Saudi Arabia's first global tender seeks 100 MW of solar PV

A few days after slashing its clean energy targets, Saudi Arabia’s state electricity utility Saudi Electricity Co. has issued a call for tenders for two 50 MW solar PV projects.

An announcement on the utility’s website calls for international companies to submit expressions of interest for the two projects by June 20. The two solar farms, each amounting to 50 MW of PV capacity, are to be located in Saudi Arabia’s northern regions of Al-Jouf and Rafha.

Despite announcing bold clean power ambitions last year, Saudi Arabia has since scaled back its plans to generate 9.5 GW of renewable energy by 2030, and reduced a plan to meet 50% of its energy with renewables by 2040 to just 10%.

This shift, according to Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, is predicated on an embrace of gas-fired generation and production and has dismayed clean energy advocates in the region. Speaking to pv magazine, however, Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA) president Hadi Tahboub said that the Saudi Kingdom is "taking tangible steps forward and that is a clear marker of this awakeing regional giant finally embracing renewable energy."

The tender is, at least, evidence of those tangible steps, and at an estimated 100 MW is larger than the 50 MW that had been anticipated. According to Reuters, each project could attract investment of between $100 million to $120 million, thus hopefully triggering greater public-private partnerships of the sort required to boost solar development in the kingdom.

Previously, Saudi Arabia would build, own and operate all large infrastructure projects with its own money, but as oil revenues have tumbled, the government finds itself saddled with a large budget deficit and, thus, is intent on attracting foreign investment and reducing its economic reliance on oil production and export.