Saudi Arabia makes up for lost time in clean energy race

People watch a presentation on 'Neom', a vast new development planned for Saudi Arabia, which is investing heavily in renewable energy as part of the Vision 2030 economic blueprint
Updated 26 January 2018

Saudi Arabia makes up for lost time in clean energy race

LONDON: When Saudi Arabia announced its plan to embark on a program of renewable energy construction last year, the largest renewable energy project in the Kingdom was Saudi Aramco’s solar car park, according to Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the clean-energy research group.
But things move fast in the country these days, and clean energy is no exception. As part of the Vision 2030 program, Saudi Arabia plans to supply 9,500MW, or 10 percent of its power demand, from renewable sources by 2023 — and it fully expects to exceed this target.
“Saudi Arabia is now tendering for projects. It has done the first few and is getting a very good price for them, and it has a local champion in ACWA Power, which will deliver them,” Liebreich told Arab News. “But there’s a long way to go. It needs to build gigagwatts of this stuff, integrate it into the grid and figure out what that means for its power system.”
In 2018 alone, the Kingdom is seeking investment of up to $7 billion to build about 4,000MW of renewable energy capacity.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, is looking to generate more energy from renewable sources, in part to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Paris Accord on climate change, but also to allow it to sell oil abroad at full price rather than use it domestically where it is subsidized. Developing a renewable energy industry is also part of its Vision 2030 efforts to diversify the economy away from its dependence on oil and gas.
The Kingdom has come late to the renewable energy party, despite its abundant wind and solar resources, but as a result has benefited from the learning process that has taken place in the industry in the rest of the world, said Adnan Amin, director general of the International Renewable Agency.
“Saudi Arabia’s move into renewables is very significant. They are looking to mobilize about $50 billion,” said Amin. “It makes absolute economic sense for Saudi Arabia to embark on this as quickly as they are doing. The opportunity cost of burning oil for power is 90 percent of the cost of a barrel of oil, leaving aside the environmental issues.
“Renewables are incredibly cheap now. The latest bids for Saudi solar projects are around 2.5 US cents per kWh, which is about a quarter of the cost of oil,” he said. “They are also considering how to develop a local industry to create jobs domestically.”
Speaking at a recent renewables conference in Abu Dhabi, Turki Mohammed Al-Shehri, head of the Renewable Energy Project Development Office (Repdo), said that the ultimate aim of the National Renewable Energy Program was to create a globally competitive local industry. To this end, it has imposed demanding rules requiring 30 percent local content for projects awarded last year. In 2018, this requirement rises to 40-60 percent and from 2019 onwards, Repdo wants to see more than 60 percent of equipment being made domestically.
Al-Shehri conceded that there are trade-offs between local content, a low levelized cost of energy (LCOE), meeting deadlines, complying with renewable energy targets and creating jobs. “If we go for the lowest LCOE, we will have to sacrifice local content, for example.”
Even the huge growth in capacity planned between now and 2023 will not be enough to attract investment into local manufacturing facilities, Al-Shehri said. “We have to look beyond the 9.5GW. To capture local content, we need a 10-year pipeline of projects.”
Saudi authorities also hope to export renewable energy to the rest of the worldto complement the oil they export today, Amin said. “We see great potential to export cheap green energy from the region.”
Saudi Arabia may have lagged behind other nations in rolling out renewables, but the scale of its current ambitions — even as it remains the world’s most important oil producer — send an important message that renewable energy is here to stay.
“There is a new understanding that an energy transformation is underway and it is bringing very significant changes to energy systems around the world,” Amin said.


General Motors and workers union contract expires, increases risk of strike

Updated 15 September 2019

General Motors and workers union contract expires, increases risk of strike

  • Union officials told General Motors they would let the contract lapse just before midnight Saturday
  • A strike by 49,200 union workers would bring to a halt GM’s US production

DETROIT: The four-year contract between General Motors and the United Auto Workers has expired as negotiations on a new deal continue.
Union officials told GM they would let the contract lapse just before midnight Saturday, increasing the risk of a strike as early as Sunday night. Union members working Sunday were to report as scheduled.
But there was a wrinkle. About 850 UAW-represented janitors who work for Aramark, a separate company, went on strike Sunday after working under an extended contract since March of 2018, the union said.
The strike covered eight GM facilities in Ohio and Michigan. Although UAW workers at GM are supposed to work, it wasn’t clear early Sunday whether the rank-and-file would cross their own union’s picket lines. GM said in a statement that it has contingency plans for any disruptions from the Aramark strike.
UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said in a letter to members that, after months of bargaining, both the union and GM are far apart on issues such as wages, health care, temporary employees, job security and profit-sharing.
The union’s executive leaders and a larger group of plant-level officials will meet Sunday morning to decide the union’s next steps.
The letter to members and another one to GM were aimed at turning up the pressure on GM negotiators.
“While we are fighting for better wages, affordable quality health care, and job security, GM refuses to put hard working Americans ahead of their record profits,” Dittes, the union’s chief bargainer with GM, said in a statement Saturday night.
Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank, said the union could strike at GM after the contract expires.
“If they’re not extending the agreement, then that would leave them open to strike,” she said.
But GM, in a statement Saturday night, still held out hope for an agreement, saying it continues to work on solutions.
“We are prepared to negotiate around the clock because there are thousands of GM families and their communities — and many thousands more at our dealerships and suppliers — counting on us for their livelihood. Our goal remains on building a strong future for our employees and our business,” the GM statement said.
A strike by 49,200 union workers would bring to a halt GM’s US production, and would likely stop the company from making vehicles in Canada and Mexico as well. That would mean fewer vehicles for consumers to choose from on dealer lots, and it would make it impossible to build specially ordered cars and trucks.
The union’s executive board was to meet early Sunday to talk about the union’s next steps, followed by a meeting in Detroit of plant-level union leaders from all over the country. An announcement was scheduled for after the meetings end.
If there is a strike, it would be the union’s first since a two-day work stoppage at GM in 2007.
The move by the union also comes as it faces an internal struggle over a federal corruption investigation that has touched its president, Gary Jones. Some union members are calling for Jones to step down while the investigation continues. But Friday night, union leaders did not remove Jones.
Union officials surely will face questions about the expanding investigation that snared a top official on Thursday. Vance Pearson, head of a regional office based near St. Louis, was charged with corruption in an alleged scheme to embezzle union money and spend cash on premium booze, golf clubs, cigars and swanky stays in California. It’s the same region that Jones led before taking the union’s top office last year. Jones has not been charged.
On Friday, union leaders extended contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler indefinitely, but the pact with General Motors was still set to expire Saturday night.
The union has picked GM, which is more profitable than Ford and Fiat Chrysler, as the target company, meaning it’s the focus of bargaining and would be the first company to face a walkout. Picket line schedules already have been posted near the entrance to one local UAW office in Detroit.
Talks between the union and GM were tense from the start, largely because GM plans to close four US factories. The union has promised to fight the closures.