Tunisia’s Industry, Energy & Small & Medium Enterprises Ministry has indicated that prequalification for its proposed Elmed independent power project (IPP) will now be issued by the end of February or early March, following several months of delay.

The ministry originally planned to issue a request for prequalification for the Elmed project in mid-December. However, the deadline has been delayed while it finalises the bid documents.

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.