State utility Societe Tunisienne de l’Electricite et Du Gaz (Steg) has invited contractors to submit bids for the contract to build a 550-660MW gas turbine plant in the town of Mornaguia, located 14km from the Tunisian capital of Tunis.

Contractors have until 24 September to submit bids for the tender.

The power project will consist of two gas turbines, each with a capacity of 280MW-330MW, with a combined capacity of 560MW-660MW. The plant is planned to be operational by May 2017.

Although Tunisia has enjoyed an electricity reserve surplus in recent years, demand is growing steadily. After minimal growth in 2011, due to the overthrow of the president and resulting political instability, peak demand growth recovered to grow by 9.8 per cent in 2012. Peak demand growth averaged 6.3 per cent between 2008 and 2012.

In Tunisia’s 12th four-year-plan, 2012-16, the government forecast that power demand growth would increase by 7.7 per cent a year due to proposed new megaprojects in the real estate sector, such as the Tunis Harbour and Sama Dubai schemes.

To meet power demand growth, installed capacity will have to rise to about 5,700MW by 2020, from the 4,095MW installed in 2013. However, the actual newbuild requirement is likely to be higher given that much of the existing power capacity is old and will have to be retired on account of age.

In addition to power projects, Tunisia is also pushing ahead with a number of desalination projects as part of efforts to expand and upgrade its utilities sector. In June, a joint venture of FCC Aqualia, a subsidiary of Spain’s FCC, and Spain’s Inima, a subsidiary of South Korea’s GS, was awarded contracts to build a desalination plant in Djerba, southeastern Tunisia.

Each partner’s contract is worth about $95m. The desalination plant will have a capacity of about 50 cubic metres a day (cm/d) of drinking water, which will supply the 150,000 population of Djerba. The client for the project is Sonede, Tunisia’s national water agency, and the plant is being jointly financed by German development bank, KfW, and the France’s Agency for Development.