The race for green energy continues and an unlikely rival has entered the scene: Saudi Arabia. As the worldâ€™s largest exporter of oil, one would not necessarily associate the country with clean energy. But as the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) announced, Saudi Arabia seeks to install 41 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy by 2032.
The program would cost $109 billion and supply about 1/3 of the countryâ€™s energy by the target date. If everything goes according to plan, Saudi Arabia could emerge as a global leader in clean energy.
The first step in Saudi Arabiaâ€™s renewable energy roadmap is a series of bidding rounds for 5 utility-scale solar projects. The first tenders are already being prepared, with bidding directed at 1.1 GW of photovoltaics and 900 megawatts (MW) of concentrated solar power.
The country is currently looking for investors, but once financing becomes available, Saudi Arabia will begin work immediately on new solar plants.
But a lingering question remains. Why would the worldâ€™s largest producer of crude oil invest so heavily in renewable energy?
From Saudi Arabiaâ€™s perspective, it actually makes sense to include as many renewables in its energy mix as possible. With oil prices on a perpetual incline and renewable energy becoming increasingly cost-competitive, the country could make more money by increasing its share of renewable energy for domestic use. This would allow the country to sell as much oil as possible on the global market.
Plus, given Saudi Arabiaâ€™s geographical location, it receives a high amount of sunlight thus making the use of solar energy more efficient (Australia finally came to this conclusion last year with plans for two utility-scale solar farms).
Although solar energy will be Saudi Arabiaâ€™s main focus, it will also diversify into other alternative sources such as wind, geothermal, waste-to-energy, and nuclear.
Image CC licensed by Radio Nederland Wereldomroep: Saudi Arabia