How solar power can help turn The Red Sea green    

How solar power can help turn The Red Sea green    

How solar power can help turn The Red Sea green    
Red Sea Global is creating The Red Sea and Amaala. (X/@AMAALA)
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In the race toward a greener planet, the need to replace fossil fuels has never been more pressing. The tourism industry has been a part of the problem, and it must play an important part in any solution.     

Tourism contributes 8-11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions each year, and so the use of renewable energy at holiday destinations can no longer be just an optional afterthought; It’s an environmental necessity. Like other industries, ours must aggressively adopt renewable energy if we are to achieve the Paris Agreement goals of limiting the increase in global warming to 1.5°C this century and reducing emissions to net zero by 2050.    

Many destinations are already grappling with what appear to be dire consequences of climate change. Mediterranean countries typically welcome millions of international visitors annually, but last year, tourist arrivals in parts of the region slumped due to wildfires and scorching temperatures. Wildfires on the Greek island of Rhodes in July 2023 ravaged 15 percent of the entire island, and roughly 20,000 tourists and residents had to evacuate. Some scientists blame global warming.  

Environmental catastrophes like the one on Rhodes are alarming reminders of the need for immediate action. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking on World Tourism Day, Sept. 27, said that governments and businesses alike must invest in sustainable and resilient tourism practices.     

It’s time for the tourism industry to back words with deeds and contribute to the energy transition.     

The Kingdom leads by example    

Saudi Arabia has also taken an environmental oath. With 27.3 gigawatts of renewable energy projects under development, the country is progressing toward deriving half of its energy mix from renewables by 2030. It aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2060.     

At The Red Sea and Amaala, our core principle is to employ regenerative strategies.

John Pagano

To support Vision 2030, my company, Red Sea Global, is creating tourism destinations — The Red Sea and Amaala — that are both luxurious for our guests and regenerative for the local environment and communities. For example, The Red Sea, upon completion, will be the world’s largest destination to run solely on renewable energy. When we started planning The Red Sea more than six years ago, we felt the environmental responsibility on our shoulders, and we knew that we needed to defy conventional approaches.   

So, from the outset, we decided to stay off the national power grid and adopt renewables instead. We wanted to take a step toward a better future and demonstrate to our peers that it could be done.       

At The Red Sea and Amaala, our core principle is to employ regenerative strategies. We aspire to build responsible destinations that not only improve our precious natural habitats and provide unforgettable experiences for our guests, but also drive economic growth while placing the Kingdom on the international tourism map.  

In 2023, we reached a milestone by installing more than 760,000 photovoltaic panels across all five of The Red Sea’s solar farms. If lined up side by side, these panels would stretch from Riyadh all the way to Cairo. We have also built the world’s largest battery storage facility, with a capacity of 1,300 MWh, to ensure that the destination’s first phase — comprising 16 hotels, an airport, transportation networks, and other facilities — will be powered day and night by sunlight. 

Our first resorts to open their doors and the Red Sea International Airport, not to mention our fleet of e-vehicles, are already powered with this clean energy. Additionally, our purpose-built village which is home to over 12,000 people is also powered by renewables. 

Shaping a new paradigm 

Amaala too will be completely off the national power grid. In September, we signed an agreement with EDF of France and Masdar of the UAE to power Amaala completely by renewables. Together, The Red Sea and Amaala will prevent the emission of one million tons of CO2 each year, roughly equivalent to the amount emitted by almost 200,000 cars.     

We did this to demonstrate to the Kingdom and the world that the technology exists for a better approach to tourism.    

The opening of our solar-powered Six Senses Southern Dunes and St Regis Red Sea resorts last year signals a paradigm shift in the tourism industry. And with four more hotels to welcome guests by the end of this year, we aren’t just discussing the industry’s future, we’re shaping it.   

We are already looking beyond solar power to help write the next chapter on renewable energy: green hydrogen. Using solar-generated electricity, our goal is to produce green hydrogen as fuel for the mobility networks at our flagship destinations. Hydrogen energy will help us, especially to power trucks and other heavy vehicles, something that current electric battery technologies can’t effectively do.  

Each accomplishment in renewable energy moves us further toward a thriving green economy. Having seen what meaningful efforts can accomplish, we invite others to join us in our mission to reimagine what tourism and hospitality can mean for people and the planet.

  • John Pagano is CEO of The Red Sea Development Co. and AMAALA
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view