The National Center for Renewable Energy at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah said that energy mix diversification was a must, as energy consumption growth is expected to reach 120 gigawatts.
The Saudi Vision has set an initial target of 50 percent of renewable energy by 2030, which makes the diversification of the energy mix a necessary choice for the Kingdom, the center underlined.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, director of the Center Dr. Hussam Qasim said that the Kingdom plans to invest an estimated $50 billion in renewable energy over the next five years. He added that this investment would hopefully achieve the target of 28 GW of renewable capacity, which will increase to 59 GW in 2030.
“The diversification of the energy mix is vital and necessary, given the growth rate of energy consumption in the last decade, which increased by 60 percent,” Qasim stated.
He said consumption was expected to increase from 63 GW in 2019 to 120 GW in 2030.
On Saudi Arabia’s attention to the energy mix issue, Qasim said: “The Public Investment Fund (PIF) invested in giant global renewable energy companies. One of the most important projects of the Saudi-Japanese Softbank Vision Fund was solar energy projects. Moreover, the Fund’s share in ACWA Power increased from 33% to 50%, which reflects the commitment to rely on solar energy in global investments.”
As for existing and ongoing projects, he said: “Regarding field projects, attention has been clearly focused on the energy mix strategy. The solar energy Sakaka plant - north of the Kingdom - was established with a capacity of 300 megawatts and connected to the electrical grid last year. Other projects are in various stages of implementation, with a total capacity of 3 gigawatts, spread throughout Saudi Arabia.”
With regards to wind power, Qasim explained that similar efforts have been carried out, expecting that the Dumat Al-Jandal project - in the north of the Kingdom - will pump wind energy to around 70,000 homes. Projects to produce green hydrogen using renewable energy and blue hydrogen by exploiting hydrocarbon processes are in full swing, especially in the future city of NEOM, he remarked.
“These goals are not only beneficial to the environment and reduce emissions, but their importance lies in alleviating the pressure on oil and gas resulting from the steady internal consumption growth, while turning towards alternatives with added value,” Qasim stated.
Asked about ongoing Saudi research and development in renewable energy, Qasim said: “Several government agencies and bodies have joined efforts to increase the use and development of the solar energy industry in the Kingdom.”
He noted that Saudi Arabia has taken swift steps in the field of renewable energy in a very sensitive and complex situation, represented by the fall of oil prices and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.