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Saudi Wealth Fund: $200 Billion Solar Project Hasn’t Been Shelved

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has rejected a report from the Wall Street Journal that quoted Saudi government sources as saying a US$200-billion solar power project has been shelved, the Saudi Press Agency—the official government news outlet in the Kingdom—said, quoting a spokesman for the fund.

“The Public Investment Fund continues to work with the SoftBank Vision Fund, and other parties, on a number of large-scale, multi-billion dollar projects relating to the solar industry, which will be announced in due course,” the spokesman said.

He added “The announcement in March 2018 clearly stated that this includes solar generation projects and joint plans to develop large-scale solar panels manufacturing facilities in Saudi Arabia for solar power generation. This will be complemented by R&D and training components. These plans to develop a leading champion for the industry remain on-track and in-line with the timeline that would be anticipated for projects of this scale and ambition.”

Yet, the news media reported this March, when the project was announced, were rather more specific than what the PIF spokesman said in the statement. The parameters of the US$200-billion undertaking included total installed capacity of 200 GW, to be spread across the country, with the construction to take until 2030. It would have indeed created a local solar panel manufacturing industry and some 100,000 jobs.

The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported, citing Riyadh sources, that no work was being done on the huge project and that more practical measures to shift the Kingdom to more renewable power generation would be announced later this month.

The solar project, along with the NEOM smart city project, which has a price tag of US$500 billion, are two of the biggest projects making up the Vision 2030 economic reform program that aims to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on crude oil for income.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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