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Saudi Arabia and Softbank continue work on multi-billion dollar renewable energy projects

Saudi Arabia, October 3, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is working with Softbank Vision Fund and other entities on a number of large-scale multi-billion dollar solar energy projects and denied a Wall Street Journal report that plans for a $200 billion solar project were stalled.

PIF, with assets in excess of $250 billion (Dh918.1bn), will announce those projects 'in due course', it said in a statement on Monday, and called the Wall Street Journal report 'inaccurate'.

'Plans to develop a leading champion for the industry remain on-track and in-line with the timeline that would be anticipated for projects of this scale and ambition,' PIF said.

In March, Saudi Arabia and Softbank signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the world's largest solar power project. The announcement was one of several projects that signalled the world's biggest oil exporter is increasingly focused on renewable energy.

The $200bn solar project is set to create thousands of jobs and develop a manufacturing industry in line with the kingdom's economic diversification plans laid out in its Vision 2030. The project is expected to have the capacity to produce up to 200 gigawatts by 2030, according to SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son.

On September 30, the Wall Street Journal reported the plan was stalled as 'no one was actively working' on the project, it said, citing unidentified Saudi officials and a government adviser. The sources said the government is working on a 'broader, more practical' strategy for renewables that will be announced in late October during a Riyadh conference.

The kingdom is ripe for investing in solar energy because of plentiful sunshine and growing cashflow as oil prices rebound to more than $80 a barrel.

'The kingdom is moving forward with the overall renewable energy strategy, through which Saudi Arabia aims to be a leading and reliable diversified supplier of renewable energy,' the fund said.

Investing in solar power allows Saudi Arabia to decrease the amount of crude it currently uses to generate power and boost its overseas shipments.

The cost of the first stage of the solar project will be $5bn and the remaining portion of the project will be through project debt financing.

Most recently, Saudi Arabia has invested in electric carmaker Lucid in line with its strategy to back renewable energy projects.

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