The Tunisian Industry and Technology Ministry has issued a request for qualification (RFQ) for the 1,200MW Elmed independent power project (IPP).

According to the RFQ, the scheme will comprise a thermal power plant along with a renewable energy component of at least 100MW.

The project will have a total capacity of 1,200MW of which 400MW will supply the local utility Societe Tunisienne de l’Electricite et du Gaz (Steg).

The remaining 800MW will be exported to Italy through an interconnection project, that is to be built by Steg in partnership with Italian company Terna.

The interconnection project, which is a subsea transmission line between Tunisia and Sicily, was launched in March 2007 when Italy’s then Economic Development Minister Pier Luigi Bersani and Tunisia’s Industry, Energy and Small and Medium EntreprisesMinister Afif Chelbi signed a joint declaration with the consortium and defined its mandate.

The planned commissioning date for both the Elmed power generation scheme and the interconnection project is 2016-17.

Sponsors interested in the project have until 26 July to respond to the request. The successful bidder will develop the project on a build-own-operate basis under a 20 to 30-year concession.

A total of 16 companies have expressed interest in developing the $1.5bn scheme.

The ministry originally planned to launch the prequalification for the Elmed project in December 2009, but this was pushed back so that the bid documents can be finalised (MEED 18:2:10).

The delays at the tender stage have postponed the time plan for the completion of the project. While the IPP was originally to come online in 2015-16, this has been revised to 2016-17.

Another Tunisian power project – the 350-500MW Bizerte IPP – has also faced delays. The ministry recently postponed the bid deadline from 29 January to 30 April, after requests from the potential bidders for more time.