Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister for water and electricity Saleh Al-Awaji told the 3 Green Buildings Forum in Riyadh on 14 October that the kingdom’s government is stepping up its campaign to cut energy and water waste and reduce power consumption by 30 per cent by 2032.

“I think we have no option but to adopt aggressive legislation and implement that to achieve our goals,” Al-Awaji said. Al-Awaji is also non-executive chairman of the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), the Middle East’s largest electricity generation, transmission and distribution firm.

The kingdom’s energy saving strategy is being co-ordinated by the National Energy Efficiency Centre. A steering committee has been set up to that involves the Water & Electricity Ministry and other government departments, and includes representatives of the SEC, Saudi Aramco and the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic)

Al-Awaji said Saudi Arabia’s total electricity generation capacity is now about 55,000MW. SEC’s capacity is 45,000MW.

The kingdom would require installed capacity to rise to about 110,000MW by 2032 if existing demand trends continue. Peak power demand rose by about 9 per cent in the summer of 2012.

Al-Awaji said the kingdom is now aiming to reduce power demand by 30 per cent by 2032. If that target were achieved, it would cut the kingdom’s total required installed capacity in that year to about 80,000MW.

About 50 per cent of the kingdom’s installed power generation capacity used inefficient single-cycle gas turbines which will be replaced by combined cycle technology, Al-Awaji said, with all new capacity using energy-efficient technology.

“Our average thermal efficiency in generation is around 30-35 per cent,” he said. “Converting our single-cycle plants to combined-cycle would tremendously increase thermal efficiency to 40-45 per cent.”

The restructuring of the SEC’s electricity generation capacity in 2014 into four competitive national companies would contribute to promoting efficiency in power generation. Al-Awaji said that, under the new structure, the Saudi Arabian power regulator will require the companies to achieve target key performance indicators (KPIs) in their operations. Firms that exceed KPIs will receive incentives, while those that did not will be penalised.

Al-Awaji said research showed electricity consumption in air conditioning could be cut by 10-15 per cent by using efficient technology. Further large savings would come from fully implementing building codes, particularly those requiring the use of thermal insulation. He added that 70 per cent of peak Saudi power demand is due to air conditioning. Power demand could be cut by 40-50 per cent by using efficient air conditioning and comprehensively applying building codes.

The King Abdullah City for Atomic & Renewable Energy (KA-Care) has defined a long-term renewable energy strategy, according to the minister. He said the SEC and other power generation companies will, however, need a feed-in tariff system and government subsidies to stimulate large-scale investment in solar and wind power.

The government will also have to address the kingdom’s low level of consumer tariffs.

Analysts say reducing Saudi Arabian per capita consumption by 30 per cent and introducing renewable energy on the scale envisaged by KA-Care could allow the kingdom to cap the its domestic hydrocarbon consumption at 2012 levels and might even make it possible for that level to be reduced.

A report by the US’ Citibank published last month forecast that Saudi Arabia could become an oil importer in 2030 if domestic petroleum demand trends continue at the present rate.