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.


Gold edges lower as US Treasury yields rise

Gold edges lower as US Treasury yields rise
Updated 18 October 2021

Gold edges lower as US Treasury yields rise

Gold edges lower as US Treasury yields rise

BENGALURU: Gold edged lower on Monday as a rise in US Treasury yields dented its appeal, although a risk-off sentiment in wider financial markets limited losses for the metal.

Spot gold was down 0.1 percent at $1,765.14 per ounce by 1:35 p.m. EDT (1735 GMT), while US gold futures settled down 0.2 percent at $1,765.70.

“If yields keep rising, the headwinds will remain significant for gold,” OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said.

“Unless markets start to price in bad news for the economy and stock markets, which may be a rational next step if policymakers insist on tightening even as the recovery remains sluggish and downside risks significant.”

Sentiment in wider financial markets remained weak as economic growth in China slowed, while a relentless surge in oil prices fueled concerns about elevated inflation.

US benchmark 10-year Treasury yields climbed as investors ramped up rate hike bets, while the dollar index held steady.

While gold is seen as an inflation hedge, it also contends with the greenback for safe-haven status. Reduced central bank stimulus and the prospect of interest rate hikes push government bond yields up, weighing on non-yielding bullion.

Other precious metals also dipped, with silver down 0.3 percent at $23.21 per ounce and platinum slipping 1.8 percent to $1,035.29. Palladium shed 3.3 percent to $2,005.07, its lowest in over a week.


New York makes registration mandatory for crypto lending platforms

New York makes registration mandatory for crypto lending platforms
Updated 18 October 2021

New York makes registration mandatory for crypto lending platforms

New York makes registration mandatory for crypto lending platforms
  • State’s attorney general directs unregistered outlets to cease operations

RIYADH: New York has made it mandatory on cyrptocurrency lending platforms to register with the Office of the Attorney General if they wish to operate in the state or offer their products to New Yorkers.

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday said these steps are aimed to protect New York investors and markets from exploitation by high-risk virtual currency schemes.

The official also ordered the closure of two cryptocurrency lending platforms in New York and three other platforms were directed to provide information about their business.

“Cryptocurrency platforms must follow the law, just like everyone else,” James said.

The move comes weeks after the attorney general won a court order forcing the closure of cryptocurrency exchange Coinseed.

“My office is responsible for ensuring industry players do not take advantage of unsuspecting investors. We’ve already taken action against a number of crypto platforms and coins that engaged in fraud or that illegally operated in New York,” he said.


Saudi Venture Investment Co. launches initiative to support startups

Saudi Venture Investment Co. launches initiative to support startups
Updated 18 October 2021

Saudi Venture Investment Co. launches initiative to support startups

Saudi Venture Investment Co. launches initiative to support startups

RIYADH: The Saudi Venture Investment Co. has launched the “Investment in Accelerator Funds and Startup Studios" initiative, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
It is part of the company’s efforts to support startups in the Kingdom in the seed and pre-seed phases.
SVC has investments worth SR1.1 billion ($293.2 million) in 20 funds.
The company has supported around 116 startups since its establishment in 2018 till the end of the third quarter of 2021.
 


Saudi Arabia sees gasoline, diesel demand rise in 2021

Saudi Arabia sees gasoline, diesel demand rise in 2021
Updated 18 October 2021

Saudi Arabia sees gasoline, diesel demand rise in 2021

Saudi Arabia sees gasoline, diesel demand rise in 2021

RIYADH/CAIRO: Average motor and aviation gasoline demand in Saudi Arabia jumped to 470 thousand barrels per day (kbd) in 2021, compared to 455 kbd in 2020, data compiled by Arab News from Jodi revealed.
Calculations made for 2021 were up to August, the year’s latest data point so far.
The data reflects a recovery in gasoline demand as the effects of the pandemic start to taper off. However, the demand is still below the pre-pandemic levels. Average gasoline demand used to cross 500 kbd before 2020 in the Kingdom.
The data for 2021 is incomplete and a 12-month dataset might lead to a different conclusion.
Saudi motor and aviation gasoline demand reached 471 kbd in August, which was a marginal decline from the previous month's 473 kbd. In annual terms, 2021 recorded a 9kbd fall in demand as compared to last year's August, which stood at 480 kbd.
Similarly, the Kingdom’s average diesel demand slightly increased to 497 kbd in 2021, up from 492 kbd in 2020. Nevertheless, it is still below pre-2020 levels. In 2017-19, average diesel demand was above the 520 kbd mark.
Diesel is mainly used by trucks and hence could be roughly used as a gauge for the intensity of goods shipments across the country.
In August, the demand for diesel reached 532 kbd, which was moderately higher than the same month last year by 11 kbd. It was also noticeably greater than the previous month’s demand as it recorded a monthly increase of 41 kbd.


Bitcoin rises near 6-month high, as ETF launch date approaches: Market wrap

Bitcoin rises near 6-month high, as ETF launch date approaches: Market wrap
Updated 18 October 2021

Bitcoin rises near 6-month high, as ETF launch date approaches: Market wrap

Bitcoin rises near 6-month high, as ETF launch date approaches: Market wrap

RIYADH: ProShares is set to launch a Bitcoin futures exchange-traded fund on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, in what would be a first for institutional investors in the US, New York Times reported.

The ETF will provide institutional investors and retail investors exposure to Bitcoin, who cannot legally or do not want direct exposure, through a brokerage account.

“When we have a Bitcoin ETF in the US, billions and billions of dollars will flow into Bitcoin that under no circumstances would have found their way into Bitcoin otherwise,” MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor said.

Stablecoins

Asset-backed stablecoins do not pose a systemic risk to the US financial system and should not face a new set of rules, a major cryptocurrency lobby group told US regulators on Monday, as tighter oversight of the fast-growing technology looms.

Stablecoins — digital tokens usually backed by reserves of dollars or assets from gold to other cryptocurrencies — have ballooned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets — which comprises top US regulators including the Treasury and Federal Reserve — is focusing on them as part of wider efforts to rein in crypto.

The group is widely expected to publish in the coming months a report detailing the risks and opportunities of stablecoins.

Adoption

The Central Bank of Brazil released a report showing that Brazilians have bought more than $4 billion in cryptocurrency imports since the beginning of the year.

The report also shows that Brazilians have consistently earned more than $350 million in cryptocurrencies every month since January.

However, according to some analysts from the central bank, this number is likely to reach twice its value this year.

Brazilians investing in cryptocurrencies abroad are likely to triple the amount invested in American shares, according to Bruno Serra the director of monetary policy of the Central Bank of Brazil.

Crypto regulation

Nasdaq-listed crypto exchange, Coinbase has published its proposal for crypto regulation after more than 75 meetings with stakeholders in government, industry, and academia.

“Today we’re launching our Digital Asset Policy Proposal, which we hope will help chart a course for clear regulation of cryptocurrency and web 3.0 in the US. It’s critical to bring clarity to this space and ensure America remains a financial leader,” Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong tweeted.

ATMs

Popular BTM Operator, Bitcoin of America, recently announced their newest addition to their Bitcoin ATM machines.

Ethereum is available now for buy and sell at Bitcoin of America ATM locations due to its growing popularity,  it also offers Bitcoin and Litecoin options online and at their BTM locations.

Trading

Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency in trading internationally, traded higher on Monday, rising by 1.62 percent to $61,891 at 6 p.m. Riyadh time.

Ether traded at $3,769, down 1.94 percent, according to data from CoinDesk.