Saudi Arabia renewables plans falter

10 July 2014

The future of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy is not clear

As GCC governments begin to look at integrating renewable energy into their power generation sources, the country with the most ambitious plans has struggled to get its initiative off the ground.

Saudi Arabia established the King Abdullah City for Atomic & Renewable Energy (KA-Care) in 2010 to spearhead its renewable and nuclear energy strategy. Riyadh’s ambitious aim of having 54GW of solar and wind energy capacity installed by 2032 is by far the largest target in the region. In early 2013, the body released a white paper outlining the initial procurement rounds, creating an exciting new focal point for the world’s solar industry.

However, lack of progress since then has left many in the renewables sector disappointed. KA-Care has not begun procurement for any projects and according to sources in the kingdom has not even managed to fully staff its office.

The reasons for KA-Care’s slow progress are not clear, with various rumours circulating the public and private sectors. Policy challenges from other government bodies, lack of legislative and financial oversight and the absence of a clear management structure are some of the reasons put forward for the body’s inertia.

Although Riyadh has remained quiet on the future of its renewable energy programme, it is widely accepted that state oil major Saudi Aramco will take over the mantle from KA-Care as the kingdom’s primary renewable energy client, and will lead the procurement of the proposed schemes. Saudi Electricity Company is also expected to play an increasing role in the process.

The future of KA-Care is not clear, but it has been said that the body could assume a purely legislative role, or maybe given a mandate to focus on fast tracking the proposed nuclear programme, which is intended to add 17GW of capacity to the kingdom’s power mix by 2032.

Whatever Riyadh decides, it is vital that a body is enlisted with a clear mandate and sufficient clout to begin moving forward with the ambitious renewables programme otherwise the domestic consumption of hydrocarbons for power generation will continue to eat more and more into export

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