Saudi Arabia bursts solar energy bubble - reports

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According to reports, Saudi Arabia has pushed its renewable energy targets back from 2032 to 2040, without citing specific reasons. 

Speaking at the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi, Hashim Yamani, president of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy of Saudi Arabia was reported by Reuters to have said renewable energy targets that included 41GW of solar power plants had been revised. 

Reuters noted that financing the PV plans was obviously not a factor in the targets being pushed out, though mentioned issues such as water scarcity (not a particular solar PV issue) as well as un-cited bureaucratic issues in the country. 

Saudi Arabia’s solar energy plans have been known for several years and despite little actual development have long been touted by PV companies and industry analysts as a future major emerging market. 

Only last year, SunEdison touted a feasibility study to be undertaken in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian government on establishing a fully integrated PV manufacturing complex, including polysilicon production at an estimated cost of US$6.4 billion.

However, despite not providing any public updates on that feasibility study, SunEdison said in early January, 2015 that it would undertake a feasibility study in India on the same type of large-scale integrated manufacturing complex in India, costing around US$4 billion. 

Saudi Arabia was said in March, 2014 to have had plans to put a tender out for PV projects totalling between 700MW to 1000MW by the end of 2014. No plans have yet been made public. 

As with other industrial sectors in the recent past, such as semiconductor manufacturing that have been previously hyped by Saudi leaders and officials to be key drivers to diversify away from fossil fuels and provide longer-term jobs, the building of an integrated PV industry from polysilicon to modules as well as domestic demand as energy consumption continues to grow in the country had been initially behind the plans.

Although the push-out of its renewable energy targets could be seen as a blow to the PV industry, delays enable companies to down-grade sales and marketing efforts in the country and focus resources on more promising emerging markets in the region.

With little commitment yet seen from Saudi authorities to kick-start major PV goals, the actual impact on the PV industry is expected to be miniscule. 

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