Saudi Arabia’s original power grid was built in the 1970s and 1980s and is now handled through the central authority of the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC). The majority (80% of the population) of Saudi Arabia’s power generation, transmission, and distribution, is handled through the company’s 45 power generation plants. The company was formed in 2000 by order of the Council of Ministers through a merger of existing regional electricity companies. The company is 81.24 per cent owned by the government, both directly and through Saudi Aramco.
Although most of the country’s power is generated through oil and natural gas, the country is working on incorporating solar and other renewable sources of energy into its power grid. The country’s power grid is reliable, but heavy use, especially during the summer months when air conditioning is sorely needed, spikes demand by as much as 40% and puts a heavy load on the grid. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have recently entered a partnership to build an intercontinental power line to increase the reliability of the power grid of both countries.
SEC does not currently collect regular data on grid emission factors. Moreover, electricity and heat were among the biggest CO2 emitters of the Saudi economy with 263.07 million CO2 equivalents produced in 2021. However, the emission intensity from electricity generation in Saudi Arabia has been steadily declining from 703 gCO2 for each kilowatt hour of electricity generated in 2019 to around 569 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour in 2021. This is due to the country’s ongoing initiatives such as the adaptation of combined cycle power plants. Combined-cycle output has risen from 8.3% in 2010 to 31.0% in 2019, whereas simple-cycle production declined from 50% in 2010 to 22% in 2019. The government is actively implementing projects to increase the capacity of several power plants by more than 4.2 gigawatts. These projects would result in around 60 million barrels of oil being saved annually and an approximate 25.8-million-ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Saudi Arabia gets nearly all of its electricity was generated by natural gas (61%) and crude oil (39%) in 2020. Despite the Kingdom’s announcement to diversify fuels used to generate electricity to free more crude oil for export and to reduce carbon emissions, the plan will require 9continued reliance on fossil fuels with a focus on more natural gas and heavy fuel oil as sources to generate electricity. Currently, solar energy represents a very small share of total power generation. However, the government developed several large-scale renewable energy projects such as the 300-megawatt (MW) Sakaka solar power plant and the 400 Dumat Al Jandal wind farm that were connected to the national grid in November 2019 and in August 2021, respectively. Moreover, work to build seven solar projects that will generate 3 gigawatts is underway and is expected to come online in the next few years.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Saudi Arabia Country Managers Abeer Abdulkareem and Amgad Ellaboudy