[ALGIERS] Algeria is aiming to generate 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, energy minister Youcef Yousfi has announced.
About 60 renewable energy projects will be launched to give a capacity of 3,000 megawatts, hetold a press conference held to announce the strategy (2 January).
"The main purpose of this new policy is to prepare the country for the post-petrol era," Yousfi said.
Currently, fossil fuels account for 96 per cent of export revenue, and are the basis of the national economy. The country hopes to supplement this revenue from exports of renewably sourced energy.
"Algeria has been late in developing the renewable energy sector, but by stepping up the launch of projects we can catch up," said Omar Bouhadjar, research manager at Algeria's Centre for Development of Renewable Energies (CDER).
"Important projects were announced last month that will support the new Algerian strategy," he added.
But legislators were forced to postpone a discussion of a draft of the renewable energy development strategy, due to take place on 4 January, because of political disturbances.
Algeria has also joined the Desertec Industrial Initiative, which aims to use Sahara solar and wind power to supply 15 per cent of Europe's electricity needs by 2050. This follows an official visit to Germany last month (8 December), when president Abdelaziz Bouteflika and chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to set up a joint economic commission to develop the project.
Meanwhile, a contract for Algeria's first wind farm was awarded to French consortium Cegelec (13 December). The farm will cover 30 hectares in Kabertene, 73 kilometres north of the city of Adrar, in southwest Algeria, and should be operating by 2012.
In perhaps its most ambitious project, the government last month (20 December) announced the creation of Boughzoul, 170 kilometres south of Algiers, as the first green city in North Africa, with homes for 400,000 residents.
The Global Environment Facility will support the project with an US$8.2 million grant. Planned for completion by 2025, it will be a model that Algeria intends to use for all future city developments in the country, according to the energy minister.
"A huge step will be in June this year when the prototype of the first photovoltaic panel to be totally produced in Algeria will leave the laboratories of the Silicon Technology Development Unit," said Bouziane Mahmah, a researcher at CDER.
"The first facilities that will manufacture them will be launched by 2013, which will obviously reduce the expense of using solar energy," he added.
Bouhdjar said that Algeria ia driving down the price of the technology it needs by capitalising on competition between suppliers — Japan, Europe and the United States.