Riyadh: Saudi Arabia invited bids Tuesday from 25 shortlisted companies to build a 400 megawatt wind power project, as the world’s top oil exporter pushes for renewable sources to diversify its energy mix. The plant in northern Al-Jouf province is the first utility-scale wind project as part of the government’s reform plan to wean the kingdom off oil, which has set a target of 9.5 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2023. The energy ministry has sought bids from 25 qualified bidders, which include EDF Energies Nouvelles, a subsidiary of the French public energy company, as well as other global companies such as GE, Siemens, Kepco and Toyota. Bidding for the project is set to close in January 2018, the ministry said in a statement. “We are moving forward to diversify the kingdom’s energy mix and to build a more sustainable and cleaner energy system that benefits Saudi Arabia and its citizens,” said Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih.
He added that the country’s ambitious renewable energy programme “will deliver real economic benefits by creating more than 7,000 jobs, increasing Saudi Arabia’s non-oil GDP and nurturing a clean tech startup industry”. The programme also involves a 300 megawatt solar facility in Al-Jouf, for which the winning bids will be announced in November. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies have been looking into ways to cut their energy bills and diversify their power sources away from oil, their main export commodity. Virtually all of Saudi Arabia’s power currently comes from crude or refined oil or natural gas. The kingdom’s renewable energy program is estimated to be worth up to $50 billion.