RIYADH (AFP) – Oil-rich and sun-blessed Saudi Arabia has no choice but to invest in solar energy, a senior official of the national electricity provider said on Monday.
“Solar energy is a must, not a choice,” Hamed al-Saggaf, an executive director with the Saudi Electricity Company, told a conference on sun power.
The kingdom is the largest producer in the OPEC oil cartel and is entirely dependent on oil and gas for its electricity production.
“If we continue to consume fuel at the same rate then there will be a great lost opportunity,” Saggaf told the 4th Solar Arabia Summit of industry players.
“At least we have to start now,” Saggaf said.
The kingdom has a peak electricity load of 57 gigawatts, which is expected to increase.
A 2011 report by Chatham House said Saudi Arabia consumes more than one-quarter of its total oil production.
Saggaf outlined a plan to invest in hundreds of megawatts of solar energy over the next five years by focusing on isolated areas, in the country’s north and northeast, which currently rely on diesel power generation.
“The gateway for solar is the isolated areas,” he said.
“The cost of transporting the diesel is much higher than the subsidised cost of the diesel itself.”
The conference was told that Saudi Arabia plans to invest $109 billion to produce 41 gigawatts of solar energy by 2032 to cover 30 per cent of its projected needs.
“It is a dream right now,” said another conference speaker, Ali al-Maashi, of petrochemicals giant Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC).
“I think we have the capability”, but clear policies and frameworks need to be in place, Maashi said.