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DUBAI: Like many executives around the world, Bruno Bensasson did not travel much in an airplane last year. However, one of the few flights he took recently was to Riyadh to check on the progress of two large-scale renewable energy projects, showing the French company’s dedication to both the Kingdom and the energy sector. renewable.
Saudi Arabia aims to produce 50% of its energy from renewables by 2030, with the rest supplied by gas. Bensasson is Chairman and CEO of EDF Renouvelables, a subsidiary of the French electricity 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 renewable energy company Masdar and private Saudi company Nesma Co.
The consortium was awarded the 300 megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant by the Saudi Ministry of Energy after submitting a bid of SR 60 ($ 16.24) per megawatt hour. The group has 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 to double its net renewable energy capacity in operation worldwide, between 2015 and 2030, from 28 to 60 gigawatts net”, Bensasson said at the time. .
At the end of 2020, 13.7% of EDF’s electricity production came from renewable energies, 76.5% from nuclear, 9.3% from fossil fuels (excluding coal) and the remaining 0.4% from coal.
EDF Renewables’ other major project in the Kingdom is the 400 megawatt Dumat Al-Jandal utility wind farm project, located 900 kilometers north of Riyadh in the Al-Jouf region. The largest wind farm in the Middle East, construction began in August 2020 and reached mid-term in April of this year.
“We are now aiming to have all the turbines running, I would say, by the fall of 2021,” Bensasson told Arab News. Similar to the solar power plant, the wind farm was built as part of a consortium made up of EDF Renewables and Masdar.
The $ 500 million wind farm will include 99 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 4.2 megawatts. The first turbine is expected to begin producing electricity in the coming weeks and, when completed, will power 70,000 Saudi households per year and save 988,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, helping the Kingdom to achieve its Vision 2030. and its Saudi green goals. Like many projects around the world, the coronavirus disease pandemic (COVID-19) has slightly delayed the progress of the project. “Staff and construction workers struggled to access the site last year. We fully understand that, so it took a few months – several months – to get the ability to access the site, ”Bensasson said.
It wasn’t just the wind farm that was hit – the coronavirus has affected the entire region. The Middle East saw a 5% year-over-year increase in its renewable energy capacity last year, up from 13% growth in 2019, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency based in China. WATER.
However, the global agency said that despite slowing growth in 2020, Saudi Arabia’s capacity has grown significantly over the past nine years – starting at just 3 megawatts and increasing to 413 megawatts in 2020.
Bensasson has worked in the renewable energy industry for almost 20 years, but believes that it is only now that the technology has started to become a viable reality.
He said, “This is my daily reality, it really is a booming reality. I would say that this has really changed since 2010. To give you a figure, in 2000, 70% of solar was developed in Europe, especially in Germany, Italy and Spain. And you will agree that these are not the biggest or sunniest countries. And even for the wind. It’s totally different. About 60% of the growth is currently in China and India. “Many countries have opted for.
And the reason for this change, I would say, is twofold: one is economical and the other is environmentally friendly. Bensasson added that another factor in the growing popularity of renewables is the cost of wind power down by 8% per year and solar by around 15% per year, making them “simple solutions for de 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.