What potential markets do you see for solar energy in Saudi Arabia, and how well-positioned is Haala Energy to take advantage of them?
There is huge potential for solar energy in Saudi Arabia, and Haala Energy is very well-positioned to take advantage of this. Our portfolio is one of the most diverse in the Kingdom spanning conventional rooftop, ground mount, tracker and car port projects in various sectors and regions, but also more specialist hybrid, off-grid, energy storage, AgriPV and green hydrogen applications. We are also able to offer a full range of services and solutions to our clients, including Consulting, EPC contracting, Operation & Maintenance and Project Finance, so we have a solution for most solar-related applications and requirements.
In terms of market potential, there are many thousands of grid-connected facilities with heavy daytime energy usage and lots of available space (rooftop or ground) in Saudi Arabia today that could benefit from solar energy that’s up to 70% cheaper than what they currently use.
The off-grid sector in Saudi also presents a large market opportunity, because diesel generation is becoming increasingly expensive and integrating solar is a relatively easy way to reduce costs, reduce maintenance requirements and improve sustainability. Of particular interest is the agricultural sector, which is growing fast in response to the government’s push toward food security and sustainability. AgriPV solutions can actually offer the possibility of improving crop yields, reducing water use and generating sustainable energy at the same time.
Although we are focused primarily on the C&I scale, we are also increasingly looking to apply our expertise to the utility scale projects taking place around the country, which is of course the largest market segment by capacity. Initially, most of the EPC work was being outsourced to Indian and Chinese EPC contractors, but we are now starting to see more opportunities for local players to participate, which is positive.
Could you give a general overview of Saudi Arabia’s present solar energy regulatory environment? How does Haala Energy work around these rules to provide environmentally friendly solutions?
Unfortunately, the regulatory environment for C&I solar projects continues to be very challenging.
First, the proper interpretation of the regulations is not clear. Different stakeholders give different answers to requests for clarification, sometimes directly contradicting each other or what is written in the published regulatory documents.
Second (according to what seems to be the most common interpretation), the regulations are very restrictive, allowing for only small systems to be built even on sites with very large loads. We see many cases where potential clients with significant connected loads of 10-15 MW are only allowed to build 0.2-0.3MW of solar PV. These are private-sector organisations willing to invest in increasing sustainability and contributing to the vision of the country, but they are prevented and discouraged from doing so, which is a real shame. Finally, the permitting process itself doesn’t seem to work at present. As far as we are aware, no one has successfully completed the full permitting process because of a lack of proper coordination both within and between the various stakeholders involved in the process.
This is severely hindering the growth and development of our industry and limiting our work to off-grid applications, some sites in special economic zones like Modon, KAEC, KAUST etc, and those few clients willing to take a risk in investing in the future, trusting that they can retrospectively secure the correct permits later.
Saudi Arabia has set high goals for renewable energy. What role does Haala Energy play in attaining these objectives, and how will this affect the nation’s energy transition?
Haala Energy is a local company on the front lines of building out the Saudi energy transition day in, day out. There is a huge amount of work to be done to achieve the ambitious targets and it’s not always easy operating on the ground in such a new industry, but we hope that with persistence and hard work, we will have a meaningful impact on the outcome over time.
How does Haala Energy address worries about the erratic nature of solar electricity and make sure that its Saudi Arabian customers have a steady supply of energy?
As energy storage is still too expensive for most commercial applications in Saudi, it’s important to pair solar energy with a reliable baseload such as the grid or diesel generators. We specialise in engineering integrated systems that will seamlessly combine these generation sources, maximising the input of solar PV, without compromising on resilience.
One advantage many Saudi Arabian customers have is that their heaviest loads are during the day when cooling systems are running full tilt. This is well aligned with solar generation, meaning we can achieve relatively high solar energy penetrations at low cost, without using energy storage systems.
Has Saudi Arabia’s embrace of solar energy shown special promise in any particular fields or sectors? How does Haala Energy meet the specific energy requirements of various industries?
Yes, Saudi Arabia’s embrace of solar energy, particularly in combination with its push for food security and new sustainable development in the mega projects, has led to special promise in the fields of AgriPV and Green Hydrogen.
We are actively working with innovative and pioneering clients like ACWA Power, Red Sea Farms, Mirai Solar and the KAUST Solar Centre on AgriPV and Green Hydrogen pilot projects at the moment. These are new and challenging applications that require significant engineering expertise to get right, but they hold great promise as future industries in which Saudi Arabia could be a world leader.
What part does technology play in Saudi Arabia’s solar energy solutions from Haala Energy? Do you use any cutting-edge methods or technology to maximize the production and efficiency of solar energy?
As a system integrator, we always work with the leading technology suppliers, and our clients trust us to be up to speed with the latest technological developments in our fast-moving industry. Whether it’s the latest module technology, cutting edge inverters, innovative under structures, best-in-class monitoring and control solutions or robotic cleaning, we’re always leveraging the latest technology to optimise our solar generation for yield, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and safety.