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TuNur Solar Park, Tunisia


TuNur solar project in Tunisia is a joint venture between Nur Energy a solar plant developer based in the UK and a group of Maltese and Tunisian investors in the oil and gas sector. In July 2017, a request for authorization was filed to the Tunisian Ministry of Energy, Mines and Renewable Energy for an export-oriented solar project with a capacity of around 4.5 GW. [1] Activists have branded this project as another renewable energy grab or what has been termed ‘Green Grabbing’: the appropriation of land and resources for purportedly environmental ends. This project in particular involves massive land grabs (10,000 hectares) as well as extensive water usage to clean and cool the panels in arid and semi-arid regions to export energy to the UK and Europe. Given that Tunisia depends on its neighbor Algeria for its energy needs and faces increasingly frequent power cuts, activists claim that it would be outrageous and unjust to prioritize exports over the urgent needs of local people. [1] According to Med Dhia Hammami, a Tunisian investigative journalist working in the energy sector, the project seeks to take advantage of new Tunisian legislation allowing the liberalization of green energy production and distribution and opening the way to the direct export of electricity by private companies. [5] The EU is already considering awarding priority status to an underwater cable linking Tunisia with Italy, and TuNur expects construction work on a €5bn plant to begin by 2019 in southwest Tunisia. The resulting solar complex would sprawl over an area three times the size of Manhattan, harnessing the power of the Saharan sun with several towers up to 200m tall. 

According to Kevin Sara, TuNur’s CEO, the people in the region were supportive of the project which will create around 20,000 jobs and helping in redressing the inequality between Tunisia’s wealthier coastal cities and the underdeveloped interior. With Mohamed Larbi Ben Said of the collective who owns the land stating that “This project provides the economic development necessary for our region and our community; it gives true value to quasi-desert lands in an environmentally sustainable way.” [4][2] 

According to Hamza Hamouchene an Algerian campaigner, writer, researcher, and a founding member of the London-based Algeria Solidarity Campaign (ASC), and Environmental Justice North Africa (EJNA): “Projects like TuNur deny local people control and access to their land, rob them of resources and concentrate the value created in the hands of domestic and foreign predatory elites and private companies.” He considers that the Arab uprisings that started in Tunisia in 2010 were about bread, freedom, social justice and national dignity and that projects like TuNur stand in stark contradiction with these demands. To implement just and truly green projects, which provide for the future of people and the planet, “nature must be taken back from the clutches of big capital and recast the debate around justice, popular sovereignty and the collective good. The priority must be energy autonomy for local communities and a radical democracy that takes precedence over the logic of a market that sees our land and our livelihoods as commodities to be sold to the highest bidder.” [1] Similar initiatives in Tunisia have failed before. In fact, the $400 bn Desertec initiative failed back in 2013. Big engineering-focused ‘solutions’ like Desertec, TuNur and Ouarzazate (in Morocco) tend to present climate change as a shared problem with no political or socio-economic context. North Africa is one of the regions hardest hit by global warming, with water supplies in the area being particularly affected. The spread of solar energy initiatives that further plunder these increasingly-scarce water resources would be a great injustice. [1][2][3] 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:TuNur Solar Park, Tunisia
State or province:Kebili Governorate
Location of conflict:Rjim Maatoug
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Large-scale solar plants
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

As a first stage, the project consists of a modular 250MW CSP Tower plant with molten salt storage in Rjim Maatoug, Southern Tunisia, with a dedicated 250MW HVDC transmission line from the site in Tunisia, across Tunisia, through the Mediterranean Sea, landing in Malta. Once landed in Malta the power will be transported to offtakers in mainland Europe through the existing Malta-Sicily interconnector.

Phase 2 of the project consists of modular 2,250MW CSP Tower plant with molten salt storage on the same site in Rjim Maatoug, Southern Tunisia with a dedicated 2,000MW HVDC transmission line from the site, across Tunisia, through the Strait of Sicily, East of Sardinia and the Tyrrhenian Sea, landing North of Rome, Italy. Once landed in Italy power will be transported to offtakers across Europe.

Project area:25,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project5,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:07/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Nur Energie from United Kingdom - Main Shareholder
Glory Clean Energy from France
Zammit Group from Malta - Main Shareholder
Relevant government actors:Tunisian Ministry of Energy, Mines and Renewable Energy
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Environmental Justice North Africa:

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Writers, Researchers
Forms of mobilization:Media based activism/alternative media


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Specific alternatives are not proposed other than some of the energy produced be used for local demand.
The staunch opponents of this project completely reject it considering that such initiatives deny local people control and access to their land, rob them of resources and concentrate the value created in the hands of domestic and foreign predatory elites and private companies.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The project is under negotiation between Nur Energy and the Tunisian government and will likely be accepted bar any unforeseen issues.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[5] - The Struggle for Energy Democracy in the Maghreb

[1] - Another case of energy colonialism: Tunisia’s Tunur solar project

[2] - Huge Tunisian solar park hopes to provide Saharan power to Europe

[3] - Desert solar power partners Desertec Foundation and Dii split up

[4] - Giant Tunisian desert solar project aims to power EU

Meta information

Contributor:Christophe Maroun - [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3326



Potential Export Routes

Rejim Maatoug - Location of the project