Make no small plans. That seems to be the logic among the leaders of Algeria.
For some perspective, I just wrote about the corporate behemoth Amazon, which hopes to get to 100% renewable electricity by 2025 (firm target of 2030) and has a whopping total of 31 utility-scale wind and solar power plants built or planned that add up to 2,900 MW of total power capacity. That’s 2.3 gigawatts (GW). Algeria is talking about building 4 gigawatts of solar power capacity in 5 years. That’s a pretty stunning target.
Algeria does have a population of 44 million, making it the 32nd most populous country in the world. It also has ample sunshine. Nonetheless, 4 GW means increasing the country’s solar power capacity 10 times over, and that solar power capacity hasn’t changed much in the past 3 years.
So, how does Algeria plan to do it? With a quick, large infusion of cash money.
“The so-called TAFOUK1 project, the work of the Energy Ministry, foresees the investment of US$3.2–3.6 billion to deploy the 4GW of solar over the five-year period,” pv-tech reports.
But how serious is the government? Apparently, very. “The venture lies ‘at the heart’ of Algeria’s broader economic ambitions for the next few years, the government said.”
Naturally, a project like this is sure to make a lot of Algerians happy. As we’ve tried to point out for years, solar energy infrastructure projects are some of the best job creators out there, and these are health-infusing, well paying, noble jobs that clean up the air for other citizens and improve the host location’s quality of life. Any government that pumps money into big solar power initiatives is sure to benefit from a boost in public sentiment and approval. In this case, the 4 GW solar PV initiative is expected to create 56,000 jobs in the construction phase, and 2,000 later on for operations.
The importance of energy independence came to mind as another potential reason for the grand scheme, but it appears the Algerian government has a bigger vision than that.
“In addition to satisfying national energy demand and preserving our fossil resources, the completion of this project would allow us to position ourselves on the international market, via the export of electricity at a competitive price, as well as the export know-how,” an official statement from Algerian prime minister Abdelaziz Djerad added.
Prior to 2019, Algeria was essentially controlled by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika — for about two decades. Toward the end of that time, the country did set a target of 22 GW of green energy by 2030. However, as noted above, not much had been achieved.
One of the interesting things about this, as well, is that the country is very much a fossil fuel country. Oil and gas account for “about 70% of total budget receipts. … Oil and gas export earnings made up more than 97% of total exports.” That may make the solar power push seem odd, but it actually makes a lot of financial sense to diversify the economy, and particularly the energy sector, as quickly as possible and shift income from oil and gas sales into longer-term, more stable investment mechanisms like solar farms. Oil demand is already dropping quite a bit globally, and we saw what happened to oil prices this year. Who knows where the industry will be in 2–3 years, or 5–7 years?
In any case, investing in solar helps so many things at once, that it seems logical — not extreme — for any country to make big solar power plans like Algeria is making. It creates jobs, offers a nice and secure long-term return on the investment, cleans the air and thus benefits public health, and helps stop global heating. A 4 gigawatt solar power plan may seem big and bold, but it just makes sense.
Top image via Google Maps
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