Saudi Arabia aims to become the Germany of renewable energy

Saudi Arabia wants to emulate Germany’s success with renewable energy as well as pioneer the production of hydrogen.

“We will be another Germany when it comes to renewables,” Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Wednesday at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. “We will be pioneering.”

The kingdom is working with many countries on green and blue hydrogen projects and those to capture carbon emissions, he said.

The green version of the fuel, which produces only water vapor when burned, is made with renewable energy, typically solar and wind power. The blue version is usually produced from natural gas, with the greenhouse gas emissions being captured so they can’t escape into the atmosphere.

While hydrogen is seen as crucial for the transition from oil and gas to cleaner fuels, the technology to make it is still comparatively expensive.

Prince Abdulaziz said Saudi Arabia planned to convert half its power sector to gas, while the remainder would be fueled by renewable energy. Saudi Arabia is committed to net-zero emissions, he said.

Germany, a country not known for sunny weather, has become one of the world’s biggest producers of solar energy, largely thanks to heavy government subsidies that helped spur the industry.


How Saudi Arabia is transitioning from fossil fuel hub to solar power

Saudi Arabia has needed a change of approach towards energy consumption and production for many years.

Despite having a population of just over 30 million people, the Kingdom is the largest oil consumer for electricity generation on the planet, where the fuel makes up roughly 42 percent of the Kingdom’s electricity mix. With its heavy dependence on oil, it’s no secret that significant modernization is needed to move away from this dependence.

Exploring alternative methods of generating electricity has become a top priority, as demonstrated by the ambitious Vision 2030, which amongst other reforms set the goal of producing 60GW of renewable energy by 2030. Alongside this program, there have been important announcements in terms of the regulatory framework, and the implementation of government-funded projects, which are hugely beneficial for the fruition of the solar energy market.

These developments, along with rapidly growing local industrial clusters across the country, have laid the foundations for solar energy to flourish to a potentially globally-leading level.

The Cost Curve

Saudi Arabia’s oil revenue in the first half of this year was 35 percent lower than last year, and the economy contracted 7 percent year-on-year in the second quarter. The government heavily subsidizes the electricity tariff, with a total fossil fuel incentives as high as $9.8bn causing lower electricity generation costs. A continued strain on the government budget in a low-price oil environment puts such subsidies under pressure.

On the other hand, the cost of solar energy has become remarkably low, providing an opportunity for more affordable rates in comparison to those of the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC). Given that there is a wealth of solar contracting companies and a growing suite of local manufacturing and assembly facilities, the Kingdom has the potential to become a prosperous hub for solar power development.

Vision 2030 and Government-Funded Projects

In 2016, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman announced the initial details of Vision 2030, a plan to reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on oil through economic and social reform centered around the idea of a burgeoning private sector. Its announcement was a critical cornerstone for the development of solar energy, and even though the targets have shifted somewhat, the current goal is to deploy 9.5GW of wind and solar energy capacity by 2023.

To achieve this, Saudi Arabia’s Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) announced in 2019 that it would be issuing tenders for 11 projects across the country, including a solar park in Makkah with a capacity of 600MW. This announcement followed the installation of the 300MW Sakaka power station, which was the first utility-scale renewable energy project to be created in the country, and was successfully connected with the national grid in November last year.

Local Content Requirement and a New Regulatory Framework

Those projects pave the way for a solar energy value chain to grow in local clusters and industrial bases across the country, with a local content requirement serving as a catalyst. Under this regulation, 30 percent of the resources required to complete the project must be sourced locally, creating demand for employees, finance, and components locally.

In addition, a new regulatory framework announced by the Electricity & Cogeneration Regulatory Authority (ECRA) could have a positive impact on the Kingdom’s solar commercial and industrial (C&I) sector. One of the key elements of the framework is that exported electricity is planned to be credited to the monthly electricity bill of the solar powered facility owner.

A Burgeoning Market Size

The market size of solar energy in Saudi Arabia is expected to increase significantly over the next decade. This can be demonstrated with data that Sirius Energy has collected, estimating the potential market size to be 10GW of rooftop solar across the Kingdom, of which 3GW are expected to convert over the next 8 to 10 years – this would translate roughly into 3bn dollars’ worth of assets. As more industrial clusters are developed and established, the power demand for these regions will also increase.

The combination of ambitious commitment to renewable energy as set out by Vision 2030, the advances in regulatory policies and the large forecasted demand of both utility-scale and rooftop solar projects have laid the foundation for the Kingdom to take advantage of the huge expanses of open desert and utilize solar energy to a potentially unforeseen level. Saudi Arabia is transitioning from drilling the depths of the earth to looking up to the sun in a new search for power.


Saudi Arabia meeting water scarcity challenge with innovation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Water Company (NWC) this month signed a $5.36 million two-year contract with a French utilities company to reduce the amount of water lost during the Kingdom’s water production process, known as non-revenue water in the industry.

This is a positive step forward, as a report released late last year by global consultancy firm Oliver Wyman found that while water usage is rising, supply is diminishing. The study estimated that 25 percent of the world’s population lives in areas that suffer extremely high water stress, and by 2050 that portion of the population will more than double.

“With water resources becoming increasingly scarce globally, the Middle East region is addressing the critical issues, with governments increasingly adopting new strategies for balancing their scarce water resources and growing demand for fresh water,” said Bruno Sousa, a partner in the Energy Practice at Oliver Wyman.

“This has led some countries in the Middle East to turn to options such as desalination and treatment, and reuse of wastewater,” he added.

Saudi Arabia is the third biggest consumer of water per capita in the world, after the US and Canada. The Kingdom has implemented a series of measures to rationalize water consumption as part of its Vision 2030 program, with the aim of reducing consumption by 24 percent in 2021 and by up to 43 percent by the end of the decade.

Saudi chemical company SABIC in 2019 committed to reducing its energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and water usage intensity by 25 percent by 2025, from 2010 levels.

As part of this drive to address this issue, the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has developed a unified water sector reference framework that includes a comprehensive water strategy that integrates national water sector trends, policies, legislation and practices with the main objective of addressing these key challenges and restructuring the sector.

Dr. Ibrahim Aref, director of the rehabilitation of agricultural terraces initiative at the ministry, told Arab News that most of the Arabian Peninsula’s water resources comes from rainfall. Yet, rainfall in the Kingdom, especially in the center of the Arabian Peninsula, is very weak compared to any other place in the world, thus causing water scarcity.

Aref pointed out that even though the Arabian Peninsula in general experiences dry seasons that last for two, four or up to seven years, the Kingdom has been blessed with a strong economy and therefore has been able to work on many solutions that might be unusual elsewhere in the world, such as desalination.

According to Oliver Wyman’s Sousa, desalination can be achieved through two main technologies: Thermal and electric.

He told Arab News that thermal technology consists of heating water and collecting the resulting evaporated pure water. “This is a very energy-intensive process, requiring both electricity and thermal energy to heat the water. As part of the process, electricity is also generated that can be injected into the electric grid.

“Electric consists mainly in reverse osmosis, where water is forced through membranes that remove salt … it is also an energy-intensive process, but only requires electricity to run,” he said.

“Although thermal desalination is still used, reverse osmosis is the mainstream technology, adopted mainly because of lower costs (including with energy) and a higher rate of potable water conversion from seawater,” he added.

Independent of the technology used, Sousa said that the desalination process will result in potable water and a high-concentrated saline effluent (brine), that requires disposal.

“Brine is commonly discharged back to the ocean, in case of seawater desalination, but other applications can be applied, such as use in agriculture in saline-tolerant crops, making building materials, or further treatment can be done to recover valuable products in the brine, including sodium, lithium and bromine.”

Sousa said that new technology has been developed over the years to minimize the environmental impact of desalination.

Spanish firm Acciona last year completed the construction of the Al-Khobar I desalination plant in Saudi Arabia, and since Dec. 26, it has produced 210,000 cubic meters of drinking water per day, which will supply a population of 350,000. It is one of the biggest desalination plants in Saudi Arabia in terms of capacity.

Acciona completed the testing program and the commissioning of the plant remotely through a team in Madrid, using digital twin technology.

According to Julio de la Rosa, Acciona Middle East director for water solutions, a digital twin is a full virtual model of a process, product or service with the capacity to replicate with accuracy what outcome will be obtained under certain conditions.

“This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations,” he added.

He said that the technology allowed the commissioning of the plant to remain on schedule in spite of the travel restrictions in force because of the pandemic.

“Using advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence, the desalination plant’s start-up equipment, control system programs, water and electrical circuits were tested and put into operation with remote supervision,” la Rosa said.

He believes that artificial intelligence and robotics has a lot of potential applications within the desalination sector. “Perhaps repetitive, checkup or inspection tasks can be developed by robots designed for industrial environments,” he said.

Desalination is not the only way the Kingdom is looking to address the issue of water shortages. One of the largest programs being undertaken by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture is the rehabilitation of agricultural terraces in the southwest of the Kingdom.

The project aims to increase the efficiency of water use for agricultural purposes and to rely on renewable sources that contribute to food security, rural development and increased productivity of strategic crops.

Aref, who is in charge of the project, said rainfall was the focus of attention. “This is one of the important means in the field of agriculture and water security. We take advantage of every drop that falls from the sky … to make sure that farmers continue to farm and families can live.”

The Oliver Wyman report said that addressing this issue has direct economic benefits and can impact gross domestic product by up to 6 percent, making initiatives such as the Suez and Acciona deals ever more important.


China, Saudi Arabia ink US $58.2m deal for water projects

China and Saudi Arabia have signed two financial agreements worth US $58.2m to fund implementation of several drinking water projects in Burkina Faso.

According to the agreement between the three countries, the Exim Bank of China will provide close to US$ 58m in the form of a concessional loan to strengthen the drinking water supply system of the cities of Tenkodogo, Garango, Bittou, and Bagré.

This financing will enable the construction of a drinking water plant with a capacity of 25,000 m3 per day by the Chinese Construction Engineering Company (CGCOC). The plant’s output will be stored in four reservoirs, then conveyed to the population through a distribution center that will be built in Tenkodogo, the capital of the Boulgou province and the country’s Centre-East region.

Well Drilling and Rural Development Programme

The project is scheduled to be completed within a period of 30 months from the day the construction works begin. Saudi Arabia on the other hand has agreed to provide US$ 365,934 that will be used by Projects House Engineering Consultancy and EDS International for the preparation and analysis of the tender documents, as well as for carrying out the studies and supervising all the work under Phase 5 of the Saudi Arabian Well Drilling and Rural Development Programme in Africa (PSFA).

Scheduled to run for 48 months, the PSFA will see 100 boreholes drilled and equipped with human-powered pumps and 10 drinking water supply systems (AEP) for the benefit of 65,000 people. The entire program is 93.64% financed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for an amount of over US $5.6m.

Water supply and sanitation in Burkina Faso are characterized by high access to water supply in urban areas, while access to an at least basic water sources in rural areas – where three quarters of the population live – remains relatively low. An estimated one third of water facilities in rural areas are out of service because of a lack of maintenance. Access to at least basic sanitation lags significantly behind access to water supply.


Saudi Arabia’s $16b water pipeline expansion is one big privatisation play in making

Dubai: For its privatization plans, Saudi Arabia is not thinking – or taking – half-measures.

If anyone needs confirmation, check out the kingdom’s utility sector… and specifically, the water side of it.

“All desalination plants will become standalone production companies as part of our privatization strategy,” said Abdullah Bin Ibrahim Al-Abdlkareem, Governor of Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) and Chairman of newly formed Water Transmission and Technologies Co. (WTTC).

“This, along with the broader strategy, presents many benefits. These include improving the Kingdom’s ability to attract investors, boosting private sector participation, creating a competitive environment, and reducing costs.”

The formation of WTTC in November would thus be the first step in kicking the privatization play into a higher gear. In one stroke, the entity was made responsible for more than 8,400 kilometres of transmission, distribution and water storage systems, which would handle 7 million cubic metres of desalinated water every day across the country.

If one thought 8,400 kilometres of water pipeline was substantial, it doesn’t end there…

“We’re planning to add approximately 3,500 kilometres of new transmission lines that will distribute more than 4 million cubic metres per day of desalinated water,” said Abdullah Bin Ibrahim Al-Abdlkareem.

“These developments will represent an investment in hard infrastructure totaling around 60 billion riyals ($16 billion). A significant portion of the capital funding will come from the public-private partnerships we’re forging.”

Getting it IPO ready

So, where does the privatization part kick in? Or, more to the point, when?

“The government fully owns WTTC,” the official added. “However, after ensuring financial stability and the compatibility of plans with the need for expansion, we believe WTTC will be well placed to be offered for IPO.

“The company is represented by the Supervisory Committee for Privatization of the Environment. It will play a critical role in realizing the national water transformation programme’s strategic goals… while also bringing further efficiency to the sector and greater coherence between existing and future stakeholders.”

Saudi Arabia is planning to use its power and water resources into privatisation mode. Creating a new company to handle water transmission and storage is a step towards that goal. Image Credit: Reuters

Holds the key

Saudi Arabia believes a full-scale opening up of various sectors, backed up by privatization steps, will be central to reviving an economy that ears scars from the COVID-19 breakout. It’s wealth fund is already committing to multi-billion dollar commitments into the domestic economy in the next two to three years.

Within this space, it will be relatively straight-forward to convince potential investors of the merits in picking up stakes in the utility sector. With its population of 34 million, there definitely is a captive audience.


What Saudi Arabia will be spending to add another 3,500 kilometres to its existing water transmission lines.

Better as standalone

According to Al-Abdlkareem, setting up a standalone water transmission company makes sense rather than club it with desalination assets.

“The Water Transmission & Technologies Company is one of the national water strategy’s central pieces,” he said. “It stands alone as part of a water sector currently going through a period of restructuring.

“We chose to segment our transmission operations into a standalone company because we judged this to be the most effective structure for meeting WTTCO’s goals as a commercialized entity.

“In short, those goals are to maximize the use of assets and achieve greater spending efficiency while decreasing supply chain costs.”


The future of solar power is getting brighter in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: In a move towards a cleaner and more energy-sustainable future for Saudi Arabia, a green installation at this year’s Dakar Rally’s NEOM bivouac has set the stage for ramping up solar energy provisions across the Kingdom.
Desert Technologies, a Saudi solar energy firm, in cooperation with the French company Green Corp Konnection, set up two solar energy containers dubbed “Sahara,” that generated 62 kilowatts of power to partially operate NEOM’s assembly area for rally drivers. This new venture will not only be a job creator, but will also pave way for marketing Saudi-made solar panels.


Desert Technologies, a Saudi solar energy firm, in cooperation with the French company Green Corp Konnection, set up two solar energy containers dubbed “Sahara,” that generated 62 kilowatts of power to partially operate NEOM’s assembly area for rally drivers.

“The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 will create unprecedented jobs for engineers and clean alternative energy that will benefit everyone,” said Khaled Ahmed Sharbatly, the executive partner of Desert Technologies. “We work through the company’s factory in Jeddah to collect and market solar panels produced in Saudi Arabia for use in exhibitions, schools, mosques, factories, warehouses and soon homes all over the Kingdom to reduce the kilowatt price for companies and individuals.”
Operating in complete silence — in comparison with diesel generators — the portable Sahara solar containers at NEOM, one 20 feet in length and the other 40 feet, were able to provide clean energy day and night, thanks to their pack of energy storage batteries.
Dr. Musaed Al-Assaf, vice chairman of the Desert Technologies Company, said that this industry has a safer and more sustainable environmental approach to producing electricity that contributes to an environmental revolution, creating a sustainable industry within Saudi Arabia and preparing for an innovative and regionally competitive local industry.


Saudi Arabia’s Marafiq and partners secure $280m to build sewage plant in Jeddah

Saudi Water Partnership Company and a consortium including Marafiq, Veolia and Amwal Khaleejiah secured financing worth $280 million (Dh1.03 billion) to build a sewage treatment plant in Jeddah.

The project, Jeddah Airport 2 ISTP, is being developed through a public-private partnership agreement between Saudi Water Partnership and the consortium, which will build, own and operate the facility under a 25-year deal, Marafiq said in a statement on Sunday, before transferring it back to the public sector.

Funding has been structured as non-recourse project finance, sourced from a combination of senior project finance loans by the National Commercial Bank and equity contributions from shareholders, it added.

“The successful financial closing of Jeddah Airport 2 ISTP, shows the robustness and the efficiency of private-public-partnerships and we expect to see more of these type of projects as part of the Vision 2030,” SWPC’s chief ececutive, Khaled Al-Qureshi said.

The consortium has also established an entity called the Jeddah Althaniya Water company, which will be responsible for the plant’s operation. Once the first phase of construction is complete by the end of January 2023, it will treat 300,000 cubic metres of water per day. Stage two might add another 200,000 cubic metres per day, if the plant exceeds specific utilisation rates.

“All the principles of the circular economy will be put in place, allowing the reduction of sludge and enhancing the beneficial reuse of recycled water for irrigation or industrial use,” said Sébastien Chauvin, chief executive of Veolia.

Marafiq, which is also known as Power and Water Utility Company for Jubail and Yanbu, is owned by the the Royal Commission for Jubal and Yanbu, the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Aramco and Sabic.


Saudi Arabia increases supply of water to over 9 million m³ amid coronavirus

  • The company added that all water production stations and water supply systems are ready to implement a plan to manage an increase in demand for water if this is deemed necessary

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Water Company announced on Saturday that it will increase its supply of water to 9.7 million m³ daily to deal with increased demand as citizens and residents stay at home in the Kingdom to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The company added that all water production stations and water supply systems across the Kingdom are operating normally and are ready to implement a plan to manage an increase in demand for water if this is deemed necessary.
It also said that although the company’s customer service centers have been closed since March 16, customers could access all services online around the clock at


Saudi Arabia carried out 27 water, sanitation projects in Yemen worth nearly $194m

Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — Saudi Arabia through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has focused on providing the people of Yemeni their essential requirements of life, including water supply and environmental sanitation projects as part of its continued efforts to help its Arab neighbor.
Since its establishment in May 2015, KSrelief has worked and cooperated with international relief institutions and agencies and implemented 27 projects in Yemen and abroad at a cost of nearly $194 million, according to a report carried by Saudi Press Agency.
The projects included the implementation of water supply and environmental sanitation in Yemeni Governorates and digging two water wells for Yemeni refugees in Djibouti, in addition to a project to support water, sterilization and sanitation services to displaced people in Sanaa, Taiz, Aden and Lahij.
KSrelief has also implemented a project to promote and support water supply, sterilization and environmental sanitation in most affected areas in Yemen as well as a dengue fever control project in Yemeni Governorates.
Saudi Arabia continues to support, assist the Yemeni people and implement urgent response plan to combat and eradicate the cholera epidemic in seven Yemeni Governorates. It has also worked on providing drinking and using water in most needy regions according to international standards for humanitarian interventions.


Saudi Arabia launches new phase to build up solar power capacity

Renewable Energy Project Development Office of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy has issued the request for qualifications for round three of solar plan

The Renewable Energy Project Development Office of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy has issued the request for qualifications (RFQ) for round three of its plan to build up solar power capacity in the kingdom.
The third round of the National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) is comprised of four solar PV projects with a combined generation capacity of 1,200MW.
Round three projects will be divided into two categories – Category A which target smaller companies, includes Layla 80MW solar PV and Wadi Al Dawaser 120MW solar PV projects, while Category B includes Saad 300MW solar PV and Ar Rass 700MW solar PV projects.

Faisal Alyemni, head of Renewable Energy Projects Development Office said that projects within round three will carry a minimum requirement of 17 percent local content in a bid to increase the value-added contribution of products and services in the national economy.

Launched in 2017, REPDO tendered the first round of renewable energy projects which included Sakaka 300MW solar PV project, now connected to the national electricity grid, and Dumat Al Jandal 400MW wind project, currently under construction.
In July 2019, REPDO launched round two of the NREP which comprised of six solar PV projects amounting to 1,470MW. The deadline for receiving proposals for round two projects is January 20 and February 3 for categories B and A respectively.
The RFQ window for the round three projects closes on February 6, when deadline for statement of qualifications (SOQ) submissions occurs.