DUBAI: Gulf states are stepping up the transition to renewable energy by launching ambitious infrastructure projects designed to help reduce their reliance on oil and gas to meet domestic energy needs.
Some of these projects will enable Saudi Arabia to expand its total solar energy capacity by almost 40 gigawatts by 2025 from the current 455 megawatts. Specific development plans in the Kingdom include the NEOM smart city, which will include a $5 billion hydrogen plant, and the Red Sea Project, which will have the capacity to generate 400 MW of solar power and will host the world’s largest off-grid energy-storage project to date.
“Saudi Arabia is making notable progress with its plans to develop clean energy and reduce emissions,” Denisa Fainis, general secretary of the Middle East Solar Industry Association, told Arab News.
“The climate measures will go hand in hand with tending to the continued high demand for fossil fuels. As the world’s largest oil exporter, more than half of Saudi Arabia’s revenues come from its fossil fuel sector.”
Solar panels at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. (Reuters/File Photo)
MESIA’s latest report, published in January, listed Saudi Arabia as one of the world’s “booming markets in the renewable-energy sector, bringing more investors and developers to participate in huge projects than any other.” It said improvements in regulatory frameworks had helped the country to position itself among a group of nations that is leading the clean-energy revolution.
The Kingdom’s $500 billion NEOM megaproject will play a key role in efforts to diversify the Saudi economy while drawing exclusively from clean energy resources. It is estimated that NEOM will require between 20 and 40 GW of solar and wind power capacity to meet its energy requirements when it becomes operational in 2025.
Authorities in the Kingdom are planning several other projects in areas such as the Red Sea, Madinah, Qurayyat, Jeddah and Wadi Al-Dawasir to help reach the national target of net-zero emissions by 2060.
Elsewhere in the region, the 800 MW Al-Kharsaah solar project in Qatar is expected to be operational by mid-2022. In the UAE, the 5,000 MW Mohammed Bin Rashid Solar Park in Dubai and Al-Dhafra Solar Project, which will have a capacity of 2,000 MW, will be commissioned in stages by 2030.
Authorities in Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia have launched similar projects that are in the development or tender phases.
Significantly, many nations in the region view the energy transition as an opportunity for economic growth and the creation of jobs, including the potential to manufacture solar-power components locally.
Saudis work at a solar panel factory in Uyayna, north of Riyadh. (AFP/File Photo)
The Gulf region obviously enjoys a geographical advantage in the solar-energy sector, thanks to plentiful sunshine and its proximity to Africa, Europe and other countries in …….