The news that Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) has tendered the first contract on its planned 550MW Dhuba 1 integrated solar combined-cycle plant shows that the kingdom is determined to deliver its first major renewables project.

Earlier this year, SEC scrapped plans to develop the scheme as an independent power project. The tendering of the original equipment manufacturer contract shows that SEC is keen to ensure the contracts are awarded promptly and that the project is completed by its target date of 2017.

SEC’s persistence with Dhuba 1 may be partly driven by the failure of the King Abdullah City for Atomic & Renewable Energy (KA-Care) to make progress with its ambitious renewables programme.

In 2010, on orders from the king, Riyadh created KA-Care to oversee the large-scale development of renewable and nuclear power in Saudi Arabia. KA-Care’s mandate to deliver 54,000MW of renewable energy by 2032 was not only unprecedented, but in the opinion of many in the international renewables industry, unrealistic.

KA-Care’s release in February 2013 of a white paper on Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy plans was viewed as a step in the right direction, and gained interest from companies across the globe. However, since then the body has remained quiet, with no further information on plans or timelines for completing the ambitious programme. According to sources in Riyadh, the organisation has still not been staffed, despite a number of external consultants having been appointed.

With the Dhuba 1 project, SEC has now taken the initiative and is hoping to begin work on the scheme by the end of the year.

While KA-Care’s inertia has disappointed many in the renewables sector, SEC is ensuring that the kingdom’s renewable energy ambitions remain intact.