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Oil rich Saudi Arabia 'to be largest Middle East wind market'

Nation to account for almost half of region's new wind despite government preference for solar, says report

Oil rich Saudi Arabia is on track to become the Middle East’s biggest wind power market by the early 2020s – despite its government’s preference for solar, says a new study.

The kingdom will see development of 6.2GW of wind between 2019 and 2028, according to research group Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, accounting for almost half of all new turbine capacity built in the region during the next decade.

Saudi Arabia earlier this year unveiled targets of 16GW of wind and 40GW of PV for 2030.

Wood Mackenzie said its preference for the latter comes despite the two showing power price-parity in initial tenders last year, when wind actually came in slightly cheaper with $21.30/MWh for the 400MW Dumat Al Jandal project won by an EFD/Masdar consortium.

Saudi Arabia will award more wind this year with 850MW auctioned, to be commissioned in 2021/22.

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Wood Mackenzie raised concerns that the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund – given responsibility for spurring 70% of its renewables build – lacks the necessary expertise.

Senior analyst Sohaib Malik said: “There is little doubt about the fund’s financial muscle, however its past investment strategy focused on established firms in traditional industries. Aspirations to develop a value chain for wind and PV technologies locally is a different ball game and requires the PIF to acquire new capabilities for effective oversight of these ventures.”

Saudi ambitions will underpin renewables deployment in the wider region, where solar is set to dominate, according to Wood Mackenzie.

Malik said: “Compared to only 6GW of wind power capacity, developers will add 53GW of PV capacity through 2024. Solar PV has become a natural choice for many countries in the region, which is endowed with world class solar energy resources.

“It will become increasingly difficult for wind to compete with PV in low wind countries including Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.”

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