Italy’s Enel vies for renewable energy plants in Saudi Arabia
ITALIAN multinational power group, Enel is targeting renewables projects in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as oil-rich Gulf countries take advantage of the falling cost of solar power to diversify their energy supplies.
“We will wait for the first tenders in Saudi Arabia,” Francesco Starace, Enel chief executive, said in an interview in Abu Dhabi, the biggest of the UAE’s seven emirates. Dubai, the country’s second-largest emirate, has also started a renewable programme, “so we will try and participate” in that, he said.
Under Starace, Enel is scaling back on large power stations to focus on producing and distributing greener sources of energy. The utility reintegrated its renewable-energy spin-off Enel Green Power last year and plans to cut its generating capacity for power from fossil fuels by 39 percent by 2019. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, and the UAE, the fourth-largest producer in Opec, are both trying to reduce their reliance on oil and generate more power from the sun, among other sources.
Enel signed a co-operation agreement on Saturday with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, known as Dewa, to help upgrade the emirate’s power grid, after reaching a similar accord with Saudi Electricity Company on January 11. Saudi Arabia aims to generate 10 gigawatts from solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy in the next five years, energy minister Khalid Al-Falih said last month. Dewa plans to be able to produce 75 percent of its power from renewables by 2050.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as Oman, have natural potential with their plentiful sunshine, “and they have stability that is perceived as better than the north African area,” Starace said. “They are less risky, and therefore, I see no problem with looking at these countries as a great investment.”
Cheaper production costs are creating new growth opportunities for solar power in the region. A group led by Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, won bidding in June to build an 800-megawatt solar plant in Dubai to produce what could be the world’s cheapest electricity generated from the sun. The average cost of electricity from a photovoltaic system is seen plunging as much as 59 percent by 2025.
Cheaper production costs are creating new growth opportunities for solar power in the region.