Multiple and Contradictory Energy Transitions in Sfax (Tunisia)

Special Report: Energy and Cities in Developing Countries: Transitions in Question
By Hugo Bolzon, Laurence Rocher, Éric Verdeil


This article explores the complexity of the notion of energy transition, based on the example of Tunisia and of the city of Sfax, and connecting up two original dimensions. The first consists in joining the study of natural gas networks, which the Tunisian government is promoting, to the development of renewable energies. The second consists in observing at the local level the interplay of several coexisting energy systems: natural gas, GPL (bottled gas) and SWH (solar water heaters). This local-level analysis takes into consideration the characteristics of the urban fabric and household practices related to energy. The study follows several tracks. National-level logics, pertaining to choices regarding energy supply and tariffs, prove to be major determinants in the centralised context of Tunisia. The analysis of user practices around connection to natural gas networks and the use of alternative energy sources (SWH and GPL) highlights the competition effects between distinct solutions and the contradictions in the energy supply system. The paper shows that both the public authorities and utilities do not think about the territorial dimensions of energy transitions, even though there are important specificities at the local level.
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