How tech solutions are shaping Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition  

Special How tech solutions are shaping Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition  
Attendees attend the second edition of LEAP. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 February 2023

How tech solutions are shaping Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition  

How tech solutions are shaping Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition  
  • Adopting sustainable approaches to energy will be critical to achieving net zero, experts tell Arab News at LEAP23
  • Kingdom can maintain its energy leadership through development, sustainability and innovation, says Saudi official 

RIYADH: Technology could provide the sustainable solutions required to combat climate change and drive forward an inclusive clean energy transition, experts said on the sidelines of the LEAP23 Conference in Riyadh on Monday.

Governments and businesses worldwide are responding to rising global temperatures by pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. However, many experts believe these commitments can only be realized through the adoption of new technologies.

At the second edition of LEAP, a four-day annual tech convention, climate scientists rubbed shoulders with industry leaders to explore how technology can help mitigate, or even reverse, the effects of climate change.

Dr. Gasem Fallatah, deputy program director of the Oil Sustainability Program at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy, believes an equitable energy transition can be achieved through inclusiveness with collaborative approaches between governments and industry.

Gasem Fallatah, from the Ministry of Energy’s Oil Sustainability Program. (AN Photo)

“The key word [for energy transition] is inclusiveness,” Fallatah told Arab News on the sidelines of LEAP23.

“We need to consider that when we are moving towards that transition and allowing every nation, geography, and economy to go for what is best suited for them, yet deliver on what you are supposed to deliver.

“In Saudi Arabia, inclusiveness is vital because we cater for all sources of energy: We are not tilted to one form or another. We are very much balanced when it comes to providing energy within the energy mix that we have got, but very much, also, committed to where the transition is and delivering on it.

“And this is why working with an Oil Sustainability Program allows us to find ways and means to continue to utilize our resources in a sustainable way that will enable us to make sure that we are taking advantage of our resources. Yet, we are also meeting our commitments to an energy transition that the world is morphing towards.”


• The Saudi and Middle East Green Initiatives integrate environmental protection, energy transition and innovative sustainability programs to achieve a green future.

• Under the umbrella of the two initiatives, Saudi Arabia aims to leverage its expertise, champion scientific innovation, and share best practices with the world.

The program’s focus on three domains — development, sustainability, and innovation — places the Kingdom in a position to move quickly in its energy transition process.

In terms of innovation, the program has been very active in driving new technologies, either by improving the technology readiness level of these applications or scaling it when it is ready for application.

Fallatah added: “We are very active in understanding trends governing or driving the energy ecosystem as we are adamant about not letting go and finding every opportunity to help sustain oil, but also to keep that leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when it comes to that transition.

“We have the legacy of a number of years and we would like to maintain that leadership by contributing to that transition. How do we do it? We do it through development, working on sustainability, but also working on innovation.”

Saudi Arabia has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060. The country has undertaken $1 billion in climate change initiatives as part of the Saudi Green Initiative, which seeks to establish a regional carbon capture and storage center, an early storm warning center, and cloud-seeding programs as part of its efforts to create a greener future.

Youngsters call for action on emissions. (AFP)

The Saudi Green Initiative includes plans to plant 450 million trees and rehabilitate 8 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030, reducing 200 million tons of carbon emissions with additional initiatives to be announced in the years to come.

Saudi Arabia has launched and built several major renewable energy projects, taking advantage of its natural potential in solar and wind. It aims to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030, with the remaining 50 percent coming from natural gas.

The Kingdom also aims to become a world leader in hydrogen power and is investing in nuclear energy.

Although achieving a net-zero economy within 30 to 40 years may sound daunting, dozens of renewable energy breakthroughs are on the horizon, with many now making their way onto the market, as firms make their own net-zero pledges and invest in clean energy technologies.

For the transition to remain technically and economically feasible and beneficial, policy initiatives must steer the global energy transition toward a sustainable energy system.

The LEAP Conference attendees watch a demonstration. (Supplied)

Sustainable transition strategies typically consist of three significant technological changes: Energy savings on the demand side, generation efficiency at the production level, and fossil fuel substitution by various renewable energy sources and low-carbon nuclear.

Large-scale renewable energy adoption includes measures to improve the efficiency of existing non-renewable sources, which still have a substantial cost-reduction and stabilization role.

Experts warn that failure to act on emissions and the energy transition would be catastrophic.

“There will be no jobs on a dead planet. If we want prosperity for our people, we need to ensure prosperity in a land that thrives,” Dr. Paul Toyne, Grimshaw SD practice leader and expert adviser on environmental and sustainability goals, told Arab News at LEAP23.

“We do know that climate change is one of the largest or biggest threats to our planet and to our livelihoods, but we also know that if we solve climate change, we don’t necessarily solve the other issues that happened. So once we have a climate crisis, we also have a biodiversity crisis.”

Although governments are looking into ways of transitioning from oil and gas to renewables, Toyne stresses that the process will take some time, even with the right planning and investment.

He said: “We need to make our cities resilient to climate change and recognize that it will get worse, and adapt to create resilience.

“If we tackle the climate change solution with technologies and we flip over to renewables very quickly and restore the equilibrium in terms of carbon pollution, how do we restore the other ecosystems that we need?

“All of these economies and sectors need to go through a self-correction, which needs to be driven by the right policies and governance and financing of regenerative sectors.

“This takes us into a space of the unknown, but as a society we have more tools at our disposal, digital tools and breakthroughs in science, to provide solutions.”

Putting the world on a path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050-60 requires a substantial increase in capital-intensive clean energy assets.

The four-day annual tech convention in Riyadh is in its second year. (Supplied)

Some believe this could hamper the energy transition process due to cost, but climate finance professionals such as Gerhard Mulder, CEO and co-founder of Climate Risk Services, believe this is not necessarily the case.

“There are upfront costs to a transition to a low-carbon economy, and numbers that are being thrown around in the trillions and, yes, in that sense it is very costly,” he told Arab News.

“However, if you look at electricity, for example, in more than half of the world, solar and wind are already more cost efficient than most fossil fuel-powered forms of generation.”

At a time when many countries face macroeconomic crises, due in part to the disruptions caused by the conflict in Ukraine, Mulder believes innovations will help stabilize energy, even in times of volatility. Indeed, by transitioning to low-carbon economies, “we’ll have more stable societies,” he said.

“The key word is building resilience and that means you are preparing yourself for an unstable future, preparing for unpredictable events, so that you can manage multiple scenarios,” he added.

Although the climate challenge at times feels insurmountable, Mulder claims he has never felt as optimistic about humanity’s response as he does today.

“When I first started working [in the climate field] many denied the science,” he said. “Today, nobody can. Many said that it’s a future problem, but the problem is here already. We have a finite amount of time, which is the bad news, but this is the decade we need to do it.

“There’s plenty of money available and plenty of technology available to invest in disruptive technologies, and we can already do so much with existing technologies by creating new markets so we can scale up the process.”

Hollywood scriptwriter participates in Qur’an recitation contest

Hollywood scriptwriter participates in Qur’an recitation contest
Updated 26 March 2023

Hollywood scriptwriter participates in Qur’an recitation contest

Hollywood scriptwriter participates in Qur’an recitation contest
  • Palestinian-American Yasser Omar Shaheen wows viewers with melodic voice, distinctive recitation

RIYADH: Palestinian-American contestant Yasser Omar Shaheen, a Hollywood film and television scriptwriter, was a participant in the latest episode of the international Qur’an recitation and adhan competition.

Shaheen entertained the viewers with his melodic voice and distinctive recitation of the Qur’an.

The “Otr Elkalam” TV show, which is being supervised by the General Entertainment Authority and is broadcast on MBC1 and the Shahid digital platform, has a total prize pool of SR12 million ($3.2 million).

Shaheen said: “My life is a mixture of memorizing and reciting the Holy Qur’an and writing scripts in Hollywood, where I have supervised the production of more than 130 programs, produced 14 documentaries, and contributed to several shows on TV channels of Arab and Islamic countries.”

He enjoys teaching Muslim children the verses of the Qur’an and the rules of intonation in mosques in Dallas, Texas. Shaheen also works as a faculty member at San Jose University in California.

Several competitions resulted in his participation in “Otr Elkalam” and its first episode featured 32 contestants from around the world.

It also focused on last year’s winners of the Qur’an recitation and adhan competitions, Younes Gharbi from Morocco and Mohsen Kara of Turkiye, respectively.

The “Otr Elkalam” competition is designed to highlight the rich diversity of cultures in the Islamic world, and the vocal methods of reciting the Qur’an and raising the call to prayer.

More than 50,000 entrants from 165 countries were whittled down to 50 for the final stage, which is held in Riyadh.

Another selection process by the main jury then left 32 contestants, 16 for each competition.

Finding treasures at the Islamic Arts Biennale’s Al-Matjar in Jeddah

Finding treasures at the Islamic Arts Biennale’s Al-Matjar in Jeddah
Updated 26 March 2023

Finding treasures at the Islamic Arts Biennale’s Al-Matjar in Jeddah

Finding treasures at the Islamic Arts Biennale’s Al-Matjar in Jeddah
  • Sustainability key to the concept store; more than 620 rare, custom-made items on display

JEDDAH: Visitors to the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale in Jeddah can pick up Ramadan-themed items and intricate works of art at the on-site Al-Matjar concept store, a retail space developed by the Diriyah Biennale Foundation.  

“The biennale store is never, ever the same. We change it every week. The only constant is that you’ll see is the Diriyah Foundation merchandise,” Dalia Al Akki, the store representative, told Arab News.

According to Al Akki, the DBF hopes the shop can become one of Jeddah’s new cultural destinations. It aims to have something for everyone — and allow them to take a bit of the Biennale’s “Awwal Bait” (First House) theme back home with them.

“The idea of this collaboration is that the Diriyah Foundation wants to open a platform to support digital artists. It’s like a marketing tool for us to use their illustrations and create merch with them, or stationery, or puzzles,” she said. “We didn’t want to just do merchandise this year; we wanted to really enhance this idea of collaboration.”

Since the biennale is a temporary exhibition, the idea was to create tangible items that people can take back home with them.

The Islamic Arts Biennale store in Jeddah features a wide range of themed and customized products that visitors can buy as mementos. (Photos by Diriyah Biennale Foundation)

After thorough research, they reached out to around 180 brands, of which 95 made it to the shelves. Since the DBF is a non-profit organization, it was obligated to use the space as a launching pad for brands and to cultivate creativity.

“Some of these items are very rare and very beautiful, and soon they’ll be collectible,” Al Akki said proudly.


The store prioritizes collaborating with brands that focus on sustainability, and many of the over 620 items are rare and custom-made. According to Dalia Al Akki, every item in the store will be reused, including the wayfinding flags that will be repurposed into tote bags later.

It was always meant to be a pop-up shop, which is perhaps part of the allure. If you like something, pick it up and buy it instantly or it might be gone. Maybe forever. Many items were custom-made for the shop and won’t ever be sold anywhere else.

The galag garage exclusive capsule collection created in collaboration with the Diriyah Biennale Foundation. (Photo/Instagram/

There’s one section that is distinctly pre-owned. It is dedicated to selling secondhand books and Al Akki hopes this will help shift people’s perception of pre-owned and think of it as ‘pre-loved.’

“We know a guy that collects books from all over the region, so we really wanted to add that in,” she explained. “A lot of artists actually just buy books and end up throwing them. A lot of people in the Kingdom don’t know the value of these books. But for us, secondhand books are still valuable. We even have vintage magazines.”

She said that she has been surprised by the popularity of the secondhand books and have had to replenish their stocks.

The Islamic Arts Biennale store in Jeddah features a wide range of themed and customized products that visitors can buy as mementos. (Photos by Diriyah Biennale Foundation)

“We also work with a lot of product makers (who focus on) sustainability. Nothing in the store is going to be thrown away; everything is going to be reused — even the wayfinding flags; we are actually taking them and making tote bags out of them for next year,” she said. “We are supporting local and international artists and sustainability is a main goal.”

It was crucial for the curation of the products to be inclusive of different countries and styles, as well as price ranges, and to provide something that non-Muslims could buy too.

“What’s amazing about the whole idea of this pop-up store is that we really get to know the community — beyond the Kingdom. We can’t wait for the (next Biennale cycle) because there’s so many places you could go. I mean, this was limited, challenging, but definitely worth it,” Al Akki said. “We’ve learned, we’ve grown, we’ve met many beautiful people along the way.”

The Islamic Arts Biennale store in Jeddah features a wide range of themed and customized products that visitors can buy as mementos. (Photos by Diriyah Biennale Foundation)

One of those people is Sultan bin Mohammed, the shy-but-charming millennial leader of the Galag Garage clothing brand (Galag translates to “nuisance”).

He was proud to take part in this pop-up store in his hometown of Jeddah and is shaking up the shop — one stitch at a time.

The filmmaker and entrepreneur showed Arab News his exclusive capsule Galag collection, created in collaboration with the Diriyah Biennale Foundation store. Rows of durable-but-soft hoodies, t-shirts, tote bags and caps with the word “Galag” written in Arabic using the custom biennale font and typography.

“They (Diriyah Biennale Foundation) wanted really to represent the structures in the Hajj terminal. So I wanted to recreate that, but give a bit of a retro-wave design,” he told Arab News.

He also added elements that are distinctly ‘Galag,’ such as images of vintage cars.

“We wanted something that’s wearable, has a bit of style, has a bit of weight to it — something that people would be happy and comfortable with. We decided to do very simple but high-quality material with interesting colors,” bin Mohammed told Arab News.

Most of those color inspirations were derived from local nature. The sandy hoodie has a bit of saturated blue that pops — meant to represent the sky. The white hoodie, in contrast, was meant to be muted.

“Every color choice here is meant to look better with age; so the longer we wear it, the better it looks — that was the concept,” he said.

Like Al Akki, bin Mohammed was adamant that he wanted to produce something that would last.

“Sustainability is a huge thing. We really wanted to use something that lasts — something that you can wear for years, maybe put in your closet then bring it out and it still keeps its shape; it keeps the quality and it doesn’t disintegrate,” bin Mohammed said.

He was also keen to have the date incorporated into the t-shirts. “It’s the first Islamic Arts Biennale and to have the date on it to commemorate it was really important. I think it’s really cool to have a piece of history. It’s great that we’re a small part of that,” said bin Mohammed.


Saudi Arabia marks earth hour by turning off street, tower lights

Saudi Arabia marks earth hour by turning off street, tower lights
Updated 54 min 10 sec ago

Saudi Arabia marks earth hour by turning off street, tower lights

Saudi Arabia marks earth hour by turning off street, tower lights

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Saturday participated in Earth Hour, the largest environmental event in the world, by urging all sects of society, in all regions, governorates and their affiliated centers, as well as various governmental and private agencies to take the initiative to mark the event by turning off the public street lights without harm to public safety.

Ajlan Al-Ajlan, the head of Saudi Earth Hour, said that the Kingdom participates with the world in this great environmental event and is in solidarity with all efforts aimed at sustaining and protecting the ecosystem, by turning off the lights of some streets and towers in various parts of the regions and governorates, for a period of one hour, starting from 8:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m..

Al-Ajlan called on all members of society to preserve the environment from everything that negatively affects it and human life by avoiding bad practices, which generate serious complications, such as pollution and the spread of diseases and epidemics.

The Saudi Vision 2030 adopts a comprehensive plan to preserve the environment and protect the planet, which stimulates interaction with one of the largest environmental events, and the world’s participation in Earth Hour.

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief calls for strengthening efforts to combat mines

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief calls for strengthening efforts to combat mines
Updated 26 March 2023

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief calls for strengthening efforts to combat mines

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief calls for strengthening efforts to combat mines

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s aid agency on Saturday called for strengthening efforts to combat mines, protecting lives, building the capabilities of workers in this field in the affected countries, and alleviating the suffering of those affected, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The comments were made by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center as it participated with the international community and UN and international organizations in raising awareness of the dangers of mines to mark International Day for Mine Awareness.

As part of its efforts in various countries around the world, KSrelief was keen to cover all vital sectors in the humanitarian field to include education, health, shelter, water and other important sectors. 

It also implemented huge qualitative humanitarian programs that contributed to positive results in the field of humanitarian work, including the “Masam” project to clear Yemeni lands of mines, and the prosthetic limbs program, which contributed to protect hundreds of thousands of lives in Yemen. 

Despite the dangers they face, the teams of the “Masam” project managed to extract nearly 400,000 mines of all shapes, types and sizes in various Yemeni regions since the launch of the project in 2018 until mid-March 2023.

The prosthetic limb centers also provided more than 142,000 services, including the installation of prostheses, and cases of technical and physical rehabilitation (physical and psychological treatment) for the injured in order for them to be productive people, able to work and lead their normal lives. 

45,588 individuals benefited from them in the governorates of Taiz, Aden, Marib and Sayun from Jan. 1, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2023.

Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s bid to build over 1,000 settlements in West Bank

Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s bid to build over 1,000 settlements in West Bank
Updated 26 March 2023

Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s bid to build over 1,000 settlements in West Bank

Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s bid to build over 1,000 settlements in West Bank

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Saturday condemnation a decision by the Israeli occupation authorities to publish bids to build settlement units during the current week inside the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs “expressed the Kingdom’s denunciation of this decision, which is a continuation of the flagrant violations committed by the occupation authorities,” it said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has authorized construction bids for more than 1,000 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The move comes days after the Knesset voted to annul part of a law banning Israelis from living in areas of the occupied West Bank evacuated in 2005.
Saudi Arabia called on the international community to assume its responsibilities to end the Israeli occupation and stop its provocative practices, which would obstruct the paths of political solutions and undermine international peace efforts.