Saudi Arabia to tender around 4GW of renewable projects in 2018

World’s biggest oil exporter wants to also start exporting solar power by 2019

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 will tender around 4 gigawatts (GW) of renewable projects in 2018 as the world’s biggest oil exporter kickstarts a programme to source energy from solar and wind and export that power.

The kingdom will tender 3.25 GW of solar power and around 800 megawatts of wind through eight projects in two rounds, Turki Al Shehri, head of renewable energy project development office (repdo) with the Saudi energy ministry told The National in Abu Dhabi.

These two projects follow last year's round one when a 300MW solar project and a 400MW wind project were tendered.

“By 2019, looking forward we hope that our industry starts to export because today we focus on capacity, but as it grows, we’ll focus on export potential,” he added.

Saudi Arabia, which has traditionally generated power from oil and gas, has embarked on a programme to develop 9.5GW of renewables capacity by 2023. Countries in the Arabian Peninsula, which receive high levels of solar irradiation have looked to maximise the renewables components within their energy mixes as they look to free up crude for export.

The kingdom will announce its renewable energy mix “very shortly” said Mr Al Shehri.

First round in 2018 will take place in the first quarter and will  include 250MW of solar projects. In the second round, 3 GW of solar projects and an 800 MW wind projects will be tendered/

Earlier this year, Repdo shortlisted bidders to develop the kingdom’s first ever solar power project. A consortium led by local developer Acwa Power and Japan’s Marubeni was chosen to develop the 300MW Sakaka photovoltaic power project in the northern Al Jouf region.

The project is set to be awarded later this month and will be backed by a 25-year power purchase agreement. It will reach financial close in February and will target commissioning by August 2019, said Mr Al Shehri.

The kingdom is also set to develop its first-ever wind scheme this year - a  400MW project at Dumat Al Jandal, for which Repdo pre-qualified companies last year.

Saudi Arabia will look at concentrated solar power (CSP) as well as waste-to-energy “beyond 2018”, said Mr Al Shehri.

The renewables authority will choose developers - foreign and local - not just on the basis of the lowest levelised cost of electricity but also on the basis of local content made available to the country, added the Saudi renewables chief.

The UAE, which currently derives around 98 per cent of its energy needs from gas, has set a target to meet 44 per cent of its energy from renewables, 38 per cent from gas, 12 per cent from fossil and the remainder from gas.

The UAE energy minister told The National that around 1GW of renewables projects needed to deployed annually to meet this stipulated target.