Tunisia suffers nationwide power cut

State electricity company STEG blames 'technical dysfunction' after explosion reported

The Rades C power plant in Tunisia. A nationwide power cut on Wednesday lasted for about two hours
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A power cut hit Tunisia on Wednesday, with electricity supply remaining off until early morning across the country.

The state electricity company blamed a “technical dysfunction” at the main power plant in the city of Rades, about 15km south-east of Tunis.

People reported hearing an explosion and seeing flames at the Rades power plant.

“The cause is purely technical and has nothing to do with any explosion,” Mounir Ghabri, director of communications at the Tunisian Electricity and Gas Company (STEG), told Radio Mosaique.

Power was restored gradually throughout the day, although some people were still reporting problems.

STEG said it was still working on stabilising its generators and distribution network.

Interior Minister Kamel Feki visited the power plant in Rades to investigate the cause of the blackout, the ministry said.

The ministry said the security situation was stable and that its security units continue to work to “preserve public security and ensure the protection of citizens and public and private property”.

Power cuts are rare in the country, where electricity coverage is 100 per cent, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The capital Tunis was hit by a major power cut in 2014.

Tunisia generates 97 per cent of its electricity from non-renewable sources, primarily oil and gas, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Last year, the European Commission approved plans to construct an underwater power line to transport clean energy from Tunisia to Italy.

EU officials have also said they aim to strengthen the green hydrogen trade between Tunisia and Europe.

A plan to produce green hydrogen from solar and desalinated water energy in Tunisia, to be sent to Europe through gas pipelines, is awaiting regulatory approval.

STEG has been struggling with the impact of the economic crisis in Tunisia, where electricity is subsidised for all citizens and many fail to pay their bills.

The company's debt of more 3.6 billion dinars ($1.15 billion) has affected its capacity to maintain and modernise the network and placed it at risk of bankruptcy.

Updated: September 20, 2023, 11:23 AM