Electric vehicles present no danger to Saudi oil industry: Energy minister

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said that on the manufacturing side, the Kingdom is committed to alternatives modes of mobility. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 10 April 2019

Electric vehicles present no danger to Saudi oil industry: Energy minister

  • Key forum spurs Saudi Arabia to adapt to global technology trends

RIYADH: The future introduction of electric cars into Saudi Arabia is unlikely to jeopardize the Kingdom’s oil industry, according to Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih.

Research into the use of hydrogen to power vehicles was already an area being looked at by experts in the country, the minister revealed.

Al-Falih was speaking at the inaugural Saudi Energy Forum (SEF) in Riyadh, organized by information consultancy Gulf Intelligence and attended by an estimated 400 representatives of the Saudi energy and mining sectors.

Delegates exchanged data on how global energy trends such as cybersecurity and climate change could impact Saudi Arabia and the wider global energy market.

The energy minister spoke about electric vehicles (EVs) during a forum session focused on wasys to harness emerging technologies to accelerate the Kingdom toward achieving the Vision 2030 reform plan targets.

He told delegates: “We’re undertaking a deep study on what it would take to invest in charging stations, to modify the grid in the Kingdom, so that we have thousands of cars by consumer choice or by potential policy for ground-level emissions, but we need to know the cost-benefit analysis.

“This is still in the study phase. Are electric vehicles going to doom oil? Is it going to impact the energy sector? The answer is no, because electric vehicles are only going to be economic in the light transport sector.

“Trucks, ships, and planes will continue to rely almost exclusively on petroleum-based fuels. So, yes there is a slight flattening of the demand curve, but the demand will continue to grow for oil, and we need the contributions of all of these modes of energy and mobility.”

Al-Falih added: “On the manufacturing side, we’re definitely committed to alternative modes of mobility. Hydrogen is another mode that we are looking at, and I know Aramco is looking at it, KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) is looking at it, and a number of initiatives including hydrogen fuel cells, vehicles that will be experimented with in the Kingdom.”

He said the global adaptation and penetration of electric vehicles depended on the relative cost of electricity to petroleum fuels, and the number of subsidies from governments.

“We’ve seen governments in California and Norway where subsidies have reduced but not been completely eliminated, and demand for electric vehicles has been at 80 percent or more.

“In addition, governments have to put massive investments into the electrical infrastructure to support reinforcing the grids in neighborhoods and workplaces to allow fast-charging stations. So, it’s a multi-dimensional formula,” he said.

“Norway, for example, has a lot of hydro, cheap — almost free electricity, coming from its hydro resources. It makes sense that the country puts it into mobility.

“In the Kingdom, it is a different situation. The pure economics from a consumer standpoint, and from a government standpoint today do not support wide penetration of electric vehicles.”

The minister added: “Having said that, the capacity for electric vehicles today does not support those kinds of sales where 20 percent of global sales are EVs. So, if there is a vacuum for us to fill its probably more in EVs than conventional vehicles, because we believe EVs are going to grow faster than conventional vehicles.”

The forum hosted more than 40 speakers from within the Kingdom and abroad, and was attended by representatives of leading energy corporations, senior government officials, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople alike. The conference served to strengthen links between energy authorities and find the best ways to adapt to the opportunities and challenges that the present-day energy industry offers.

With technology having an ever-increasing influence on all major industry sectors, roundtable sessions at the SEF focused on brainstorming how energy and utility companies could best leverage the latest smart technologies when engaging with their respective market base.

Chairman of the Arabian Co. for Water and Power Development (ACWA Power) Mohammed Abunayyan discussed Industry 4.0 digital transformation.

“For us in our industry, we do not have an option,” he said. “We have to be part of it. Today we have two operating centers — one in Jeddah and one in Dubai. Why? Because we want to have all 49 of our plants in operation connected in real time, with real data.

“Today 13 of our plants are connected to the two centers, and by the fourth quarter of this year we will have all 49 operating and connected to these centers. Today the market is changing, and we have to be a part of this change.”

Abunayyan told delegates of the consequences of not keeping up with change. “You’re going to be bankrupted and you will leave this market. Either you are proactive in staying ahead of the curve, investing in the future, and riding this wave — because it is a wave — or you can stand still and just watch.

“This is a bullet train. Today we are sitting in a bullet train. You can step in or you can sit at the station and be left behind. For me, 4.0 is not an option. People have to be open-minded, have to accept change, and accept that some industries are going to disappear,” he added.

KSRelief signs agreements for relief to Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians

Updated 29 min 59 sec ago

KSRelief signs agreements for relief to Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians

  • Al-Rabeeah: We have no hidden agenda in Syria and we work through international organizations

BEIRUT: The general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, signed on Wednesday seven agreements with Beirut and international and civil organizations operating in Lebanon to implement relief projects targeting Syrian and Palestinian refugees as well as the most affected host communities in Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who participated in the symposium at the Four Seasons Hotel Beirut to sign the agreements, praised the strong Saudi-Lebanese relations, which have existed for decades, and stressed Lebanon’s keenness to ensure their permanence and development.

He said: “The meetings Al-Rabeeah has held with different Lebanese political and religious authorities over the past two days during his visit to Lebanon, under the guidance of King Salman, indicate the Saudi leadership’s true desire to deepen the fraternal ties with the Lebanese, support Lebanon’s unity, independence, sovereignty and coexistence formula, and protect its existence from the repercussions of all the fires, crises and interventions that plague many countries.”

During the symposium, which was attended by a large group of political, religious and social figures, Al-Rabeeah called on the international donor community to shoulder more responsibility.

Addressing the implementing bodies, he said: “It is time to reconsider your working mechanisms in order to develop them and improve procedures to avoid negative impacts.”

“What I mean by reconsidering working processes is that there is a need to work professionally and skillfully because there are not many resources, and we must eliminate bureaucracy and speedily make the most of resources,” Al-Rabeeah told Arab News.

He stressed the importance of developing a close partnership between the donor and the implementer of projects, highlighting that KSRelief’s work is subject to international and regional oversight mechanisms as well as its own internal control mechanisms.

“We have two strategic partners, and when agreements are signed with the recipients of assistance, this means accepting oversight terms,” he said.

Al-Rabeeah said: “Saudi Arabia supports the safe return of Syrian refugees to their country, and so is the case for Yemen.”

“Saudi Arabia has supported peaceful dialogues, which restore security and stability,” he said. “In order for this to happen in Syria, we support the efforts of the United Nations and implement (as KSRelief) relief programs inside Syria. We also have major programs and we count on the UN to ensure a safe return for Syrian refugees.”

On the Syrian regions in which KSRelief is implementing its programs and the difficulties faced, Al-Rabeeah told Arab News: “We have nothing to do with military or religious matters, and wherever there is security, we work. We also work through the UN and the international organizations inside Syria, and we do not have any hidden agenda in this field.”

He stressed that “participating in rebuilding Syria requires security and stability, and the Saudi leadership hopes for a peaceful solution as soon as possible. Until this is achieved, the relief work will continue and won’t cease.”

Al-Rabeeah announced that KSRelief is implementing a quality program to rehabilitate recruited children in Yemen alongside its education, protection, health and environment projects.

“There are those who recruit children to fight in Yemen, violating all humanitarian laws. Our center rehabilitates them so that they are not used as terrorist tools in the future,” he said.

Al-Rabeeah emphasized that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 has given relief work its share, especially in terms of volunteering programs. “We have great examples involved in the field,” he said.

Among the signed agreements was one with the Lebanese High Relief Commission (HRC) to carry out a project to cover the food needs of Lebanese families.

Chairman of Lebanon’s High Relief Commission Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khair told Arab News that the agreement targets distributing 10,000 food rations to orphans, widows and destitute families in the poorest and most disadvantaged areas in Lebanon. “This project is encouraging and gives hope to people,” he said.

Khair said that there are 100,000 people in need in Bab Al-Tabbaneh district alone, pledging to commit to transparency during the implementation of the project. “It is not a question of sectarian balance; we are focused on those who are most in need,” he said.

The signed agreements include one for repairing, equipping, and operating the Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Center for Dialysis at the Makassed General Hospital, an agreement with the UNHCR worth $5 million to implement a project for assisting the most affected Syrian families for six months, an agreement to support Souboul Assalam Association in Akkar (northern Lebanon), an agreement with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to implement a project worth $3.8 million to cover the needs of Syrian families that are below the poverty line for a year, and an agreement with UNRWA to cover the medical needs and treatment of cancer and multiple sclerosis in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl said: “The challenge facing UNRWA after the reduction of its budget is maintaining the operation of its 715 schools in the Middle East.”

“Saudi Arabia is a key partner for us, and owing to its help, we will be able to help cancer and multiple sclerosis patients,” he said.