Saudi Arabia has set a target for installing 3.5GW of renewable energy capacity by 2020, according to the latest announcements regarding its National Transformation Plan (NTP).

When the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan was approved by the cabinet on 25 April, Riyadh announced it had set a new target of implementing 9.5GW of renewables schemes to assist with meeting future energy demand, with no timelines set for achieving this target.

The announcement of the 2020 3.5GW target provides clarity on the kingdom’s initial renewable energy plans, but also sets an extremely ambitious goal for a country that just awarded contracts for its first utility-scale renewables projects, as part of the Duba and Waad al-Shamal integrated solar combined-cycle (ISCC) schemes, in 2015.

It was announced during the approval of Vision 2030 in April that Riyadh was planning to establish the upcoming King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative to play a central role in driving forward its renewable energy programme.

The 9.5GW renewable energy target follows the abandonment of the 54GW renewables target that was set by the King Abdullah City for Atomic & Renewable Energy (KA-Care) in 2012. Following the release of a draft white paper in February 2013, detailing the procurement plans for the initial projects, no further progress was made and KA-Care’s renewables plan was effectively dropped from the kingdom’s agenda over the past two years.

While the KA-Care programme failed to materialise, state utility Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) made progress with its first renewables schemes in 2015, when it awarded contracts for the Duba 1 and Waad al-Shamal ISCC projects, which will each have solar components of about 50MW.

In January 2016, MEED reported that SEC was making progress with plans for the kingdom’s first major standalone renewables schemes by inviting consultants to bid for advisory roles on the country’s first major standalone alternative energy projects.

On 5 June, MEED reported that SEC had invited companies to submit expressions of interest (EOIs) for schemes to develop 50MW photovoltaic (PV) solar plants at Al-Jouf and Rafha in the northern part of the kingdom by 20 June. The schemes will be developed under the independent power project (IPP) model), with SEC set to be the offtaker for all of the power produced from the facilities.

SEC is intending to issue a request for qualifications (RFQ) to developers by 14 July.

The UK’s HSBC has been appointed as financial consultant, with the UK’s DLA Piper as legal consultant and the Netherland’s DNV as technical consultant.

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