Tunis is inviting five prequalified developers to submit bids by 29 January 2010 for its second independent power project (IPP), which will be built at Bizerte on the country’s north coast.

The Bizerte IPP, which is due to come on line in 2014, will have a capacity of 350-500MW. The ministry says it may ask the winning developer to double the capacity of the plant in the future.

The prequalified firms are the UK’s International Power; Japan’s Marubeni Corporation; Mitsui & Company, also of Japan; Malaysia’s Powertek Berhad with Germany’s Siemens; and France’s GdF Suez. A total of 17 companies applied to prequalify for the power plant scheme in April.

The ministry aims to select a preferred bidder for the contract by March 2010 and make a contract award in January 2011.

The winning bidder will develop the project on a build-own-operate basis under a 20-year concession. The foreign developer must partner with a local company, which will hold a minimum stake of 35 per cent in the project company. State-owned utility Societe Tunisienne de l’Electricite et du Gaz (Steg) will supply the gas feedstock for the plant and buy its power output.

Tunisia is also planning a third IPP on the Cap Bon peninsula in the northeast of the country. The TD2bn ($1.5bn) plant will have a capacity of 1,200MW.

The ministry will export 800MW of the new plant’s capacity through a 200-kilometre-long sub-sea cable to Italy. Steg will buy the remaining 400MW from the developers under a power-purchase agreement.

The submarine cable will have a capacity of 1,000MW, allowing Tunisia to export an additional 200MW of power produced from renewable resources.

The state wants to build up the amount of renewable energy it generates from wind power and farms, but has yet to set out any specific targets.

The ministry had planned to invite companies to prequalify for the Cap Bon IPP in July, but is still preparing the invitation.

A total of 16 companies have expressed interest in the Cap Bon project. They include Abu Dhabi government-owned Mubadala Development Company; Australia’s Macquarie Capital Group; Siemens; Canada’s SNC Lavalin; and Nov-Energia II of the Netherlands. Four Italian companies – Edison, Enel, Med Energy and Sorgenia – also expressed interest, as did Japan’s Marubeni Corporation and Sumitomo Corporation.

The UK’s International Power, British Gas and Nur Energie, and the US’ Sithe Global and QGen, complete the list.

The bidders can propose either gas or coal feedstock for the plant.

In April, Steg and Italy’s Terna established Elmed Etudes, a joint venture set up to carry out pre-liminary studies on the Cap Bon plant and the sub-sea cable, and to assist with the preparation of tender documents.

The successful bidder will construct the plant on a build-own- operate basis under a 20-30-year concession. The power plant is due to begin commercial operations in 2015 or 2016.