Saudi Arabia: Riyadh turns to the sun for more energy

The Arabian Desert possesses ideal weather for the development of large-scale solar energy. The kingdom plans to meet 30 per cent of its electricity needs by 2032. The growing interest in the renewable sector leads the Saudi monarchy to allocate billions of dollars to research.Riyadh (Agencies) – Solar power could provide Saudi Arabia with more than 30 per cent of its energy by 2032, this according to Dr Osama Al Falaly, a professor of economics at King Abdulaziz University.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said that Saudi Arabia has the second-highest potential for solar energy in the world, surpassed only by Chile’s Atacama Desert.

With temperatures topping 45 degrees Celsius on many a day, the arid regions of the kingdom are ideal for solar energy plants.

In recent years, the field has captured the growing interest of advocates and scholars in the country and abroad, pushing Riyadh to allocate billions of dollars to pilot projects.

Dr Falaly suggested that the experimental desalination station at Khafji, which operates solely on solar energy on the Persian Gulf, if successful, could be expanded to all desalination stations in the Gulf and Red Sea Coast, allowing oil and gas to be directed to alternative uses, like export.

To this effect, the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) has begun to implement a national plan aimed at measuring sources of renewable energy nationwide to evaluate their potential.

The Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning has already suggested lowering the contribution of oil and gas exports to the export structure in the state’s public budget from 65 per cent to 19.5 per cent in the current strategic plan.

This comes as the result of an increase of non-gas exports from 24.2 per cent to 80.5 per cent during the same period.

The government’s decision to develop new sources of energy is an important sign of change in a country that has always based its survival on oil.

In addition, according to studies by KACARE and the government, new industries would generate many new jobs.

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