Italian oil giant ENI to develop 10 MW solar plant in Algeria

Italian oil and gas conglomerate ENI has been working in Algeria since 1981, and during its time in the north African country has invested more than $11.5 billion in the development of hydrocarbon projects.

A sizable investment (indeed, ENI’s involvement in Algeria represents 26% of all direct foreign investment by all international companies operating in the country), but thus far every cent has been spent on the development of fossil fuel-based power.

Which makes the announcement that the company will be embarking on the development of a solar PV project in the country quite encouraging. ENI will cooperate with Sonatrach, the government-backed power company, under the guise of GSA (Sonatrach-Agip Groupement), which is a collaboration between the two firms.

Production of the solar plant is penciled in to begin before the end of 2016, and builds upon an agreement between ENI and Sonatrach to develop renewable energies in Algeria.

According to ENI’s CEO Claudio Descalzi, ENI is eager to integrate its traditional business and energy with renewable sources – which could be construed as a pivot away from the oil and gas foundations upon which the firm is built.

"In the early Seventies, ENI was the first foreign company to sign an agreement with the Algerian state for the construction of the Transmed gas pipeline, and in 1987 the first oil and gas company to sign an upstream contract in Algeria," said Descalzi. "Today ENI is the first oil and gas company to reach a strategic agreement in the field of solar energy in Algeria, a country with an important potential."

Algeria’s oil wealth has long stymied its clean energy ambitions, but the country did, at least, set a bold PV installation goal last year of 13.5 GW of solar by 2030. In 2015, Algeria added approximately 260 MW of new solar capacity.