The ambitious Tunisia smart grid project is set to kick off after parliament approved a US$131.7 million loan request from French Development Agency (AFD).
The loan, which is to be repaid over 20 years with a grace period of up to 7 years, is part of the Tunisian government’s efforts to establish a strategy of energy switching aimed at reducing costs and enhancing operational efficiency.
Tunisian Company of Electricity and Gas (STEG) first announced the smart grid in 2017 with a plan to connect the entire country by 2023 but was delayed due to lack of funds.
At the Africa Smart Grid Summit 2018 held in Tunis, STEG announced its intentions to initiate an international tender during the first quarter of 2019 to start the project.
The AFD funding will be allocated to implementation of the first phase only, which will involve development of control and communication stations and the improvement of infrastructure. It includes installation of 430,000 “intelligent” meters over a period of three years in Sfax governorate in southern Tunisia with a residence of about 330,000 people. The Smart meters will be installed in homes and businesses.
The second phase of the project is planned to extend the programme to the other parts of the country.
In 2017, a Tunisian industrial electrical equipment and machinery company signed an agreement with Huawei for the Chinese company to supply smart electricity meters.
The development of the smart grid will allow STEG to monitor consumption patterns, detect abuses and remotely monitor the grid’s power supply.
The development of the smart grid will allow accuracy in estimating and charging electricity consumption. It will improve the integrity of power suppliers while keeping consumers on check by ensuring an altogether trustful exchange between the players on both ends of the electricity chain.
The smart grid is designed to monitor the grid’s power supply and to reduce power waste, reduce the number of unpaid bills, prevent consumer fraud, improve the ecosystem and increase competitiveness in the electricity sector.
“The smart grid will change the face of the energy system towards the use of renewable energies,” said Tunisian Industry Minister Slim Feriani.
Speaking at the forum on alternative energies, minister Feriani pointed out that energy sector digitization requires investments in technology and a change in the consumption mentality.
Tunisia hopes to bring its national capacity to about 8300 MW by 2023. The smart grid project will also further the national goal of getting thirty percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025.