Saudi Arabia's energy advisor is recommending the country diversify its energy mix by adding 41 gigawatts (GW) of solar, 17 GW of nuclear, 4 GW of geothermal and waste-to-energy capacity over the next 20 years.
Electricity consumption is rising rapidly because of its growing population and subsidies. It's now supplying electricity from crude oil, which it would rather preserve for exports.
The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) says installing that much solar would meet a third of projected peak power demand in 2032, leaving a sixth for nuclear and half for oil and gas.
16 GW of solar would be photovoltaic (PV) and 25 GW would be concentrating solar, which they favor for its energy storage ability. $109 billion would be invested.
KA-CARE expects the recommendations to be approved, after which it will develop implementation plans. It has to be approved by the board of directors, which includes the crown prince, foreign minister, oil minister, finance minister and industry minister.
So far, Saudi Arabia has an infinitesimal amount of solar - just 50 megawatts. Building up to 41 GW would be a boon to the industry - Germany, which leads the world, has 25 GW in total.
Initially, there would be competitive bidding for 1,100 MW of PV and 900 MW of solar thermal in the first quarter of 2013, followed by a second round at the end of 2014. After that a feed-in tariff would be introduced. There may be a requirement for domestic components.
Paddy Padmanathan, CEO of Saudi developer Acwa Power, told Reuters, "The minute you start to value fossil fuel at the right price, the market price, it makes absolute economic sense" to add that much solar.
Interesting how aware he is of the inevitable price on carbon.
In February, Saudi-based IDEA Polysilicon, which is financed by Gulf investors, announced it would build a $1.1 billion solar polysilicon plant there as a step toward moving away from oil dependence.