Isn’t it time for a Tunisian Renewable Revolution? by Emna Chebbi, Tunisia

pic.Renewable energy became as never before an up-to-date debate in many countries in this world.

Many developed and developing countries are still arguing the effectiveness of those energies while other countries are leading the world, like Uruguay who is generating almost 90% of its electricity from renewables, or Costa Rica, which maintained a 100% renewable energy generation for the first 100 day in this year.

Renewable energy growth soared to record levels in 2014.In fact, according to Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of the Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century, “last year, for the first time in 40 years, economic and emission growth have decoupled”.

The Renewable Energy Network was recently responsible for producing a global study of renewable energy growth over the last 10 years. What they find now, is quite surprising, even to its authors.

“If you look back 10 years ago, renewable energies were providing 3 percent of global energy, and now, they provide something close to 22 percent, so that has really sky-rocketed,” noted Christine.

Recent years have been marked by an ongoing discussion on the role of the renewable energies on the Tunisian energy mix. The energy consumption continually increased in the past decades, from 4.500kteo in 1990 to 6.700 in 2000 than it nearly doubled to 8.300 in 2012.

According to the Energypedia website “Between 1990 and 2000, consumption increased at a rate of 6.2%/year. Between 2000 and 2005, demand grew by 4.6%/year and between 2005 and 2009, annual demand growth slowed to 3.7%, mainly due to energy efficiency measures. In 2014, primary energy consumption was 9,200 ktoe (without biomass), of which 46% was provided by oil products, 53% was provided by natural gas and 1% by renewable energies” (click figure 1 and 2 below to enlarge).



We find the industrial sector the largest consumer with a 36%, then comes transportation with 31%, construction buildings with 21% and agriculture with 6%. This somehow balanced distribution of energy consumption between the different sectors helped the country to develop some policies to manage the consumption of energy in a better way.

Trying to encounter this linear growth of energy and find an alternative for it, Tunisia has created in 1985 the National Agency for Energy Conservation (ANME) with the purpose to support the Industry Ministry on energy transition.

Three-year (2005-2007) and four-year (2008-2011) programs on energetic efficiency have been established. In 2010, the country added a new branch to the Tunisian Company for Electricity and Gas (STEG), which is the national energy producer, TSO and supplier.

The constitution of 2014, in article number 45, insists on the protection of the environment and its conservation. By that, Tunisia became the first country outside Latin America to make a constitutional statement on combatting Climate Change.

Along with that, many laws have followed to organize and better manage the energy sector. Among them, we find the law on the production of electricity from renewable energy, mainly solar and wind energies. This law was adopted by the Tunisian Assembly of the Representatives of the People (TARP) in 2015.

With this new law the government aims to produce about 30% of the energy by 2020. I should mention that this law also comprises the production of biogas from waste.

“The production of electricity from renewable energy has become a necessity and not a choice, and that, due to the increase in the deficit of the energy balance” said The Minister of Industry, Energy and Mines, Zakaria Hamad.

On a political level, the government seems motivated to invest in renewable energy and organize the energy sector in a sustainable eco-friendly way. Still it has to fight corruption and the monopoly of some of its bodies, such as the STEG, and to be more encouraging for private investments in this sector to boost efforts to build the nascent renewable energy industry.

As this nascent renewable energy industry promises many new green jobs for the jobless young Tunisian, it also demands a new mindset for Tunisian citizens to encourage this renewable revolution and to succeed in it.

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