Saudi Arabia is now one of the major countries to be joining the renewable energy expedition taking over MENA countries.
According to the annual Solar Outlook Report (2020), the kingdom is not far behind the current main leaders in solar development: Egypt, Jordan Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates.
The country's first and largest solar photovoltaic (PV) plant, Sakaka, currently stands at a capacity of 300 megawatts. It was brought online in November 2019 and cost the kingdom 1.2 billion riyals ($320 million) to complete. By supplying power to 45,000 houses in the northern Saudi region of Al Jouf, the plant nullifies 430,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year.
On Jan. 9, the kingdom issued a request for submissions of qualifications for its third phase of building solar power plants. This phase includes four solar projects that generate a total capacity of 1.2 gigawatts (GW) of energy.
During July 2019, phase two of the solar power projects began. The Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) invited companies to bid for six solar plants amounting to a total output of 1.5 GW.
This is just the beginning for Saudi Arabia. In fact, as part of the kingdom's Vision 2030 objectives, the country aims to reach a target of approximately 60 GW of renewable energy generation by 2030. A single decade does not feel like a long time when looking at such a target.
The kingdom has made sure to set and organize its objectives in different segments. In 2018, the country's National Renewable Energy Program put into place a plan to reach a target of 27.3 GW in just five years — currently, the plan is in its third year of action. The second phase of this plan was to reach 58.7 GW of solar power by the 12th year.
Secretary-General of the Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA) Martine Mamlouk appreciates that the country is making use of "new innovative technologies" made to elevate the "efficiency of systems, production management and grids."
"Saudi Arabia has a target of almost 60 gigawatts of renewable energy, out of which 40 gigawatts are solar," Mamlouk said.
Unfortunately, energy consumption in Saudi Arabia has increased by 60 percent in the past decade. Placing its total demand for electricity at 62.7 GW in 2019. According to Export, the kingdom was the 12th largest consumer of electricity in 2017.
The demand for electricity "is forecast to increase by up to 120 GW in 2030." If that is the case, then the solar PV plants will be covering approximately half of the total energy consumption demand.