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Saudis Are Going Solar

Saudi Arabia is turning to renewable energy, especially solar, in an effort to move domestic energy consumption away from fossil fuels. With domestic oil consumption rising at a seven percent annual rate (three times the rate of population growth), Saudi Arabia is facing the prospect of domestic consumption eating into the country’s oil exports by 2021 and the country becoming a net oil importer by 2038.

Key Details

  • In 2012, Saudi Arabia set a goal of building 41 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2040, slightly more capacity than Germany (the world leader) has today and almost six times current U.S. solar capacity.
  • The Saudi government is investing heavily in solar research and development, with two manufacturing facilities and a world-class solar research lab either planned or recently constructed. Additionally, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology houses an incubator for technology start-ups focused on solar energy.
  • Over the past year, the Saudi government has introduced first-ever requirements aimed at increasing energy efficiency and decreasing emissions from buildings, motor vehicles, and power plants.


While the use of oil in electricity generation is fairly unique to Saudi Arabia (oil was used to generate 55 percent of electricity in 2012), success could also provide a model for other countries to follow in shifting consumer habits away from the use of fossil fuels in general, especially in the United States as renewable energy policies and plans—such as the Clean Power Plan—are being developed and implemented at the local, state, and national levels.

More Information

International Energy Agency: Saudi Arabia: Electricity and Heat for 2012

The Atlantic: Why the Saudis Are Going Solar

This report is part of the Clean Tech & Sustainability Minute series. To view all featured Minutes, please click here.

Contributing Author: Brian Ruswinkle

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