Saudi Arabia to channel 50% of investments into renewable energy, PIF governor says

The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund will issue a green sukuk soon, according to Yasir Al Rumayyan

A Saudi man walks on a street past a field of solar panels at the King Abdulaziz city of Sciences and Technology, Al-Oyeynah Research Station, May 21, 2012. Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, may finally be getting serious about overcoming the technical and financial hurdles for tapping its other main resource: sunshine. Saudi Arabia wants to generate much more solar power as it lacks coal or enough natural gas output to meet rapidly rising power demand. Doing so would allow it to slash the volume of oil it burns in power plants bankrolled by billions of dollars worth of saved oil earnings. Picture taken May 21, 2012. To match story SAUDI-SOLAR/  REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed   (SAUDI ARABIA - Tags: ENERGY BUSINESS) - RTR32IDZ
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Saudi Arabia plans to deploy 50 per cent of its investments in renewable and sustainable power sources and will issue a green sukuk soon, the governor of the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund and Saudi Aramco chairman said.

“The kingdom aims to deploy 50 per cent of its investments in renewable and sustainable power sources, more than two-thirds from investment. We are one of the most efficient countries when it comes to sustainability and renewable energy,” Yasir Al Rumayyan said during a virtual roundtable organised by the Future Investment Institute in New York on Tuesday.

Although Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter, it fares much better than other producers when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions, Mr Al Rumayyan said.

Saudi Arabia is Opec's largest producer and accounts for 12.5 per cent of all oil production, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021.

Under its Vision 2030 initiative, the kingdom is taking measures to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons and to decarbonise its utility systems. The country plans to generate up to 50 per cent of its electricity from clean sources.

The PIF has been given the mandate to develop nearly 70 per cent of renewable projects in Saudi Arabia. Utilities and renewables are among the 13 sectors identified by the fund as part of its Vision 2030 strategy.

Saudi Arabia’s $430 billion sovereign wealth fund will announce its first green sukuk issuance soon, as it looks to increase the role that environmental, social and governance principles (ESG) play in its investments, Mr Al Rumayyan said.

“We will be the first sovereign wealth fund to issue green debt. Some of our portfolio companies have already issued green debt. The Red Sea [Development] Company issued green debt worth $3.7bn,” Aramco’s chairman added.

We will be the first sovereign wealth fund to issue green debt
Yasir Al Rumayyan, governor of Public Investment Fund and Saudi Aramco chairman

The PIF is also working with the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock to develop an ESG framework, Mr Al Rumayyan said.

“We’re working with many partners from all over the world, domestically and internationally, to have a better ESG compliance in all the things that we do,” he added.

The fund is also working with ratings agencies to standardise the ESG framework and address the inconsistencies in rankings from different agencies.

As part of developing its own ESG framework, the PIF is looking to “gradually” turn down investments that lack sustainability plans, he added.

The PIF has been investing more in businesses that focus on pivoting away from fossil fuels. It boosted its stake in utility developer ACWA Power International, which is spending heavily on renewable energy, and also invested in electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid.

Oil “should be used more efficiently, such as in crude to chemical, which produces zero emissions. We don’t want to exploit all our resources overnight,” Mr Al Rumayyan said.

Saudi Arabia has been meeting future sustainability targets set by global initiatives for the past several years, he added.

“About 70 per cent of our population is under the age of 35. We want to think about the future generations of Saudi Arabia. You cannot separate health from economies and from sustainability,” the PIF governor said.

He added that the cost of solar power production in Saudi Arabia stands at 1.2 cents per kilowatt/hour, versus 15 cents for other producers.

The PIF and the Arab world’s biggest bourse Tadawul announced a plan this month to set up the Riyadh Voluntary Exchange Platform for offsets and carbon credits within the Middle East and North Africa.

The platform will become the primary destination for companies and institutions that target reducing their emissions, or contributing towards reductions, through the trading of verified, approved and high quality carbon equivalent credits certificates, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Updated: September 22, 2021, 9:06 AM