Tunisia’s Industry, Energy & Small & Medium Enterprises Ministry has said that it plans to issue a request for qualifications (RFQ) to build its proposed Elmed independent power project (IPP) by the end of April following several months of delay.

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).

When complete, the IPP will have capacity of 1,200MW. About 800MW of this will be exported to Italy through a 200-kilometre-long 400kV submarine cable to Sicily.

Societe Tunisienne de l’Electricite et du Gaz (Steg) will buy the remaining 400MW from the developers under a power-purchase agreement.

It will be up to the bidders to propose either gas or coal feedstock for the plant.

The successful bidder will develop the project on a build-own-operate basis under a 20 to 30-year concession. The power plant will begin operating in 2015 or 2016.

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

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.

According to Belhassan Shibu, director of the IPP group at the ministry, the 30 April deadline for the Bizerte project has not been pushed back further.