Interview: Turki Al Shehri

How do you assess the potential of green hydrogen as a viable energy alternative?

TURKI AL SHEHRI: Green hydrogen has significant potential in Saudi Arabia, largely because the necessary infrastructure for it is already in place. The Kingdom exports hydrocarbons to many countries around the world, so, as such, the mechanisms and partnerships to export green hydrogen are already established. Technically speaking, transitioning from exporting hydrocarbons to green hydrogen should be fairly straightforward and manageable.

The challenge for the development of a green hydrogen industry in Saudi Arabia is the ability to expand its use domestically, in addition to increasing government revenue through exports of green hydrogen. Therefore, it will be important to increase its commercial viability, although several international studies suggest that green hydrogen may not be commercially viable until 2040.

The private sector has an important role to play in accelerating the implementation of green hydrogen as an energy source in the Kingdom. In this sense, more incentives and flexible regulations aimed at increasing the participation of the private sector locally would be beneficial, particularly in terms of growing investment in research and development.

The development of green hydrogen requires a long-term vision and approach. Global competition to become leaders in this segment is growing rapidly, including among countries in the GCC region, as well as in Australia, Chile, the EU and others.

What has been done to promote energy efficiency across industry and broader society?

AL SHEHRI: The progress made in this area has been substantial. In the past there were little or no incentives to boost the efficient use of energy. The situation today is different, largely due to Vision 2030 – Saudi Arabia’s long-term national development strategy – and a gradual harmonisation of energy prices with international benchmarks. Over time equipment manufacturers started focusing on efficiency, and households grew more conscientious about their consumption of electricity.

The government has also become more efficient in energy usage, which is important since approximately 30% of the country’s total energy demand comes from the public sector. While demand for energy grows, solutions aimed at boosting efficiency are evolving in line with the availability of better technologies. Moving forwards, we expect a continuation of this trend in the context of the objectives set by Vision 2030.

To what extent is demand for renewable energy growing, and in what ways can international energy firms help boost local technical know-how?

AL SHEHRI: Demand for renewable energy in Saudi Arabia is growing. Internationally, the segment has been developing rapidly for decades, and the opportunities for the wider adoption of renewables in the Kingdom are therefore significant.

The government plans to have 60 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2030, focusing on two main areas of growth: public tendering and local capabilities. The final goal is to increase the participation of the private sector in the generation of energy from renewable sources, capitalising on the advantages Saudi Arabia enjoys in solar and wind power generation, in particular.

International partners have an important role to play in supporting the government’s efforts to further develop local capabilities to meet growing demand. International companies can contribute to Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy market through the continuous transfer of knowledge, direct investment and local content quotas to grow the local business community in a tangible and effective manner.