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Saudi Goes Solar

Saudi Arabia is diving deep into the renewable energy world. The FT has the story:

People in Egypt and even Europe could one day turn on their lights with electricity transmitted from the vast bank of solar power stations that Saudi Arabia aims to build in coming years, according to a senior Saudi official and others familiar with the kingdom’s plans.

“This is a very ambitious programme and a very ambitious plan,” the official said, adding that although it could take some years to achieve, “the potential is really great, the potential is big and we believe Saudi Arabia will be major producers of solar energy”.

For numerous reasons Saudi Arabia has a terrible track record in efforts to diversify away from oil. It’s not a very efficient state when it comes to industrial planning, and there’s not a lot of engineering knowhow in the country. And most Saudis are not, let’s put this as delicately as possible, known for their work ethic.

However, throw enough money at something and who knows what could happen.

The most likely outcome: solar energy produced in Saudi would mostly stay there and in the Gulf, which would permit larger oil exports as domestic energy demand grows. The Saudis know how to produce, sell and ship oil. The infrastructure for doing it is in place. Transmitting solar-generated electricity over long distances is expensive and not very efficient. It makes sense to use the solar as close to the point of production as possible, and it makes sense to continue using the existing infrastructure of oil shipment to foreign markets.

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