Saudi Arabia has recently announced plans to set up a $2 trillion fund to help it make the transition into a post fossil fuel economy. I find this is very welcome news. (Some commentators are sceptical about how serious they are.) In January I mentioned the possibility of Saudi bankruptcy if they kept pumping vast quantities of oil at a loss. They have enormous solar energy potential, the accumulated capital to invest and with ACWA an engineering company with growing expertise in building concentrating solar power stations.
The Moroccans have recently switched on the first phase (160 MW) of the Ouarzazate solar power station, which when completed in 2018 will be 580 MW, cost $9billion and be the largest solar power station in the World. The consortium building the whole plant is made up of the Moroccan solar agency MASAN, the Saudi engineering company ACWA and several Spanish specialist solar companies like TSK, Sener, Acciona and Aries.
Per capita carbon emissions in Saudi Arabia are a whopping 18.1 tonnes; they have high youth unemployment and currently an economy that is hugely over dependent on a fuel that is rapidly becoming obsolete. Until now they’ve hardly begun to tap their solar potential.
If I was advising the Saudi government I’d be arguing that they should start building concentrating solar power stations just like the one at Ouarzazate. They should collaborate with the many international centres of research and development and set up such centres in Saudi Arabia. They could invest in shares in many of the small solar start up companies and bring their technologies to Saudi Arabia. They could bring in Sundrop Farms to do solar desalination and hydroponic agriculture as is currently being developed at Port Augusta in Australia, and transport the produce in Dearman nitrogen powered refrigerated trucks.
Doing all this could help create many new opportunities for Saudi people, put the economy on a more sustainable footing and massively reduce pollution and carbon emissions. With $2 trillion to play with they could utterly transform their economy. Time will tell if they are serious.