Algeria launches solar energy cluster, names new energy minister

The Algerian government has officially launched a new solar energy cluster (Cluster algérien des énergies solaires). According to state-owned renewable energy portal CDER, however, construction on the facility has not started yet, as the government is still dealing with the required administrative and legal proceedings.

So far, 16 small and medium-sized solar enterprises and research institutes have joined the project. The cluster is intended to help solar energy players in Algeria to share their expertise and to mutually support future projects.

Mohamed Réda Smahi, president of Groupc-Innoinvest, one of the companies that joined the cluster, said that the initiative will require support from government and state-owned entities, as well as from the local manufacturing and mining industry.

Meanwhile, Mustapha Guitouni, the former CEO of Sonelgaz (National Society for Electricity and Gas), which is in charge of electricity and natural gas distribution in Algeria, has been named as the country’s new Minister of Energy. Guitouni, which became president and CEO of the state-owned utility in June 2016, is a specialist in grids and power distribution. He was also CEO of local government-run power distributor Société de Distribution de l’Electricité et du Gaz d’Alger.

In October 2014, Sonelgaz and the Algerian government revealed plans to deploy 4 GW of solar power for the first time. The final Request for Proposal for the first 1.35 GW phase of the 4 GW initiative was expected to be published in early April. So far, however, the government has not made any announcement.

Sonelgaz’s unit CEEG SpA will oversee the tender, and the implementation of the plan. Selected projects will be owned and developed by special purpose companies, which will be responsible for financing, EPC works, grid-connection and the sale of power. These vehicles will be owned 51% by a domestic investor and 49% by an international partner. Algerian government-owned oil company Sonatrach will hold a 40% stake in all of these companies, while Sonelgaz and other public or private Algerian companies will hold the remaining 11%. For Algerian private investors, the participation in the capital of each company will not exceed 6%. Financing for each project must be provided 30% with own funds and 70% with bank loans.

The tender will enable the construction of several large-scale PV plants in the region of Hautes Plaines (High Plains), which is located in the northern part of the country, and also in southern Algeria.