Executive lays down Neom energy plan

29 June 2022
Artificial intelligence tools to support load balancing and manage renewable energy volatility

Neom, the $500bn development in northwest Saudi Arabia, is expected to get 100 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Until then Neom is expected to source power from the country's electricity grid to complement energy generated from the first renewable plants catering to the development.

“We aim to start with roughly 50 per cent renewables on day one,” Thorsten Schwarz, Grid Technology & Projects executive director at Neom, told a panel at the ongoing Middle East & Africa Energy Week organised by Germany’s Siemens Energy.

“We are looking at energy deliveries between 2024 and 2025. In the first few years we will be working with all potential energy sources including … importing from surrounding environment for energy including from Saudi Electricity Company,” the executive added.

Schwarz reiterated that Neom and Enowa, the firm’s energy, water and hydrogen subsidiary, will capitalise on innovations including artificial intelligence to achieve autonomous load balancing to manage and adapt to renewable energy volatility. “The key challenge for 100 per cent renewable energy is to balance it,” he explained.

Neom is continuing to engage with international and local utilities developers in terms of the renewable energy and water desalination infrastructure catering to the project, as MEED reported in  March.

“Neom has time in terms of [building an] electricity generation infrastructure,” a source told MEED at the time, citing the development’s existing connection to the kingdom’s electricity grid through substations located in Tabuk.

MEED reported last year that Neom was initially considering direct negotiations for the contract to develop a renewable energy plant, but has also looked at issuing a public tender.

100 per cent renewable

Neom plans to develop up to 40GW of mainly wind and solar produced at ultra-low prices to power the development, Neom managing director for energy, water and food, Peter Terium, said in an interview in March this year.

The renewable energy infrastructure is expected to be built within 10 years and play a key role in the $500bn development's plan to foster an "innovative carbon-free ecosystem". 

The renewable energy component of the planned $6.5bn integrated green hydrogen and ammonia facility at Neom equates to 10 per cent of that total capacity.

Saudi Arabia's National Renewable Energy Programme aims to develop up to 58.7GW of renewable energy installed capacity by 2030.

Saudi sovereign vehicle the Public Investment Fund will deliver 70 per cent of the programme's total capacity through direct negotiations with utilities developers, while the Energy Ministry will deliver the remaining 30 per cent through a public tendering process.   

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