RIYADH: The desert of Saudi Arabia is ready to be in action mode with all equipment and logistics in place ahead of the launch of Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020, which takes place in Asia for the first time and begins on Jan. 5.
With less than 10 days to go until the attention of motorsport enthusiasts turns to the world’s most challenging race, organizers of Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will be deploying 10 helicopters, 10 buses, 60 medical officers and 50 freight trucks to ensure a safe and seamless experience for 556 pilots competing in the 7500-km race.
Prince Khalid bin Sultan, president of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation, said: “We have worked tirelessly over the past months and weeks with passion driven by commitment to succeed, in order to deliver to the Kingdom and the world this historic event that not only boosts the sporting sector in the country but has a positive impact on the cultural and entertainment fronts as well.”
Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will feature pilots from 62 countries, including 47 Legends who took on the Dakar challenge at least 10 times in their careers. The Kingdom’s desert will also be the stage for the first Dakar venture of 85 competitors.
Throughout 42 editions of the tough race, Rally Dakar has passed through three European countries, 21 African countries and another five in South America. Saudi Arabia will be the 30th country to host the rally as its uncharted desert, unique terrain and unrivalled nature strive to write Chapter 3 of the history of Dakar.
Motorsport fans will be able to enjoy comprehensive coverage and follow the race through 12 hours of daily TV content and 1,200 hours of coverage over 13 days via 70 TV channels, allowing more than 50 million followers a chance to live the Dakar experience in 190 countries.
Extending over a total distance of 7,856 kilometers, rally pilots must navigate their way through 5,097 kilometers of special off-road sections, the longest in the history of the Dakar Rally. The race gets underway in Jeddah before drivers and crews navigate their way through the fast and winding dunes and stones for 752km.
The challenge continues up north along the coast for nearly 900km through the Red Sea Project till it reaches the futuristic megacity of Neom, where the marvellous journey reaches its highest point at an altitude of 1,400 meters amid a series of canyons and mountains.
A combination of sandy stretches and gravel await Dakar’s thrill-seeking pilots as they cruise next through 676km of the formidable trip from Neom to Al Ula in Dakar’s fourth stage, before the sandy hills of Hail put the navigation skills of competitors to the test while descending south onto Riyadh.
A rest day in the capital will be followed by the rally’s longest stage of 741km, as the route takes a turn to the west in the center of the Kingdom’s enormous desert before looping back toward Haradh in the eastern governorate of Al-Ahsa, marking the entrance to the Empty Quarter and building up to the grand finale in the future entertainment, sports and cultural destination of Qiddiya, where the winner will be crowned on the final podium.
Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will see pilots drive specially modified vehicles, trucks, quad, SxS, and motorbikes, designed to handle 12 stages of various challenging terrains of the vast Saudi desert.
Saudi Arabia joins club of Middle East’s ‘green energy’ leaders
Government plans to invest up to $50bn in renewable energy projects by 2023
Demand for electricity in the Kingdom is forecast to rise by up to 120 GW by 2030
Updated 20 January 2020
ABU DHABI: Saudi Arabia has become one of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s leaders in the race to use renewable energy, according to a new study.
The Solar Outlook Report 2020 was launched at the Solar Forum of the World Future Energy Summit, a highlight of this year’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (Jan. 11-18).
The report, prepared by Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA), the largest regional body of its kind, said Saudi Arabia and Oman have joined the UAE, Morocco and Egypt as leaders in the renewables race.
“Saudi Arabia is now in the third year of implementation of its massive target of 60 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy generation by 2030,” it said.
Martine Mamlouk, secretary-general of MESIA, said that investment in solar energy is evident across MENA countries. “Saudi Arabia has a target of almost 60 gigawatts of renewable energy, out of which 40 gigawatts are solar,” she told Arab News.
“This is in line with the Kingdom’s objective of diversification and Vision 2030. While the industry is reaching grid parity, it is great to see the deployment of new innovative technologies to increase efficiency of systems, production management and grids.”
Upcoming solar projects in the Kingdom include Madinah, Rafh, Qurayyat, Al-Faisaliah, Rabigh as well as Jeddah, Mahd Al-Dahab, Al-Rass, SAAD and Wadi Ad-Dawasir, along with Layla and PIF.
Saudi Arabia’s energy demand has been rising steadily, with consumption increasing by 60 percent in the past 10 years, according to data provided by market researchers Frost & Sullivan. Demand for electricity in 2019 reached 62.7 GW and is forecast to rise by up to 120 GW by 2030.
The value of solar-power projects in the MENA region is estimated at between $5 billion and $7.5 billion. By 2024, that figure is expected to approach $15 billion to $20 billion.
Under its Vision 2030 program, the Kingdom aims to reduce its dependency on oil revenues, diversify its energy mix and tap its renewable energy potential.
After the Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) was set up within the Ministry of Energy, the goals for the Kingdom’s National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) were revised upwards in 2018, resulting in a five-year target of 27.3 GW and a 12-year target of 58.7 GW.
The Saudi government plans to invest up to $50 billion in renewable energy projects by 2023.
“At MESIA, we are excited to see solar developments in the MENA region accelerating and reaching attractive tariffs, while lowering the carbon footprint of regional economies,” Mamlouk said.
“The total investment in renewables in MENA between 2019 and 2023 is expected to be $71.4 billion, representing a 34 percent share of the total investment in the power sector, which is valued at $210 billion.”
Changes introduced by Saudi Arabia include a focus on local developers and easing of regulations for local manufacturers of solar panels.
A Local Content and Government Procurement Authority has been established to oversee and audit local content compliance.
Separately, a Renewable Energy Financing package has been launched by the Saudi Industrial Development Fund to support the growth of utility and distributed-generation sectors.
After solar photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof of a mosque in Riyadh, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center recommended a similar move at other mosques.
Meanwhile, plans for the use of solar panels in the Saudi agro-industry have led to burgeoning interest in the technology, with several industrial facilities expected to have their own units in the not-too-distant future.
For good measure, a regulatory framework to allow exchanges with the power grid is being studied by the Electricity Co-generation Regulatory Authority.
Flexible storage solutions, such as hydrogen, will give intermittent renewable energy a greater share in the energy system, Mamlouk said. “It may enable present-day oil and gas exporters to become key renewable energy exporters tomorrow. The solar industry is thrilled and proud to participate in this profound transformation of Saudi Arabia’s energy system.”
In the past year solar tariffs have fallen to record low levels in the MENA region, mainly due to tremendous cost declines that have brought the goal of grid parity within reach.
With installed solar electricity capacity worldwide standing at 617.9 GW, MENA governments are staying focused on energy diversification with the help of large-scale projects.
In the UAE, Dubai is targeting the completion of a 5 GW facility by 2030 at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Solar Park. Abu Dhabi has “engaged” its second-largest solar project and is considering the roll-out of more units by 2025.
62.7GW - Demand for electricity in Saudi Arabia in 2019
Morocco aims to reach 52 percent contribution by renewables in its energy mix by 2030. The figures for Tunisia and Egypt are 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively, by 2022.
Oman expects solar-power plants totaling 1.5 GW to come on stream by the end of 2022. Even Iraq, with all its political troubles and administrative paralysis, has not ignored solar power in drawing up plans for its future energy mix.
“Investments in renewable energy have reached billions in all Arab countries,” Mohammed Al-Taani, secretary-general of the Arab Renewable Energy Commission, said.
“Jordan is spending more on renewable energy, and we encourage people to have more independence with renewables by generating their own electricity to reduce their bills.”
Nevertheless challenges remain when it comes to implementing projects in rural and isolated areas, according to Mustapha Taoumi, a technology expert at the EU-GCC Clean Energy Technology Network. “With regard to issues of power grid and access to the people, we have to prepare for everything and be ready to receive new technology because there are communities with little income and education,” he said.
“Then there is the challenge of implementation on the part of different actors and sectors. Social acceptance is also important as we come with new technologies and (information on) how to use them.
“We have to be innovative when it comes to financing the facilitation process. We have to be fair and democratic,” he said.
Although this is an exciting time for the region, governments will have to step up their efforts since they are still subsidizing the cost of power, Taoumi said.
“Technologies are evolving quickly, so decision-making must keep pace,” he said. “We could end up having smart meters in rural and isolated areas in two to three years.”