France’s EDF helping Saudi Arabia achieve renewable energy targets

France’s EDF helping Saudi Arabia achieve renewable energy targets
EDF Renewables’ other big project in the Kingdom is the 400-megawatt Dumat Al-Jandal utility-scale wind farm project, located 900 kilometers north of Riyadh in the Al-Jouf region.
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Updated 17 May 2021

France’s EDF helping Saudi Arabia achieve renewable energy targets

France’s EDF helping Saudi Arabia achieve renewable energy targets
  • Despite pandemic delays, Kingdom’s largest wind farm set to begin operations this year

DUBAI: Like many executives around the world, Bruno Bensasson hasn’t been on a plane much in the last year. However, one of the few flights he did take recently was to Riyadh to check up on the progress of two massive renewable energy projects, showing the French company’s dedication to both the Kingdom and the renewable energy sector.

Saudi Arabia is aiming to generate 50 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030, with the remainder provided by gas. Bensasson is chairman and CEO of EDF Renewables, a subsidiary of French state-controlled power group EDF.

His flight to the Kingdom was for the unveiling of a solar power plant in Jeddah, which is being built in partnership with Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company Masdar and privately owned Saudi firm Nesma Co.

The consortium was awarded the 300-megawatt utility-scale photovoltaic solar power plant by the Saudi Ministry of Energy after it submitted a bid of SR60 ($16.24) per megawatt hour. The group signed a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement, and the plant is expected to be operational in 2022.

“These large-scale renewable installations are perfectly in line with the EDF Group’s CAP 2030 strategy, which aims at doubling its renewable energy net capacity in operation worldwide, between 2015 and 2030, from 28 to 60 gigawatt net,” Bensasson said at the time.

As of the end of 2020, 13.7 percent of EDF’s electricity output comes from renewable energy, with 76.5 percent coming from nuclear, 9.3 percent coming from fossil fuels (excluding coal) and the remaining 0.4 percent coming from coal.

EDF Renewables’ other big project in the Kingdom is the 400-megawatt Dumat Al-Jandal utility-scale wind farm project, located 900 kilometers north of Riyadh in the Al-Jouf region. The Middle East’s largest wind farm, construction began in August 2020 and reached the halfway point in April this year.

“We are now aiming at having all the turbines in operation I would say by Autumn 2021,” Bensasson told Arab News. Similar to the solar power plant, the wind farm was built as part of a consortium consisting of EDF Renewables and Masdar.

The $500 million wind farm will feature 99 wind turbines, each with a power output of 4.2 megawatts. It is predicted that that the first turbine will start creating power in the coming weeks, and when complete, will power 70,000 Saudi households per year and save 988,000 tons of carbon dioxide, helping the Kingdom achieve its Vision 2030 and Saudi green goals. Like many projects around the world, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has slightly delayed progress on the project. “There were some difficulties for staff and construction workers to access the site last year. We perfectly understand that, so it took some months — several months — to have the possibility to access the site,” Bensasson said.

It was not only the wind farm that was impacted — coronavirus affected the entire region. The Middle East saw a 5 percent year-on-year increase in its renewable energy capacity last year, down from 13 percent growth in 2019, according to the UAE-based International Renewable Energy Agency.

However, the global agency said that despite the slower growth in 2020, Saudi Arabia’s capacity has grown significantly over the last nine years — starting at only 3 megawatts and increasing to 413 megawatts in 2020.

Bensasson has worked in the renewable energy industry for almost 20 years, but believes that only now the technology has started to become a viable reality.

He said: “It’s my day-to-day reality, it’s really a booming reality. I would say that it has really changed since 2010. To give you a figure, in 2000, 70 percent of solar was developed in Europe, especially in Germany, Italy and Spain. And you will agree that they are not the biggest or sunniest countries. And same for wind. It’s totally different. About 60 percent of the growth now is within China and India. “Many countries have opted in.

And the reason for this shift, I would say, is twofold: One is economic and the other  is ecological.” Bensasson added that another factor in the growing popularity of renewables is the cost of wind production dropping 8 percent per year, and solar by about 15 percent per annum, making them “no-brainer solutions for many countries.”

EDF has been active in the Middle East for 20 years and has offices in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain and Doha, with 199 employees.


Iraqi oil minister expects oil prices at $68 to $75 in H2

Iraqi oil minister expects oil prices at $68 to $75 in H2
Updated 18 min 7 sec ago

Iraqi oil minister expects oil prices at $68 to $75 in H2

Iraqi oil minister expects oil prices at $68 to $75 in H2
  • “We expect that Exxon Mobil will remain in a certain part of Iraq in some investments, it came out only from West Qurna 1,” he said

CAIRO: Iraq’s oil minister said on Saturday that he expects oil prices to range between $68 and $75 per barrel during the second half of this year if OPEC abides by set production output to protect markets.
Ihsan Abdul Jabbar also told journalists “there are new projects in which there is a common interest” between Exxon Mobil and Iraq. “We expect that Exxon Mobil will remain in a certain part of Iraq in some investments, it came out only from West Qurna 1,” he added.


Dubai’s non-oil external trade grows 10 percent in Q1

Dubai’s non-oil external trade grows 10 percent in Q1
Updated 25 min 35 sec ago

Dubai’s non-oil external trade grows 10 percent in Q1

Dubai’s non-oil external trade grows 10 percent in Q1
  • Exports grew 25 percent to 50.5 billion dirhams while imports rose by 9 percent to 204.8 billion dirhams
  • Gold topped the list of commodities in the emirate’s external trade at 63 billion dirhams

DUBAI: Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade reached 354.4 billion dirhams ($96.5 billion) in the first three months of 2021 – indicating a 10 percent increase from the same period last year.
Exports grew 25 percent to 50.5 billion dirhams while imports rose by 9 percent to 204.8 billion dirhams, state news agency WAM reported.
Re-exports reached 99 billion dirhams in the same period, growing 5.5 percent.
“This remarkable performance reflects our external trade sector’s impressive resilience and its ability to rebound and grow in the face of major international crises,” the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, said.
He attributed the growth to the emirate’s advanced infrastructure, good governance, as well as the “generous stimulus packages” launched to support businesses during the pandemic.
Dubai earlier launched a five-year economic strategy to raise external trade to 2 trillion dirhams, and leverage its potential as a global trade hub given its location.
“Furthermore, by hosting Expo 2020, ‘the world’s greatest show’, Dubai will make a significant contribution to the recovery of the global economy and help it move toward prosperity again,” Sheikh Mohammed added.
It helped that global trading activities in Dubai were not heavily affected by the health crisis, Sultan bin Sulayem, group chairman of port operator DP World, said.
“The impressive success of the vaccination campaign in the UAE has created high levels of global confidence in the country and helped Dubai add to its profile as the city with the world’s most favorable business environment,” he said.
Sulayem highlighted Dubai’s ongoing campaign to create a global logistics network through a passport system that eases international trade.
Countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa, and Brazil have joined the network, and several international shipping giants have signed up to benefit from it.
Airborne trade grew 15 percent to 179 billion dirhams, while sea trade accounted for 120 billion dirhams, recording a 3 percent increase. Land trade rose by 7 percent to 55.3 billion dirhams.
China is still Dubai’s biggest trading partner in the first three months of the year, with 44 billion dirhams worth of trade, representing a 30 percent increase.
It is followed by India at 35 billion dirhams, the US at 15.4 billion dirhams, and Saudi Arabia at 14.7 billion dirhams.
Gold topped the list of commodities in the emirate’s external trade at 63 billion dirhams, followed by telecoms, diamonds, jewelry, and vehicle trading.


Who are Americans on trial in Ghosn’s escape?

Who are Americans on trial in Ghosn’s escape?
Updated 53 min 38 sec ago

Who are Americans on trial in Ghosn’s escape?

Who are Americans on trial in Ghosn’s escape?
  • Ghosn led Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. for two decades before his arrest in Tokyo in November 2018. He was charged with falsifying securities reports in underreporting his compensation and with breach of trust

Americans Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor go on trial in Tokyo on Monday on charges they helped Nissan’s former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, skip bail and flee to Lebanon in December 2019.
HOW DID THE TAYLORS END UP IN JAPAN?
The Taylors were arrested in Massachusetts in May 2020 and extradited to Japan in March. They have not been released on bail and are not available for comment, which is standard in Japan. They were formally charged in March with helping a criminal escape. Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, told The Associated Press while still in the US that Peter was not in Japan when Ghosn fled the country. The elder Taylor has helped parents rescue abducted children, gone undercover for the FBI and worked as a contractor for the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
WHAT HAPPENED WITH GHOSN?
Ghosn led Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. for two decades before his arrest in Tokyo in November 2018. He was charged with falsifying securities reports in underreporting his compensation and with breach of trust. He says he is innocent and the compensation he is accused of not reporting was never decided on or paid. Ghosn says he feared he would not get a fair trial in Japan, where more than 99 percent of criminal cases result in convictions. Japanese prosecutors say he paid at least $1.3 million to organize his escape. Ghosn is on Interpol’s wanted list, but Japan has no extradition treaty with Lebanon.
ESCAPE IN A BOX
Tokyo prosecutors say Michael Taylor and another man, George-Antoine Zayek, hid Ghosn in a large box meant to carry audio equipment, snuck him through airport security in Osaka, central Japan, and loaded him onto a private jet to Turkey. Peter Taylor is accused of meeting with Ghosn to help with the escape. Zayek has not been arrested. A US appeals court rejected the Taylors’ petition to put their extradition on hold.
COURT PROCEEDINGS
The Taylors will go through the Japanese equivalent of entering a plea before a panel of three judges. They may also give statements. They have said they didn’t break any laws because skipping bail is not technically illegal in Japan. But Ghosn was not supposed to leave the country. Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hiroshi Yamamoto said prosecutors will outline the charges, but he declined to comment specifically on the case. Japanese suspects are tried even if they plead guilty.
The Taylors are held at the Tokyo detention center on the city’s outskirts. Their lawyer can visit them, and they can receive snacks and books. Ghosn spent more than 100 days at the center before his release on bail. The cells are simple, with Japanese-style futon mattresses. The facility has an exercise area and clinic.
WHAT LIES AHEAD?
English translations will be provided and media coverage is allowed, but no filming or recording. If convicted, the Taylors face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,900). They also could get suspended sentences and not serve time. In principle, people accused of crimes in Japan are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But the conviction rate is higher than 99 percent.
ANOTHER AMERICAN
Former Nissan executive Greg Kelly, also an American, is being tried on charges of falsifying securities reports in underreporting Ghosn’s pay. He says he is innocent and was trying to find legal ways to pay Ghosn, partly to prevent him from leaving Nissan for a rival automaker. Kelly’s trial began in September and a verdict isn’t expected for months. If convicted, Kelly faces up to 15 years in prison.
WHAT DOES GHOSN SAY?
During the interview in Lebanon in May, Ghosn told The Associated Press he was eager to clear his name. He declined to give details of his escape. Ghosn accuses other Nissan executives of plotting to force him out to prevent him from giving its French partner, Renault, more power in their alliance. Renault sent Ghosn to Japan in 1999 to rescue the automaker when it was on the verge of bankruptcy.
HOW IS NISSAN FARING?
Nissan, which makes the Leaf electric car, the Z sportscar and Infiniti luxury models, has struggled as sales slumped during the pandemic. It expects to remain in the red this fiscal year, the third straight year of losses. Ghosn’s successors have promised a turnaround.


Tax or no tax, UAE aims to remain magnet for investors

Tax or no tax, UAE aims to remain magnet for investors
Updated 13 June 2021

Tax or no tax, UAE aims to remain magnet for investors

Tax or no tax, UAE aims to remain magnet for investors
  • Hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE has already launched a series of reforms, including to allow foreigners full ownership of businesses, whereas before it was capped at 49 percent unless based in certain free trade zones

DUBAI: Tax advantages paired with a life of luxury have long drawn foreigners and multinationals to the UAE, which is aiming to remain attractive whether or not it signs up to a global tax initiative.
The Group of Seven wealthy powers this month endorsed an “unprecedented” agreement on a global minimum corporate tax targeting major companies seen as not paying enough, especially tech giants.
The objective is a minimum tax of at least 15 percent.
While the agreement is the first step in a long process before it can become a reality, caught in the crosshairs are tax havens that attract firms such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook.
The United Arab Emirates entered the world’s top 10 tax havens for the first time in March, according to the Tax Justice Network.
Modestly called “jurisdictions with no or insignificant taxes” by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the havens include the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, the UAE and many others.
Both the UAE capital Abu Dhabi and freewheeling Dubai, the biggest draw for investors out of the UAE’s seven emirates, are home to thousands of companies that have set up regional offices there.
UAE officials have yet to issue a statement on the G7 agreement and did not respond to an AFP request for comment.
But this week Dubai announced plans to reduce in the coming months government procedures as “part of efforts to reduce the cost of doing business and further boost economic growth in the emirate.”
Hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE has already launched a series of reforms, including to allow foreigners full ownership of businesses, whereas before it was capped at 49 percent unless based in certain free trade zones.
Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri said the changes were a bid to boost the “competitive edge” of the country, currently 16th in the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings.
The UAE, which relies on its image as an international hub, “will be keen to be seen as part of the global system rather than a tax haven,” said Scott Livermore of Oxford Economics Middle East.
“The upsides of remaining on the outside of the agreement is limited, especially if approved by the G20 and OECD countries,” the Dubai-based economist told AFP.
According to Livermore, even if businesses in the country see an increase in tax burden, the government was likely to “consolidate and simplify fees,” as is the case in Luxembourg and Malta, where multiple exemptions lower the final bill considerably.
“Already the authorities have realized the importance of broader business and social environment for attracting and retaining foreign investment and talent,” he said.
“This has been demonstrated by the raft of visa and business reforms announced over the past year.”
Many foreign executives are attracted to the lifestyle in Abu Dhabi and especially Dubai.
The two emirates are air hubs and offer a variety of luxury services that depend on a migrant labor force largely from South Asian countries.
The UAE’s low tax regime has been a “major carrot to dangle” before investors from abroad, said Robert Mogielnicki, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
“Emirati policymakers will have to get creative and consider restructuring various business-related fees,” he told AFP.
“But even with the envisioned impact of a minimum global corporate tax, the UAE will remain a relatively low-tax environment.”
And regardless of new taxes introduced in Gulf countries in the past years amid an economic slump due to a drop in oil prices, Mogielnicki believes the Emirates will remain competitive.
“The UAE’s commercial environment enjoys excellent connectivity to key global markets, a high standard of living, and a dynamic labor market with cost-effective, skilled expatriate labor,” he said.
“I don’t think the UAE government or its citizenry will truly miss any of the firms or investors who only care about preferential tax treatment over the long run — even if missing out on some business opportunities will sting over the short run.”


Egypt spent $100bn on govt projects in 7 years

Egypt spent $100bn on govt projects in 7 years
Updated 13 June 2021

Egypt spent $100bn on govt projects in 7 years

Egypt spent $100bn on govt projects in 7 years
  • The minister said these structural reforms could play a vital role in accelerating economic recovery from the coronavirus

CAIRO: Egypt’s infrastructure spending during the last seven years amounted to EGP1.7 trillion ($100 billion), according to the country’s Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala El-Said.

The spending had a direct impact on Egypt’s ranking in the Global Competitiveness Index as it focused on improving the quality of roads and providing uninterrupted power to the private sector and citizens, she said on Saturday.

She also said the government was taking several measures to boost public-private partnerships to expedite economic growth, and that the government had founded the first Egyptian sovereign fund designed to carry out projects in partnership with the private sector.

The minister said that, to strengthen such partnerships, the government kept the private sector and other stakeholders in the loop while formulating economic policies and regulations.

One example was a recent investment law, which encouraged the participation of the private sector and its increased collaboration with the public sector.

The minister said these structural reforms could play a vital role in accelerating economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as boosting overall growth.

El-Said said the government was proceeding with the implementation of structural reforms that would protect African economies from external shocks in the future.