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PIF energy company unveils $3.3bn solar projects

The 300MW Sakaka project in Al Jouf is one of ACWA's 11 solar sites in Saudi Arabia ACWA Power
The 300MW Sakaka project in Al Jouf is one of ACWA's 11 solar sites in Saudi Arabia
  • Renewables sites to be built by PIF subsidiary Badeel and ACWA Power
  • The 3 solar developments will have a combined capacity of 4.5GW
  • Saudi Arabia is pushing for 50% renewables by 2030

A subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is to develop three huge solar energy projects that aim to power about 750,000 homes in the kingdom.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF)’s Water and Electricity Holding Company, known as Badeel, is working on the developments with ACWA Power. The state-owned Saudi Power Procurement Company has signed agreements to buy the energy produced, the companies said.

The three projects – Ar Rass 2, Saad 2 and Al Kahfah – are valued at $3.3 billion in total and aim to produce a combined capacity of 4.5GW. Financial close is expected by the third quarter of 2023.

The Economist Intelligence Unit wrote in a February research note that it expects Saudi Arabia to “exploit current oil windfalls” to accelerate its clean energy transition. Under Vision 2030, the government aims to invest $101 billion to raise renewable energy to 50 percent of power‑generating capacity by the end of the decade. 

“Despite some progress, the government is unlikely to meet the over-optimistic goals for 2030,” the unit added.

The kingdom announced 10 new solar and wind energy projects in its 2023 budget, as part of the National Renewable Energy Programme. 

Under the strategy, PIF has been mandated to develop 70 percent of the kingdom’s renewables capacity by 2030. 

The wealth fund has five projects in development, with a cumulative capacity of 8GW and over $6 billion of investment from PIF and its partners. The other two are Sudair and Shuaibah 2.

Mohammed Albalaihed, head of energy and utilities at PIF, said: “Renewable energy is one of PIF’s priority sectors, with a focus on unlocking the capabilities of promising sectors and enabling the private sector to enhance Saudi Arabia’s efforts in diversifying the economy.”

Marco Arcelli, CEO of ACWA Power, described the Badeel deal as a “significant milestone”.

ACWA Power, which is also part-owned by PIF, now has a portfolio of 11 solar projects in Saudi Arabia. They will account for about 12GW of its total renewable capacity of more than 23GW. 

While all Gulf nations are working to incorporate such projects into their energy mix, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are leading the way in terms of project scale and investment. Last week Riyadh unveiled a list of 106 companies approved to install solar power systems.

The Saudi Electricity and Water Regulatory Authority’s list is made up of both contractors and consultants qualified to design, inspect, install and maintain small photovoltaic solar energy systems in homes and facilities – part of a strategy to localise the solar energy sector and become a global centre for the technology.