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Saudi Arabia looks to solar and nuclear power

Saudi Arabia, which holds one-fifth of global oil reserves, aims to pursue renewable energy and nuclear power to help reduce by half the crude and natural gas it burns now to generate electricity.

The country expects domestic power demand to triple over the next two decades and wants to develop a more sustainable mixture of energy sources, Khalid Al Sulaiman, vice-president for renewable energy at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, said at a conference in Riyadh on Sunday. King Abdullah City is the agency in charge of developing green energy.

“Saudi Arabia’s demand for petroleum products — demand for energy — is rising at a high and very alarming rate,” Al Sulaiman said in a speech at the Saudi Solar Forum. “Population growth and robust economic development and many reasons drive that demand.” The country currently gets almost all of its energy from fossil fuels, he said.

Gulf oil producers are seeking new ways to generate power because they prefer exporting valuable crude to maximise income and allocating natural gas to make petrochemicals. Energy other than oil, gas and other fossil fuels may account for more than half of the kingdom’s supply by 2030, Al Sulaiman said.

Future sources will include solar and wind power as well as nuclear plants, according to the plan, which needs government approval to become policy. The expansion into renewables and nuclear power will be part of a $100 billion spending drive aimed at meeting the expected jump in demand and curbing dependence on crude, government officials said last week at a conference in Abu Dhabi.

Saudi Arabia, the largest producer in OPEC, uses crude and refined products as fuel for power stations because the country doesn’t have enough gas to generate all the power it needs and also supply industry. Liquid fuels generate about half of its power now, with the rest coming from gas, according to the state-run utility Saudi Electricity Co.

Saudi Arabia has about 45,000 megawatts of generating capacity, with power demand also reaching that level during times of peak consumption, according to Saudi Electricity. Al Sulaiman’s forecasts suggest that demand will triple by 2030. Saudi Arabia already burns some 800,000 barrels a day of oil equivalent to satisfy domestic demand, Khalid Al Senani, the gas supply director at the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, said in Doha, Qatar, on November 30.


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