Why Saudi Arabia’s Ambitious Solar Plans Have Wavered

Last year, the government said that by 2023 the country can generate 10% of its power from solar and wind plants, at a projected cost of $50bn.

Around the world, high oil prices tend to accelerate the shift to renewable energy and electric vehicles. In Saudi Arabia, they have the opposite effect.

Over the past six years, the Saudis have announced investments of more than $350 billion aimed at making the sun-drenched kingdom the, well, Saudi Arabia of renewable energy.

But virtually no construction has begun, and with crude more than doubling from early 2016 to this October, the Saudis’ commitment to renewable energy has wavered, says Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.


“There has been a lot of stop and go,” Birol says. “There’s a need to increase electricity generation, decrease oil-based power, and make use of the huge solar potential.”

In 2012, the Kingdom introduced a $109bn solar programme intended to generate a third of its electricity from renewable energy by 2032. Read more