Solar-energy club boosted by Saudi Arabia’s entry

Solar-energy club boosted by Saudi Arabia’s entry
A man looks at the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh. Experts say that the Saudi renewable-energy market is the largest in the Middle East, with massive capacity expansion. (Reuters)
Updated 08 July 2019

Solar-energy club boosted by Saudi Arabia’s entry

Solar-energy club boosted by Saudi Arabia’s entry
  • The International Solar Alliance is a network of 122 "sun-rich" countries
  • Agreement to join ISA was signed during the Crown Prince's tour of India in February

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is expected to play a significant role in the future of solar energy following an agreement it signed with an inter-governmental organization that has its headquarters outside Delhi in India.

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a network of 122 “sun-rich” countries that the Kingdom joined during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s tour of India earlier this year. Most of the countries lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

Countries that do not fall within the Tropics can join the ISA and enjoy all benefits as other members, with the exception of voting rights.

The ISA was launched jointly by the prime ministers of India and France in Paris in 2015 on the sidelines of COP21, the UN climate conference. 

Its primary objective is to work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Its activities are aimed, among other things, at ramping up solar energy applications in agriculture, mini-grids and rooftops; financing; e-mobility and storage; and supporting solar technologies.

“The ISA welcomes the Kingdom’s signature on the framework agreement,” Upendra Tripathy, head of the ISA, told Arab News, referring to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

SOLAR TECHNOLOGY

• Photovoltaic systems - Semiconductor materials (such as thin-film solar cells) absorb sunlight, creating a reaction that generates electricity for use in everything from calculators to large utilities.

• Solar-thermal power - Arrays of reflectors focus the sun’s heat onto devices that produce electricity.

• Solar water heating systems - Flat-plate collectors mounted on building rooftops heat up a fluid contained in tubes; the heat is transmitted to water in a storage tank or a swimming pool.

• Passive solar heating - Uses materials such as sunlit floors and walls that absorb heat during the day and releases it at night.

“The decades of experience in energy policy, infrastructure, investment and financing that Saudi Arabia will bring on board will be incredibly valuable for ISA members. This will help member countries to promote solar-energy deployment and implement the Paris accord.”

The Paris accord is an agreement within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, dealing with the reduction of greenhouse-gas-emissions, which was signed in 2016.

“As a prominent member of OPEC, Saudi Arabia has always played a major role in global energy markets,” Tripathy told Arab News. “The Saudi government is now sending a clear message to the global community that it can play a prominent role in the future of solar energy.”

Experts say that the Saudi renewable-energy market is the largest in the Middle East, with massive capacity expansion, amounting to almost 16 gigawatts, expected to happen in the coming years.

“From what we can see in the Kingdom’s approach, the ambition is much bigger than just ensuring that a part of the internal consumption of electricity is generated by renewables,” said Yousif Al-Ali, acting executive director of clean energy at Abu Dhabi’s Masdar, which has been chosen by Saudi Arabia to develop its first commercial wind project.

“The Saudis have plans to be an exporter of clean energy to their neighboring countries. The Kingdom has all that is required to undertake such projects successfully and sustainably, namely sufficient acreage, very good resources of solar and wind energy, the right legislation, and a system that attracts very competitive finance and equity. So Saudi Arabia is well positioned to compete in this market.”

For his part, Tripathy noted that because Saudi Arabia is rich in both oil and solar energy resources, an optimium energy mix will not only maximize the Kingdom’s revenues but also reduce its carbon footprint and conserve its hydrocarbon resources.

“By boosting its investment in solar energy, Saudi Arabia can lead by example for other Gulf Cooperation Council countries,” he told Arab News. At the same time, he said, “the Kingdom can earmark part of its bilateral aid for supporting the adoption of solar technologies by other developing countries.”

With Saudi Arabia’s entry, according to Tripathy, the ISA will form a partnership with the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), which is headquartered in Jeddah, to expand investments in solar power in the bank’s member countries.

“The ISA has a unique role in facilitating implementation of solar projects in member countries,” he said.

“In the past two years of operations, the ISA has assumed the role of an ‘enabler’ by helping to set up 30 fellowships for the member countries at a premier engineering institution (IIT Delhi) in the host country, and by training 200 master trainers from ISA member countries.”

The ISA also plays the role of a “facilitator” by arranging bank credit from India and France. In addition, it strives to boost investments in solar projects by acting as an incubator. The role involves nurturing initiatives such as the Common Risk Mitigation Mechanism (CRMM), which has mobilized $1 million for the purpose of reducing the cost of solar projects in member countries.

According to estimates, more than $100 billion in investments are needed by 2030 for massive deployment of solar applications.

While solar energy has a bright future in Saudi Arabia, a number of challenges, notably its intermittent nature, have to be overcome.

“The storage and pricing is a challenge,” Masdar’s Al-Ali told Arab News. “The price of solar energy from storage devices is still three to four times the price of electricity that comes directly from photovoltaic (PV) cells during the day time. This is an area where I believe the market will evolve. We are also seeing huge reductions in the price of storage batteries, driven by the automobile industry. The trend is predicted to continue.”

Echoing Al-Ali’s remarks about the industry, Kyle Weber, founder of Evera, a transporation-focused energy company founded in Dubai in 2017, said limited energy-storage capacity is the biggest hurdle in the path of the Middle East’s transition to renewables.

“While the heat, dust and humidity may make solar less efficient in the Gulf region than in other parts of the world, there is sufficient sun to generate a significant amount of electricity or thermal energy,” he said.

Weber said the business opportunities that could be unlocked by Saudi Arabia’s admission to the ISA cannot be overestimated. “Once seen as a very conservative and closed-off society, it is now attracting an incredible amount of attention,” he said.

“The decision to be a part of the ISA further reinforces the commitment of the Kingdom to joining the international community,” he said. “Saudi Arabia, like most Gulf countries, realizes that it can no longer continue to be a solely oil-driven economy and must diversify to something else, or risk being left behind.

“This ISA move represents a truly positive change for the country and its people and is extremely exciting for businesses like ours, who see the market opening up.”

The experts said Saudi Arabia’s decision needs to be seen in the context of international resolve to adopt measures to mitigate climate change. “We need to create efficiency in all our systems,” Al-Ali said. “Today, renewables make sense in addition to its environmental impact and the reduction in carbon footprint. It’s economical to have renewable energy projects.”

The price of electricity from solar energy today is far below that derived from conventional sources, a development that bodes well for the future of countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which have a large number of power plants.

“These projects create jobs and support social growth,” Al-Ali said. “Renewable energy can play a role in creating jobs in places where other industries cannot.”

Looking to the future, Weber said: “Amazing projects, such as Neom, give me hope for the future in Saudi Arabia. In the solar sector specifically, there is incredible potential for a Gulf Cooperation Council grid.

“This will allow countries to buy and sell clean energy to one another to increase efficiency and stabilize the grid, and also to be able to cope with a wide range of renewable inputs, which generally fluctuate with the weather.”

In the final analysis, Weber said: “We are marching towards a climate change end game that appears extremely bleak. But I have faith that Saudi Arabia, the region and the whole world can make the necessary changes to avoid a climate catastrophe.”


Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 23 July 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 496,810
  • A total of 8,141 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 11 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,247 new infections on Friday.
Of the new cases, 263 were recorded in Riyadh, 211 in the Eastern Province, 209 in Makkah, 157 in Asir, 90 in Jazan, 68 in Madinah, 55 in Hail, 51 in Najran, 24 in the Northern Borders region, 21 in Al-Baha, 19 in Tabuk, and six in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 496,810 after 1,160 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,141 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 23.7 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


A look into modernization of tawafa profession as Hajj 2021 ends

A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. (Supplied)
A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. (Supplied)
Updated 23 July 2021

A look into modernization of tawafa profession as Hajj 2021 ends

A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. (Supplied)
  • Pilgrims used to stay up to four months, in comparison to spending less than a week at the moment

MAKKAH: Shadia Jumbi has worked in the tawafa profession since she was eight years old, helping pilgrims and guiding them through Hajj.

“We are used to traveling to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and China to bring pilgrims who are later met at the pilgrims’ city in Jeddah. We used to receive pilgrims and supervise them during the Hajj journey in the holy sites and throughout the Hajj phases. They used to stay in Makkah for up to four months, in comparison to spending less than a week (there) at the moment.”
Tawafa establishments are a key part of the Hajj experience, managing pilgrims’ affairs upon their arrival in the Kingdom until they leave for their homeland after the holy rituals have been performed. A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. These two elements are being brought into line with trade regimes and universal standards through development and modernization.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Shadia Jumbi recalled how pilgrims were captivated by Makkah’s communities. They learned about their customs and traditions, tried Hijazi food, and brought along their culture which merged with the Saudi culture.

• She also recalled that five stories used to be dedicated to pilgrims in Makkah’s houses, with homeowners living in the highest story. They interacted with the household members as an integral part of their Hajj experience. Nowadays, pilgrims eat, drink, and stay at hotels and camps. They do not interact with Makkah’s communities.

Jumbi, who is 70, is considered to be one of the first mutawwif in Makkah. She remembered when guides would fly to the home countries of people who wanted to visit the Kingdom, saying there were vast differences between Hajj in the past and Hajj in the present and that Hajj used to be an arduous journey for both pilgrims and mutawwif.
She recalled how pilgrims were captivated by Makkah’s communities. They learned about their customs and traditions, tried Hijazi food, and brought along their culture which merged with the Saudi culture. They witnessed Makkah’s manners which were a reflection of the host country’s manners and delivered a positive message to all their communities abroad.
“In the past, we received them in our homes, cooked for them, washed their clothes, celebrated them and invited them to join all our celebrations and occasions. They were keen to learn the Arabic language and learn about the most important places in Makkah and visit them, as well as the historic and archaeological sites.”

Tawafa establishments are a key part of the Hajj experience, managing pilgrims’ affairs upon their arrival in the Kingdom until they leave for their homeland after the holy rituals have been performed.

She recalled that five stories used to be dedicated to pilgrims in Makkah’s houses, with homeowners living in the highest story. They interacted with the household members as an integral part of their Hajj experience.
Nowadays, pilgrims eat, drink, and stay at hotels and camps. They do not interact with Makkah’s communities.
Jumbi said that the mutawwif would grow close to pilgrims and form a strong relationship and solid bond with them.
“Nowadays, the mutawwif has become a mere number in a series of the tawafa offices that are spread everywhere. They no longer play their role in supervising tourist trips and market visits and, when pilgrims get sick, we drive them to the hospital, treat them and supervise them from the moment they arrive until they leave.”

Shadia Jumbi, who is 70,  is considered to be one of the first mutawwif in Makkah. Jumbi has worked in the tawafa profession since she was eight years old, helping pilgrims and guiding them through Hajj.


She spoke of farewells, tears and open arms. “When we visited them in their countries, they did not let us stay in hotels. They received us in their homes. The mutawwif was respected and, unlike today, their main role was dealing with pilgrims as a family they respect.”
Ahmed Saleh Halabi, a writer specializing in Hajj and Umrah services, said there were many benefits to tawafa institutions being transformed into companies.
“There are benefits and gains in developing the human resources working in services and administration. Their work will not be limited to working in the Hajj season alone, but also throughout the year through diversifying service programs. The role of the tawafa companies will not be limited to securing and preparing the pilgrims’ camps in the holy sites, as they will also secure housing and food for pilgrims (in Makkah and the holy sites).
“Moreover, the companies will be able to organize the visits’ program in Makkah, as well as the tourism programs in Taif and Jeddah, which means that contributors and workers in the area of providing services for pilgrims will have economic benefits, met with the pilgrims’ benefits through the services they receive.”

Mentalities must change and everyone must accept the new shift.
Ahmed Saleh Halabi
Writer specializing in Hajj and Umrah services

Halabi said that if institutions worked on diversifying their services, they would receive different sources of income and change their traditional methods of receiving pilgrims, supervising their housing, setting up their camps in the holy sites, and providing buses to transport them.
“It is hard to demand (that) contributors inject money in new companies to increase capital, however, it is possible for companies to obtain concessional loans from banks that enable them to stand strong.”
He also said that “mentalities must change” and “everyone must accept” the new shift.

Old business card of mutawwif.

“Companies now need new ideas that call for diversifying services and participating in other services that the institutions were not involved with, such as investment in transportation and food.”
He said transformation could not harm tawafa establishments and mutawwif and that he expected change to be beneficial as they could work through the year, instead of seasonally, in any profession or service.
A mutawwif at the National Tawafa Establishment for South Asian Pilgrims, Abdul Aziz Abdul Razzaq, agreed that transformation had its advantages.
These included having a memorandum of association, a statute, share certificates, and a corporate governance manual to protect the company, ensure contributors’ rights and develop the organizational structure for members and committees by choosing the skills of professionals based on adopted standards.
Other benefits were discussing strategic goals and reports in regular meetings, and getting into investment opportunities with external partnerships — for areas such as communication, housing, food and transport — as well as providing high-quality services for pilgrims, enabling contributors to trade and purchase shares in the future, raising the share value for shareholders, enabling contributors to join the service delivery companies and the possibility of entering the Umrah system in the future.

Decoder

Tawafa and mutawwif

Tawafa establishments are a key part of the Hajj experience, managing pilgrims’ affairs upon their arrival in Saudi Arabia until they leave for their homeland after the holy rituals have been performed. A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. These two elements are being brought into line with trade regimes and universal standards through development and modernization.


Saudi authorities ramp up health inspection tours

Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches. (SPA)
Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches. (SPA)
Updated 23 July 2021

Saudi authorities ramp up health inspection tours

Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches. (SPA)
  • The municipalities urged all commercial facilities to abide by regulations to ensure public safety

DAMMAM: The Eastern Province municipality carried out 1,314 inspection tours in one day across shopping malls, commercial centers and stores to monitor compliance with health and safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

These checks resulted in three commercial outlets being shut down, while 41 violators were given penalties for ignoring health regulations.

The municipality of Asir also carried out 3,348 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities during the Eid holidays. The authorities closed three commercial outlets, while many other violators were given penalties.

The violations included noncompliance with social distancing and mask wearing, leniency in measuring the temperature of customers, overcrowding issues, and a failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app.

The municipalities urged all commercial facilities to abide by regulations to ensure public safety and prevent the virus from spreading.

Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call center number or contacting authorities through the Balady app.


Saudi aid agency KSrelief completes food project in Bangladesh

Saudi aid agency KSrelief completes food project in Bangladesh
Updated 23 July 2021

Saudi aid agency KSrelief completes food project in Bangladesh

Saudi aid agency KSrelief completes food project in Bangladesh
  • Joint teams of KSrelief and the MLW reached more than 80 distribution points inside Bangladesh refugee camps 

DHAKA: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), in cooperation with the Muslim World League (MWL), has concluded the distribution of 80,000 food baskets for Rohingya refugees and the communities hosting them in Bangladesh.

The project lasted for two months, benefiting 500,000 people in the Cox’s Bazar, Dhaka, Jessore, Rajshahi, Chittagong, and Panchi Sur island regions.

The joint teams of KSrelief and the MLW reached more than 80 distribution points inside the refugee camps and in various regions of Bangladesh.

The field teams traveled thousands of kilometers to reach the neediest families in Bangladesh in response to repeated global calls to contribute to alleviating the suffering of refugees and in support of the UN rapid response plan to the humanitarian crisis.

KSrelief received many certificates of quality and achievement from the authorities for adhering to high levels and standards in implementation, the most important of which is the application of social distancing in the areas of distribution and following COVID-19 precautionary measures.

 

 

 

 

 


Who’s Who: Abdullah Almahmoud, head of governance at Saudi Arabia’s Hassana Investment Company

Who’s Who: Abdullah Almahmoud, head of governance at Saudi Arabia’s Hassana Investment Company
Updated 22 July 2021

Who’s Who: Abdullah Almahmoud, head of governance at Saudi Arabia’s Hassana Investment Company

Who’s Who: Abdullah Almahmoud, head of governance at Saudi Arabia’s Hassana Investment Company

Abdullah Almahmoud is head of governance and compliance, and board secretary, of Hassana Investment Company, the investment arm of the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI).

He joined Hassana in Riyadh in June 2020 and works with the board of directors and executive management to ensure appropriate governance is in place and adhered to.

Prior to this, Almahmoud worked with the Capital Market Authority (CMA), Riyadh, from February 2009 to May 2020. His role required investigating possible violations of capital market law and implementation of its regulations, drafting CMA’s regulations and legal documents, leading litigation brought by the CMA against violators, and execution of CMA and court-issued decisions and penalties.

At the CMA, he worked as a member of the enforcement development group from November 2013 to April 2016, and was secretary, enforcement committee, from April 2013 to January 2016.

He was a secondee, office of international affairs, US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Washington, from January 2018 to January 2019.

Almahmoud worked as legal researcher for the general department of legal affairs at the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) from May 2008 to February 2009.

He began his professional career as an intern at the office of governmental affairs, Saudi Aramco, in Riyadh, between June 2005 to August 2005.

Almahmoud completed a masters degree (LLM) in business and finance law from George Washington University, the US, in 2011 and a bachelor of law degree (LLB) from King Saud University Riyadh in 2007.

He is a certified compliance officer (CCO), from the Financial Academy of Saudi Arabia (2020), and certified governance, risk and compliance officer (GRC), from the London School of Business and Finance (2020).

Almahmoud gained a general securities qualification certificate from the CMA in 2017.