Vision 2030! Saudi Arabia leads Middle East energy transition

Seetao 2023-02-02 11:49
  • Saudi Arabia plays a key role in ensuring an orderly energy transition
  • Riyadh will host the 44th International Conference of the International Association of Energy Economics from 4-9 February, and the world is looking forward to the developments the region will witness during the conference
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Never in human history has the need for energy security been more important than it is now. Energy diversification plans and sustainable development initiatives are an important part of today's global agenda amid heightened political tensions, with countries striving to meet net-zero emissions targets within set deadlines. Saudi Arabia, a nation dependent on oil for decades, is spearheading an energy transition mission in the Middle East as the world continues to meet its zero-emissions goals.

The Saudi Green Initiative and the wider Middle East Green Initiative are revolutionizing the region's entire green journey, and they are fully supported by the Public Investment Fund Regional Voluntary Carbon Market Company, which auctioned 1.4 million tonnes of carbon during its 6th session Credit line for the Future Investment Initiative meeting in Riyadh in October 2022.

Now that Riyadh is getting ready to host the 44th International Conference of the International Association of Energy Economics from 4-9 February, the world is looking forward to the developments the region will witness during the conference. Paul Sullivan, a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University and senior associate fellow for energy and environmental security at the King Faisal Center for Studies and Islamic Studies, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is making steady progress in improving energy efficiency and resilience, in line with Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia is making progress through Vision 2030, the Saudi Green Initiative, the Leadership Middle East Green Initiative, and more. It's making headway with solar. It will do more with multiple colors of hydrogen. It may begin to further develop its nuclear energy program, Sullivan said.

Saudi Arabia now accounts for the largest share of global oil exports — and it has the potential to become a significant exporter of clean, reliable and affordable energy in the future, Rahi said. He further pointed out that the Kingdom possesses unique competing natural resources, including natural gas for the production of blue hydrogen, as well as solar resources and land for the development of green hydrogen. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and its partners are making steady progress at NEOM to complete the world’s largest green hydrogen project.

In 2022, NEOM's CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr noted that the first phase of its green hydrogen facility is expected to come online in 2025. The $500 billion megacity will be powered entirely by clean energy and will cover 10,000 square miles, an area 33 times the size of New York.

Sullivan further noted that Saudi Arabia can become a leader in energy transition in the region through joint investments, research programmes, training and education across the MENA region. The region and the world are really small. Much more can be learned by working together rather than against each other. Just giving money is not enough. The entire region needs to move forward on all aspects of the transition and how it affects the energy-water-food-security-economic nexus, Sullivan said.

Rahi noted that Saudi Arabia should create national champions capable of developing, producing and scaling low-carbon energy to meet energy transition goals. Middle Eastern countries could promote investment to expand carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies and the supply of low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia, Rahi said. The region has huge untapped potential because the geology of its sedimentary basin could make it a global carbon storage hub, he said.

Stakeholders can promote the development of renewable energy, including upgrading supporting infrastructure, Rahi added. Incentives could help accelerate the transition to electrification and energy efficiency in the buildings, industry and transport sectors. He further noted that the energy transition in the region is creating opportunities for innovation, including the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem for cleantech.

Sullivan reiterated the views of top industry experts, noting that the energy transition in a sustainable manner will not happen soon and that green goals will take time. All major transitions take time. The energy transition is no exception. It must be timed and developed everywhere in a way that allows for peace, prosperity, energy security and climate security, Sullivan said. If the pressure is too fast, it can cause serious energy and economic insecurity and instability. If it is allowed to delay for too long, the climate and environment of the world and region could be severely damaged. Extremism is the enemy of the energy transition, just as it is the enemy of society as a whole.

According to Rahi, there is still a need for affordable conventional energy to ensure socio-economic growth, especially for developing countries, adding that low-carbon and renewable energy sources such as hydrogen and solar energy will continue to play a role in the evolving energy system play an increasingly important role. To deploy renewables at scale, countries will also need to invest in grid stabilization and storage to ensure reliability of supply and integrate renewables into existing systems. As Saudi Arabia continues its sustainable development journey, events like the IAEE International Conference can accelerate the pace of the energy transition that will ultimately lead to a green and beautiful world for mankind.Editor/XingWentao