Interview : Mohamed Arkab

What are Sonelgaz’s 2030 development objectives?

MOHAMED ARKAB: The evolution of the country’s energy needs has been anticipated through annually updated decennial studies to launch relevant programmes at the right time. Our $32bn investment through 2028 will achieve an installed generation capacity of 30 GW, and the construction of 22,000 km of transport networks and 106,000 km of distribution networks. In gas, the plan covers 5000 km of transmission lines and nearly 55,000 km of distribution networks, which will connect 2.3m customers and raise the gas service rate to 75%, among the highest in the world. This plan has been developed with the public authorities to meet the demand generated by development programmes initiated in industrialisation, agriculture and housing, as well as to prepare the transport and distribution networks for the 22,000 MW of renewable energy capacity planned for 2030. Likewise, while we already carry out remote management operation for all of our customers, we will work to modernise distribution, enhance service continuity, and extend remote management through the implementation of smart meters.

How can the expertise acquired in Algeria’s electrification be exported to other African countries?

ARKAB: Algeria has become a leader in Africa in electrification, with supply that covers more than 99% of 2.4m sq km. Electrification has helped industries work and created new ones as well. Indeed, the entire value chain of electricity and gas distribution has been integrated and created thousands of jobs, and leading equipment manufacturers have also set up plants in Algeria. This achievement has enabled a build-up of expertise in engineering and supervision, among other areas, and this model is regionally transposable. We aim to export our know-how and support the continent’s electrification, as nearly 600m people do not have access to power. Contacts have been established with African countries and firms, with capacity in both services and jobs, and we can offer the support of our manufacturers and solutions along the whole value chain.

How can national and international companies contribute to modernising the sector?

ARKAB: Modernisation is essentially linked to the introduction of smart processes and innovative solutions, and many private firms are already active in the sector, particularly in equipment and services. However, we continue to manufacture high-tech electrical equipment in partnership with international firms to ensure technology transfer. We also encourage domestic and foreign firms to invest in the manufacture of other electrical components and the construction and assembly of electrical works. Sonelgaz has initiated structuring projects in international partnerships to reduce our dependence on importing the equipment needed for subsidiary investments. Today we are associated with several manufacturing companies in diverse fields, including power plant equipment, large power transformers, heat recovery boilers and heat exchangers.

What is driving local energy diversification?

ARKAB: Fossil fuels are the primary source for 98% of our electricity, but the national programme aims to raise renewable energy’s share to 27% by 2030. This transition, which is crucial for Algeria’s future, will be part of an industrialisation plan that will create jobs and added value. Our subsidiary SKTM has implemented several projects, including one for wind power and about 20 photovoltaic power plants, that increase our renewable generation capacity to nearly 400 MW. Diversification must be economically viable, and some regions, such as those in the South, will see accelerated deployment, given the solar potential and opportunity to optimise the cost per KWh. Nationally, renewable energy capacity could be optimised through more efficient use of the existing grid and the development of robust regional interconnections in order to avoid double investment.