Saudi Arabia is set to become an electricity exporter with the implementation of a linkage agreement with Egypt and investment in renewable energy generation, the head of the Kingdom's power regulator told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Shehri, head of Saudi Arabia's Electricity & Co-Generation Regulatory Authority (ECRA), said a study on the project of exporting electricity to Egypt had been completed and the implementation phase would begin soon, Saudi Gazette reported.
"Saudi Arabia is close to achieving this dream at a time when it aims to build a [multi-national] electricity linkage network with a number of regional countries, including Turkey," he added.
Shehri said renewable energy was a key component of the plan-particularly solar energy-as well as the implementation of fuel consumption reduction and energy efficiency programs in Saudi Arabia itself, Al Arabiya reported.
Shehri added that ECRA had drawn up a regulatory framework for the licensing and use of renewable and atomic energy in the Kingdom, taking into account any subsidies that might be needed.
The vice-governor of ECRA, Nasser Qahtani, told Asharq Al-Awsat that despite the studies that had been conducted, the ability of the Kingdom to meet its electricity needs through renewable energy was still unclear.
He said: "This depends on the initial trials, and we have now started experiments at a very simple level in various areas. But when we move to a higher level, this will give us more accurate information on the ability of the technology to cover the demand for electricity."
He added: "Development in renewable energy in the future will be remarkable, and Saudi Arabia is eager to exploit lower-cost energies such as photovoltaic energy, which has developed greatly and its cost dropped in the last three years."
Qahtani also said that further research into wind and solar power, as well as the impacts of climate change, would give more data on the prospects for exporting surplus electricity, which he added was expected to lower prices for consumers.
Meanwhile, the head of the Shorouq Center for Economic Studies, Dr. Abdul Rahman Baashan, said Saudi Arabia was pressing ahead with its strategy to reduce energy consumption by 2030 amid a noticeable increase in electricity and fuel prices in the domestic market.
He added that he expected Saudi Arabia to be a world leader in renewable energy production by 2033, and that Saudi plans to build an international center to produce and export energy played into proposals to diversify the Kingdom's economy and create investment opportunities in wind and solar energy, representing a strategic alternative to oil and gas.