* Libya close to issuing two tenders for solar plants
* Plans to set up electricity regulatory authority
By Francesco Guarascio and Teddy Nykiel
BRUSSELS, April 11 Libya is nearly ready to
issue tenders for two new solar plants and aims to get a fifth
of its power from renewable sources by 2020, while its sunshine
could one day supply all of Europe, its electricity minister
Until now, the member country of the Organization of the
Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has relied almost entirely
on its oil and gas reserves for its energy needs.
"In 20 to 30 years Libya may run out of oil, therefore we
plan to replace it with renewables," Electricity Minister Ali
Mohammed Muhairiq told a Brussels conference on sustainable
energy on Thursday.
"My projection is 20 percent (renewable electricity) by
2020, mainly through solar energy," he told Reuters on the
sidelines of the conference.
Calling for international investors to supplement Libyan
cash, he said: "I think if we just used less than 5 percent of
the Libyan desert, annually it could power the whole of Europe."
He said Libya also planned to set up an electricity
regulatory authority by the end of the year.
The country is still rebuilding infrastructure and
institutions as it recovers from civil war.
The European Commission has backed the idea of working with
north African nations to develop their vast wind and solar
potential and eventually connect it to the European grid.
It has given support to Desertec, a German consortium set up
in 2009, which envisages Europe will import up to a fifth of its
electricity from solar and wind parks in North Africa and the
Middle East by 2050.
Algeria, another north African OPEC nation, was also
represented at Thursday's conference and officials say it is
aiming for ambitious levels of renewable power.
Noureddine Boutarfa, CEO of Algeria's state-owned utility
Sonelgaz, said the country aspired to get 40 percent of its
electricity from renewable sources, chiefly solar, by 2030.
Libya and Algeria are relatively small oil producers within
OPEC, but even the biggest, Saudi Arabia, is developing solar
power. Renewable energy can help the country maximise its
lucrative oil exports by reducing the amount of oil it burns
domestically to generate electricity.
(Writing by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Anthony Barker)