Feasibility studies on the undersea cables, due for completion by the end of March, are being undertaken by a consortium of local state power company Societe Tunisienne de l’Electricite & du Gaz (STEG) and Italian state power company Gestore della Rete di Trasmissione Nazionale (GRTN).

The project will involve the construction of an estimated Eur 650 million ($775 million) power plant and two undersea cables between Cap Bon in the northeast and Sicily, expected to cost Eur 350 million ($417 million). Under the proposed scheme, 800 MW will be exported to Italy, with STEG to distribute the balance to the local grid.

The energy ministries in Tunis and Rome signed a letter of intent last year to develop the project, and a meeting is planned in March to define its final scope. ‘We are waiting for the completion of the feasibility studies before the details are finalised,’ said Abdelaziz Rassaa, energy director at the Energy Ministry. ‘It will of course also depend on the agreement of the Italian government.’

It is understood that the El-Haouaria plant may be developed as the country’s second independent power project (IPP). The first, a 471-MW plant at Rades – currently the largest in the country – is owned and operated by Carthage Power Company (MEED 28:5:04). Plans to develop a second, 500-MW IPP with the UK’s BG, at Barca near Sfax, were abandoned in 2005 after three years of negotiations (MEED 20:5:03).