The figures come from the ministry’s first long-term power forecast, which was unveiled at MEED’s Middle East Power & Water conference in Abu Dhabi on 17 March.

Ibrahim el-Amin, a researcher at the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals in Dhahran who has led the long-term demand forecast project, said total Saudi Arabian power demand is projected to grow to more than 572,000GWh in 2032 compared with 163,000GWh in 2006.

The long-term demand study is based on the assumption that the population of Saudi Arabia will grow to 33 million-39 million in 25 years, compared with 22 million now. El-Amin said the 2032 demand forecast is based on the assumption that the five economic cities being developed in the kingdom will need 10,662MW in 2030. It estimates that at its lowest, demand would be about 108,000MW in 2032.

El-Amin said the forecast will be affected by the growing number of people arriving for the annual hajj and Ramadan, which takes place during the summer over much of the next decade.

“The hajj during the summer could add 1-3 per cent to the forecast demand for the western region starting in 2016,” he said. “There will also be a shift of demand from morning to the evening during Ramadan.”

El-Amin says the long-term electricity demand forecast was based on historic trends in the Saudi economy and in power consumption in the kingdom. No change was assumed in the kingdom’s electricity tariff structure. He said that attention will now switch to the structure of supply side issues.