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Damir Kaletovic is a veteran investigative journalist covering Europe and the Middle East, and a senior consultant for Divergente Research.

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$50B Project Could Make Saudis Major Renewable Energy Exporters

Saudi Solar

Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih says the Kingdom has designs of becoming a “major exporter” of renewable energy, targeting the European market for starters.

“If the region gets connected to Europe for example, then solar [power] that is produced in Saudi Arabia can be exported all the way to Europe through a network,” Al-Kalif told the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.

“When it’s sunny in the region, it’s dark and cloudy sometimes in Europe… So we can be a major exporter. “

Riyadh plans to launch bidding soon for projects under the program.

“The projects are aimed to reach a capacity of 10 gigawatts by 2023 and will cost between US$30 and US$50 billion” Al-Falih said, adding that they will include solar and wind power projects. “Ten gigawatts is only the beginning,” he said.

Saudi Arabia is attempting to diversify its economy after it was hit hard by the oil-price crash.

To this end, Al-Falih also noted that there will be “significant investment” in nuclear energy, and that Saudi Arabia planned to export the power as well as the components and services.

Opposed to Al-Falih, energy expert Mohamed Ramady thinks that achieving a viable large-scale renewable energy application will be challenging and will take a significant amount of time, technical knowledge and coordination among various stakeholders.

Related: Saudi Arabia To Spend $50 Billion On Massive Solar Push

“The fact that there are many stakeholders in Saudi Arabia involved in the renewable energy program, such as KACST, KACARE, KAPSARC and KAUST among others ensures some duplication of effort and above all lack of specific focus for renewables,” said Ramady.

Al-Falih also indicated that Saudi Arabia and others are abiding by an OPEC deal that saw an oil production cut come into force at the beginning of this year. “Everybody I talk to is only committing, some of them have actually told me that they have exceeded their commitments,” he was quoted as saying.

According to US JP Morgan Bank, we won’t know exactly how much OPEC and non-OPEC countries have cut in terms of oil production until February, which is when this data is expected to be available.

Al-Falih refrained from speculating on oil prices now that production cuts have been made, but did note that there was an “element of uncertainty”.

By Damir Kaletovic for Oilprice.com

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  • Bob Nan on January 22 2017 said:
    First Saudi Arabia should fill its energy needs with Solar power. They generate 50% of their electricity from Oil, if this is replaced with Solar, then they can free that Oil for export and earn hard cash.

    Solar panels can be installed in every home and this will provide direct source of electricity to their homes and besides this the solar panels that block the sunlight from hitting the roof will reduce the power consumption in the first place.
  • t t on January 21 2017 said:
    One of the points Prince Mohammed mentioned in the 2030 vision press was the strength of the Arabian Peninsula’s heritage, mainly to empower the tourism industry. Nevertheless, other points were stressed out as the location of Saudi that could help in trading, and oil and power industry were key points too. True it is difficult to change, but I do not think a plan as inclusive as this would be a "pretending" transformation.
  • JHM on January 20 2017 said:
    The Saudis would do better to cultivate energy intensive domestic manufacturing, like aluminum smelting, to tap the value of solar and wind resources. The transmission cost to Europe will undermine the value of exporting electricity. There is a trade off between transmitting power and battery storage. Europe does not lack for solar or wind potential, so storage is sufficient to firm up these renewable resources. So as the cost of batteries relative to transmission lines comes down local storage will win.

    Saudi Arabia would do well to build out battery factories like Tesla's Gigafactory in Nevada. This is energy and mineral intensive and light on labor. This would at least hedge a bet about the long-term trade-off between transmission lines and battery storage. It also would hedge the disruption of electric vehicles to the oil industry.

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