ALGIERS, April 7 Algeria plans to invite bids
for construction of three photovoltaic solar power plants with
total capacity of about 4,000 megawatts (MW), and several energy
and financial firms are already interested, the energy ministry
Algeria, member of the Organization for the Petroleum
Exporting Countries, has been exploring renewable energy as a
way to meet growing demand for electricity, while also freeing
up more natural gas for export.
Energy Minister Nouredine Bouterfa said in a statement late
on Thursday the ministry would issue tenders for the three
projects, without giving a specific timeline.
The three plants would help meet Algeria's domestic demand
for power and allow for exports of power to neighbouring
countries, a source at the Energy Ministry told Reuters.
Several financial institutions, including the French Agency
for Development and the African Bank for Development, have shown
interest in funding the project, according to the Energy
Ministry, calling it a "multi-billion dollar" project.
Sonatrach, Algeria's giant state oil and gas firm, would
fund about 50 percent of the cost of the three plants, a
Sonatrach official said.
Last year, Italy's ENI signed a deal with Sonatrach to
develop renewable projects in Algeria.
U.S. firm General Electric had also shown interest in the
solar plants with planned capacity of 4,000 MW, the Energy
Ministry sources said.
Hit by a crash in revenues due to lower global oil prices,
Algeria has been doubling efforts to increase gas exports after
several years of stagnant production. Several new gas fields
have come on stream in the past year.
(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing
by Edmund Blair)