Saudi Arabia to become major solar power exporter under new plan

The Saudi solar initiative will diversify the national economy and stimulate investment in non-oil industries. The project will also reduce solar power production costs and create employment opportunities, with up to 100,000 jobs in solar power schemes alone. (SPA)
Updated 03 April 2018
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Saudi Arabia to become major solar power exporter under new plan

  • Kingdom aims to produce 200 gigawatts of solar energy by 2030
  • Up 100,000 new jobs expected in solar power schemes alone
Saudi Arabia has unveiled plans to transform its solar power production, in line with the Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the country’s economy and end its reliance on oil.
Under the Solar Power Project Plan 2030, the Kingdom expects to produce 200 gigawatts of solar energy by 2030, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
At the launch of the plan, experts said the project will transform the Kingdom into a leading exporter of sustainable energy, thanks to its natural resources and environmentally friendly industries relying on sun, wind, and sand rich in silica.
Solar power will be the world’s largest energy source by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.
The Saudi solar initiative will help to diversify the national economy and stimulate investment in non-oil industries. The project will also reduce solar power production costs and create employment opportunities for Saudi workers, with up to 100,000 jobs in solar power schemes alone.
Meanwhile, King Saud University in Riyadh has joined a research project with Japan and Peru to monitor changes in the sun and their effects on Earth.
The Kingdom’s history of solar research goes back 38 years, when King Salman opened the research plant at King Abdul Aziz City — the first solar power site in the Kingdom. The plant provided solar electricity to Uyayna, Jubaila and rural centers near Riyadh.
The solar village, part of a Saudi-US partnership, produces 350 kilowatts of electricity through concentrated photovoltaic complexes.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has outlined Saudi Arabia’s transformation into a “Kingdom of Sustainable Energy” era within five months. In October 2017, Riyadh hosted the beginning of the development of the strategy (Solar Plan 2030) with the participation of the Public Investment Fund and Softbank Vision Fund.
On March 28, during his groundbreaking visit to the US, the crown prince signed a memorandum of understanding with Softbank Vision Fund to create a plant for the project, which would be completed and ready to start production of solar energy by early 2019.
Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology, said: “Saudi Arabia’s current energy needs are 75 gigawatts. The 2030 solar plan would enable the Kingdom to export surplus electricity and thus provide alternative energy to the Kingdom’s oil.”


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”