Saudi Arabia seeks international partners for nuclear energy ambitions

Saudi Arabia seeks international partners for nuclear energy ambitions
The Barakah nuclear power plant in UAE is in its final construction phase
Published: 3 October 2017 - 2:24 a.m.
By: Utilities ME Staff

Saudi Arabia is said to be seeking out international partners to further its development plans within the nuclear and atomic energy sector.

The president of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) is reported to have held "high-level meetings with representatives of Russian, US, Japanese, and South Korean delegations" to review how they may support the kingdom's plans to implement the National Atomic Energy Project.

Dr Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, the president of KACARE, met these officials on the sidelines of the 61st General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), currently underway in Vienna.

Yamani reportedly reviewed opportunities for "joint cooperation to contribute to the implementation of the national atomic energy project".

The officials are said to have discussed the feasibility study of the Saudi project's initial technical aspects, as well as front end engineering designs (FEED) for the construction of the project's first two reactors.

Partnerships in the field would be aimed at localising the nuclear and renewable energy industries in Saudi, state news agency, SPA, reported.

A report released by Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP) in February 2016 said it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will, in the current global economy, meet its scheduled renewable energy targets.

According to the report, large oil or gas reserves and cheap extraction costs mean that hydrocarbons continue to meet rising demand in countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.

The report added: "Policy uncertainty and the lack of an efficient regulatory framework are mainly responsible for slow progress [in those countries].

"In 2012, the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA CARE) announced plans to invest $109bn (SAR408.7bn) to produce 41GW of solar by 2032 in the Kingdom. But little progress has been made so far.

"Given the large amount of investment required to reach this ambitious target, it is highly unlikely that the government will meet its renewable targets for now," the report added.

However, market factors have shifted in the year since the report’s publication, and in a study published this May, APICORP said a change finally appears to be underway in Saudi Arabia.

"While the main obstacle behind renewable deployment in most countries is financial, the kingdom’s original renewable plan never kicked off, due to preferred reliance on conventional power plants to meet the increase in electricity demand and the absence of supporting policy frameworks for renewable programmes to succeed," APICORP added.

"The new Ministry of Energy and Industry will take charge of the country’s renewable-energy programme.

"The Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO), a dedicated unit to oversee the programme, will report to a renewable-energy steering committee chaired by Minister Khalid Al-Falih."

Details of the first round of Saudi Arabia's National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) were revealed this September.

Round one of NREP comprises a 300-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) facility in Sakaka, Al Jouf.

Bids for the project will open on 3 October, 2017, and the victorious document is to be announced on 27 November, 2017.

A 400MW wind power plant in Dumat Al Jandal marks the second of two tenders for round one of the NREP, Saudi's state agency reported.

REPDO has also floated requests for proposals (RFPs) to develop a wind power project in the country.

REPDO is a part of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources (MEIMR).

The first utility-scale wind development will be implemented as part of the country's National Renewable Energy Program (NREP).

RFPs for the 400-megawatt (MW) plant in Al Jouf region's Dumat Al Jandal are now available for 25 qualified bidders on NREP's e-procurement portal.

Bidding works for the project will close in January 2018.

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