“We want to turn the kingdom into the energy powerhouse, not just conventional oil and gas, which we will continue to grow, but also wind, solar, nuclear energy. In the future, all forms of energy, hopefully, will be utilized in Saudi Arabia. We want to turn the kingdom into an exporter of these diverse energies, including green energy.” To say it was Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Khalid Falih, at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s biggest oil producers and now is seeking up to $50 billion of investment in solar and wind energy, while also drawing up plans for the country’s first nuclear power stations.
Saudi Arabia is attempting to diversify its economy after it was hit hard by the oil-price crash. An Opec deal saw an oil production cut come into force at the beginning of this year, something Al-Falih indicated was being adhered to.
Power demand in the desert kingdom is growing 8% annually, forcing state-run Saudi Electricity, the Gulf’s largest utility company, to spend billions of dollars on projects to add capacity.
The kingdom produces very little renewable energy, representing less than 1% of the total produced, but under an economic reform program approved by King Salman last year, it targets renewable energy contributing 3,450 megawatts to the national energy mix by 2020, equating to 4% of energy use in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is working on ways to connect its renewable energy projects with Yemen, Jordan and Egypt. “We will connect to Africa to exchange non-fossil sources of energy”, said Falih in Davos.
Saudi Arabia has a population of over 31 million, more than three and a half million of whom live in the capital, Riyadh. According to Opec, the country possesses 18 per cent of the world’s proven petroleum reserves and ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum. The oil and gas sector accounts for about 50 per cent of gross domestic product, and about 85 per cent of export earnings. Apart from petroleum, the Kingdom’s other natural resources include natural gas, iron ore, gold, and copper.
by Giorgio Zani