is caused by two main phenomena:

i. The energy consumption has nearly doubled within 20 years between 1992 and 2012 due to the economic growth and the increase of the electrification rate (100 % in 2012).

ii. Overall production decrease in primary energy (especially crude oil), the last period due the slow new fields’ exploration activity (lack).

The indicators bellow summarize the energy balance in Tunisia.

Tunisian energy production

Tunisian energy production

Since 2000, Tunisia has become a net energy importer (18)

Tunisian Electricity demand

Tunisian energy demand

Daily charging curve Tunisia

2. Analysis of the current situation (SWOT)

Today Tunisia is aiming to find new options to meet its future energy needs as the domestic production of gas is expected to start declining by 2020 while the demand will still be increasing. Thanks to its high renewables’ potential and geographical location, Tunisian government has decided to strengthen its strategy in this area (10).

The SWOT matrix below sums up the Tunisian energy situation.  

Tunisia energy situation SW Matrix

Tunisia OT energy situation matrix

3. To face the challenge , many alternatives are on the panel

The challenge for the Tunisian government today is to reconsider the energy strategy and the national policies in order to:

  • Ensure the mid-term (2020) energy security
  • Meet the COP21 commitments which consists in reducing its CO2 emissions by 41% by 2030(17)
  • Meet the Renewable Energy target through increasing the percentage of the energy mix to 30% by 2030

While considering several alternatives energy sources such as:

  • Energy efficiency plan
  • Shale gas extraction
  • Coal generation entry to the energy mix
  • Renewable (solar plan)
  • Cross-border inter-connections, etc

4. Current strategy is to focus first on renewable potential 

Since 2000 Tunisian government has been working in priority on 2 main axes to secure power supply:  energy efficiency and energy mix diversification.
With a targeted share of RE of 30% by 2030, a specific plan was set in order to boost the investments in this field.

The graph below shows the targeted installed RE capacity by 2030.

Tunisian RE plan by 2030

Figure 1: Tunisian RE plan by 2030

Risks and acts: 

According to our internal study and the report co-written by UNDP(h) and the National Agency for Energy Management entitled “Tunisia: de-risking the renewable energy”(12), many risks could be identified within the renewable energy sector in Tunisia. The report has proven that derisking the sector is essential in order to decrease the RE LCOE. A PESTEL (i) matrix summarizes the main risks as well as actions made.

Reducing these risks implies at first approach to decrease the cost of equity and thus the respective LCOE (g). For instance, according to the same report, “with derisking measures wind LCOE falls from 7.5 to 5.8 c€/kWh and 9.9 to 7.7 c€/kWh for solar power” (12).

In order to reach its 2030 RE goals, mid-term Tunisian strategy should focus on derisking the sector and encouraging investments.

Tunisia in the Maghreb market

Tunisia has adopted renewable energy so as to cope with the increasing energy deficit while focusing on local solutions (development of private sector, domestic PV production). Government is currently working on its national policies in order to encourage private investments in RE. The Tunisian Solar Plan, for instance, is based on IPPs at a level of 70% (of a total of 2700 M€ and 40 projects) (13).

In a more global context and thanks to its geographical location, Tunisia could beneficiate also from cross boarder interconnections (North African neighbors and Italy). Partnerships could be developed in this context in order to boost foreign investments.

Acronyms :

(a) Energy produced by a solar water heater depends on its size (specifically the size of the absorber in m2) and the heater’s type (insolation in KWh/ m2). The main parameter to size the solar water heater is the capacity in m2 (15).
(b) Independent Power producer
(c) Renewable Energy
(d) Concentrated Solar Power
(e) Power Purchase Agreement
(f) Feed in Tariffs
(g) Leveraged Cost of Electricity
(h) United Nations development Program
(i) Political Economic Social Technological Environmental Legal
(j) Société Tunisienne d’électricité et de Gaz is the national energy producer, TSO and supplier.

Amal Abid, Consultant
Anthony Dos Reis, Manager