Life in Saudi Arabia has long been defined by the oil that flows throughout the sovereign Arab state. For decades the oil that has been pumped out has paid not just for gleaming towers and giant shopping centres but has also allowed a government sector that employs the majority of working Saudis.
Now, however, one of the world’s largest oil exports is making the move to another natural resource that it has an unlimited supply, the sun! They are embarking on an ambitious effort to diversify their economy and reinvigorate growth by investing money for the first time into renewable energy. This is due to the fact that the Saudi Government wants to reshape its energy mix and to emerge as a global force for clean power alongside other countries such as China and Europe.
Reaching this ambitious goal is a big step for Saudi Arabia but the strategy they have put in place is finally making progress after lots of false starts.
Just this Month ACWA Power, a Saudi energy company, was commissioned to build a solar farm that would generate enough electricity to power around 40,000 homes. This project alone will cost around $300 million and create hundreds of jobs for the country as stated by Turki al-Shehri, the head of the state’s renewable energy program.
With this project underway, Saudi Arabia hopes to have invested up to $7 billion into seven new solar farms and one wind farm by the end of the year. The country is confident that these renewables will be able to provide as much as 10 percent of its power generation by the end of 2023.
Jenny Chase, an analyst at New Energy Finance said “All the big developers are watching Saudi, the country has made grand plans and announcements before, but failed to agree on the new way forward, however, this is the first step in creating what is widely expected to be a major market”
This is not surprising as Saudi Arabia has adopted ambitious targets previously for clean energy, however, no major projects ever came from it and little changed. Although this did change when Khaled al-Falih took over as energy minister in 2016 as Mr Falih made solar and wind power a priority for the country and set up a new unit last year to start the work.
Saudi Arabia, with its vast oil resources, seems like an unlikely candidate for renewable energy, however, the country’s location and climate meant it has the ideal landscape for solar and wind farms. With the new energy minister taking control of the move to renewable energy we hope it won’t be long before we can count Saudi Arabia as one of the big contributors to a sustainable future!