In the first months of 2018, Riyadh has tapped ACWA Power, a Saudi energy company, to build a solar farm that would generate enough electricity to power around 40,000 homes. The project is expected to cost $300 million and create hundreds of jobs.
Although Saudi Arabia has vast oil resources, it is also rich in another natural resource – sunlight. The country’s location and climate allow it to be a champion for renewables, as there is no shortage of promising sites for solar and wind farms.
Also encouraging the recent push is that the operating costs of installing and operating solar and wind technology have fallen significantly in the past few years. For this solar farm project in Sakaka, Riyadh received bids which rivaled the lowest-ever submitted anywhere. Combined with the Saudi market’s sheer size attracting the attention of the world’s renewable energy companies, the timing is opportune for Saudi Arabia to invest in renewables as an inexpensive and clean alternative to traditional fossil fuels.
Beyond Oil: An Energy Efficient Country
Saudi Arabia adopted ambitious targets for green power several years ago, and since 2016 energy minister Khalid al-Falih has made solar and energy a priority for the Kingdom. By the end of the year, Saudi Arabia aims to invest in about $7 billion to develop seven new solar plants and a big wind farm.
As the world’s largest exporter of oil, the kingdom also hopes to attract investment into this new sector in order to spur job creation, manufacturing, and new opportunities for Saudi citizens. Central to Saudi’s Vision 2030 plan, is the necessity to reduce the country’s dependence on oil, create a diversified economy and develop public service sectors such as health, education and infrastructure.
By investing money into renewable energy, Saudi Arabia hopes to reshape its energy mix at home and emerge as a global force in clean power.