Algeria plans solar energy tenders to tackle rising electricity needs

Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach' solar plant is pictured in Bir Rebaa oil field in southern Algeria, November 25, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 28 January 2019
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Algeria plans solar energy tenders to tackle rising electricity needs

  • Government needs to save gas for export
  • Economists urge better investment climate

ALGIERS: Algeria plans to issue several tenders for renewable energy projects this year as it seeks to meet growing demand for electricity and save gas for export, an official said on Monday.
The OPEC oil producing member hopes to build solar plants to produce 22,000 megawatts (MW), or 27 percent of its electricity needs, by 2030, up from about 350 MW now.
Algeria will soon invite bids from national and foreign firms to set up a solar plant with a capacity of 150 MW, a senior official at the energy ministry said.
“We are (also) planning tenders to produce 2,000 megawatts before the end of 2020,” he added, without giving more details.
Turning to solar power is part of a drive to guarantee cheap retail energy prices. The authorities are keen to avoid social unrest, and face sporadic protests in some areas over a lack of electricity and gas supplies.
“Our development plan is also aimed at maintaining contractual commitments with partners in terms of gas supply,” said Noureddine Yassa, head of a National Renewable Energy Development Center set up to develop the sector.
The increase in demand for electricity has averaged 6.91 percent annually over the past years, according to official data, in a country where the population has been growing by nearly a million people per year.
Algeria is currently using gas to generate 98 percent of its power output of 19,000 MW.
Increasing or maintaining the level of gas and oil exports is a top priority for the country as the two energy products make up 60 percent of the budget and 94 percent of total sales abroad.
Solar energy will also be used at oil and gas fields.
State energy firm Sonatrach has already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Italy’s ENI to build solar plants.
The North African country wants to use the expertise of foreign firms but needs to tackle bureaucracy and slowness reported by investors.
“The (solar energy) plan is applicable if there is a political will,” said economist El Houari Tighersi, also a member of the parliamentary finance committee.
“The investment climate must be improved if we want to change the situation for the better.”


Hong Kong economy stalls amid US-China trade dispute: finance chief

Updated 21 min 48 sec ago
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Hong Kong economy stalls amid US-China trade dispute: finance chief

  • ‘The impact of China-US trade frictions on Hong Kong’s exports has clearly emerged at the end of last year’
  • Economic growth in the semi-autonomous Chinese city for the last quarter of 2018 was less than 1.5 percent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s economy stalled last year as the ongoing China-US trade dispute and retail woes dragged down local business, the city’s financial chief said Sunday.
Beijing and Washington have already imposed duties on more than $360 billion in two-way trade, roiling global financial markets and weighing heavily on manufacturing output in both countries.
“The impact of China-US trade frictions on Hong Kong’s exports has clearly emerged at the end of last year,” said finance secretary Paul Chan.
Economic growth in the semi-autonomous Chinese city for the last quarter of 2018 was less than 1.5 percent — the weakest since the first quarter of 2016 and a “significant slowdown” from the average growth rate of 3.7 percent in the first three quarters, Chan wrote on his official blog.
The slowdown brought last year’s growth rate to an estimated three percent, down from the higher-than-forecast 3.8 percent recorded in 2017, he added.
“It was almost ‘zero-growth’ for commodities exports in the fourth quarter, which was a sharp drop compared to the average 6 percent growth in the first three quarters,” he wrote.
Chan said consumer sentiment had also dampened with retail sales rising only 2.1 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter, a far cry from the more than 12 percent increase in the first half of the year.
“The external political and economic situation remains unclear ... Therefore, we repeatedly stress the need to support enterprises, safeguard employment, stabilize the economy and benefit people’s livelihoods,” he wrote, hinting at the ongoing trade negotiations between the world’s top two economies.
Chan is expected to deliver the Hong Kong budget on February 27.