Japan PM Shinzo Abe meets King Salman in Riyadh and crown prince in AlUla

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King Salman shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit in Riyadh. (SPA)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at AlUla. (SPA)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at AlUla. (SPA)
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Masato Ohtaka said the meeting between the Japanese prime minister and Saudi crown prince was the meeting was full of substance, and included discussion on the regional situation. (Arab News photo by Sa’ad Al-Dossary)
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Updated 13 January 2020

Japan PM Shinzo Abe meets King Salman in Riyadh and crown prince in AlUla

  • The king expressed expectations that his country and Japan will deepen their strategic partnership
  • Abe also met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the ancient site of AlUla

RIYADH: Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on Sunday met Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince to discuss the regional situation, during the first leg of his Middle East tour.

The premier was received by King Salman in Riyadh for talks aimed at helping smooth relations between the US and Iran.

He later met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in AlUla, where they discussed regional developments, with Abe praising the Kingdom’s conduct during the recent heightening of tensions in the region.

“The meeting was full of substance,” said Masato Ohtaka, Japan’s foreign ministry director general for press and public diplomacy. “They exchanged views on the current situation and what needs to be done to defuse the tension.”

During the meeting the prime minister told the crown prince that further escalation of the situation had to be avoided, and Ohtaka added: “He (Abe) appreciates the fact that relevant countries such as Saudi Arabia are showing restraint.

“Abe mentioned that any military confrontation that might take place in the Middle East including Iran, will have profound impact on the peace and stability of not only the region but also the world.”

On Japan’s mediation role with Iran, Ohtaka said: “This subject on Iran is extremely delicate. I hesitate to go into too much detail on this. We don’t necessarily characterize our efforts as mediation.” He noted that Japan was the only country in Asia that had been engaging on this issue.

The spokesman also highlighted how Japan could play a role, given its close relationship with the US and established ties with Iran.

“Japan is an ally of the US, and also has a long-standing relationship with Iran, and based on those relationships has been engaged in playing a role in those contexts,” Ohtaka added.

Abe and the crown prince also discussed other bilateral issues, as the Japanese leader was received with traditional Saudi hospitality inside a Bedouin tent. Their meeting, which lasted about an hour, included a 20-minute private discussion.

The Japanese PM said he highly appreciated the reform efforts taking place within the Kingdom which were not only important for Saudi Arabia but the region and ultimately the world too.

Abe promised that Japan would fully support Crown Prince Mohammed’s reform efforts through the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030, a cooperation framework that has been around since 2016. The two nations are working on a broad range of areas and have already concluded four ministerial-level meetings and identified 69 areas of cooperation.

During their talks in Riyadh, Abe and King Salman confirmed their cooperation toward the successes of the G20 meetings to be hosted by Saudi Arabia this year and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. In their 40-minute discussions, the king expressed expectations that his country and Japan would deepen their strategic partnership in various fields, not only in the energy sector.

The day’s session was the fifth meeting between the two leaders since the start of Abe’s current administration in December 2012. At that time, King Salman was crown prince.

In his discussion with Crown Prince Mohammed, Abe said that Japan would support Saudi Arabia in its hosting of the next G20 summit in Riyadh. The crown prince in turn pledged that the Kingdom would follow up on the outcomes of the last G20 meeting in Osaka.

As the Japanese leader arrived in AlUla, his delegation was received by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, the Saudi culture minister and governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla.

AlUla, the last stop in Abe’s visit to the Kingdom before he continues his journey to the UAE and Oman, is full of archaeological treasures nestling amid stunning desert landscapes.

Saudi Arabia’s move to open up Hegra city and the AlUla Valley is restoring a missing chapter in the history of the Arabian Peninsula and the world. Bearing the name Mada’in Salih in the post-Islamic era, the lost city of Hegra was built by the Nabataeans, like its famous twin Petra in Jordan. They controlled the profitable trade routes that crossed the Arabian Peninsula from east to west and north to south from about the fourth century B.C. to A.D. 106.

Abe’s tour of AlUla will cast a spotlight on the ancient site as it prepares to open its doors to the public later this year.

Saudi Arabia joins club of Middle East’s ‘green energy’ leaders

Updated 20 January 2020

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

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.

Saudi Acwa power-generating windmills that have been erected in Jbel Sendouq, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (Reuters)

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.”