Northman & Sterling

Solar Energy Projects in Saudi Arabia

As global warming and climate change continue to accelerate, many countries are shifting to renewable and sustainable energy and Saudi Arabia is one of them but its commitment has wavered over time. In 2012, Saudi Arabia embarked on an ambitious multi-billion-dollar solar energy projects intended to make the sun-drenched state the global epitome of renewable and clean energy. As the oil resource continue to decline in the country, solar energy proves a vitally important alternative in the sun-bathed country. Subsequently, the country developed the frameworks of KSA vision 2030 and the National Transformation 2020 Program that were intended to promote diversification of energy mix through renewable energy programs for sustained development.

Delayed Implementation
In 2012, Saudi Arabia announced a $ 109 billion solar program that was intended to produce 210 gigawatts of solar energy by 2030. The solar capacity of the project was 20% of today’s global renewable energy output and more than three times of the daily energy consumed in Saudi Arabia. Despite the ambitious plan, construction of the project has barely begun six years down the line.

Overambitious Plans
In 2016, Saudi Arabia entered into a partnership with Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp to invest more than $200 billion to build a 200 GW solar energy capacity that would be three times the country’s electricity production. The project is overambitious since it will require a three times increase in global solar panel production to generate two thirds of the global renewable energy. Saudi Arabia put the project on hold in 2018 throwing it further to a state of confusion.

Expanding Power Demand
Population increase and expansion of the economy are significantly stretching the power demand in Saudi Arabia. It is estimated that by 2030 the power demand in Saudi Arabia will be in excess of 120 GW. Therefore, if the 200 GW solar energy project will be implemented, Saudi Arabia will have a power surplus of more than 80 GW thus making the cost of electricity cheaper for both commercial and domestic consumption.

Lessen Burden on Oil Consumption
Saudi Arabia also burns about 1milion barrels of oil a day in electricity generation. The completion of the mega solar power projects would free up more than 300,000 barrels of oil per day and save up to $40 billion of oil and gas fuel per year. Additionally, the oil-dependent economy is hampered by the global fluctuation of oil prices and making it necessary to diversify its energy sources to cover up for the declining oil resource.

In sum, it is only the 0.3 GW Sakaka solar projects in Saudi Arabia that is operational. The ambitious mega projects hold significant promise in the utilization of clean and renewable energy but their implementation remains a thing to watch. It important for Saudi Arabia to make necessary adjustments based on the changing situations.