Saudi Arabia seeks £40bn renewable energy investment to turn oil-producing country into a 'solar powerhouse'

'Saudi Arabia wants to balance economic needs against environmental goals as it has considerable solar power potential and is eager to reduce its use of fossil fuels'

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The Independent Online

Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s biggest oil producers, is seeking up to $50bn (about £40.1bn) of investment in solar and wind energy, while also drawing up plans for the country’s first nuclear power stations.

Oil minister Khalid al-Falih, who has spoken of his ambition to turn the petrochemical state into a “solar powerhouse”, said they would start issuing tenders for major renewable projects “within weeks”, the Financial Times reported.

The decision comes amid a slump in oil revenues that has forced the Government to drawn on more than $100bn of its reserves and increasing concern that climate change is becoming a more pressing problem.

Mr Falih said the tenders would be worth between $30bn and $50bn by 2030.

Speaking earlier this month, he said: “We are committed to expanding renewables, we are committed to turning Saudi Arabia into a solar powerhouse.”

John Sfakianakis, economic research director at the Gulf Research Centre, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia was currently using a lot of fossil fuels but could make a lot of energy from its abundant sunshine.

“Saudi Arabia wants to balance economic needs against environmental goals as it has considerable solar power potential and is eager to reduce its use of fossil fuels,” he said. 

“The country ranks high in per capita greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emissions.”

Mr Sfakianakis said the Saudi economy could benefit from the plan to significantly increase renewables by 2030.

“By creating an entirely new sector for the economy, jobs will be generated as it moves into more advanced areas of the production chain,” he said.

“Job creation for Saudis and a cleaner environment are important goals of Vision 2030 for better quality of life values.”

Mr Falih said the renewable programme would ultimately produce about 10GW of power while it was hoped two new nuclear power plants would add 2.8GW.

However energy expert Mohamed Ramady said the Saudi government would have to take a view on whether nuclear power, which creates almost no carbon emissions, had a future.

“If nuclear energy option is the preferred option, then Saudi Arabia has to assess whether current leaders using such energy like France, South Korea and Finland are still committed to this renewable energy source in the long term and whether their technology transfer and nuclear waste programs can be safely transferred,” he told Arab News.

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