Saudi Arabia witnesses an unexpected solar standout.

Saudi Arabia witnesses an unexpected solar standout.

In a surprising turn of events for a nation synonymous with vast oil reserves, Saudi Arabia is making strides in the renewable energy sector. Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman envisions a future where half of the country’s electricity is generated from wind and solar farms by 2030. At the forefront of this ambitious transition is ACWA Power, a once relatively anonymous utility that has rapidly evolved into a key player in the global green energy landscape.

The Rise of ACWA Power

From Anonymity to Market Valuation Surge: Established 19 years ago as a family-run utility, ACWA Power remained under the radar until its public listing in Riyadh in 2021. Since then, its market value has surged almost fourfold, now standing at an impressive $50 billion. The Public Investment Fund (PIF), custodian of Saudi sovereign wealth, holds a substantial 44% stake in the company.

Green Projects Flourish: ACWA Power’s green energy projects, both domestic and international, have seen remarkable growth. The company boasts 24 gigawatts (GW) of operational or advanced-stage green projects, a substantial leap from the mere 0.3GW in 2014. With additional projects under construction, ACWA’s total capacity reaches an impressive 54GW.

Saudi Arabia-Success Amid Global Challenges

Financial Resilience Amid Rising Costs: While many renewable energy operators worldwide grapple with soaring project costs due to rising interest rates, ACWA Power has thrived. Non-interest-bearing loans from the PIF, along with debt secured against individual projects, have provided financial stability. This advantageous financial position has allowed ACWA to expand its capacity, ultimately lowering costs for consumers.

Global Expansion Strategy: Recognizing the limitations of returns on domestic projects, ACWA Power’s CEO, Marco Arcelli, is steering the company towards lucrative opportunities abroad. Investments span across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as further afield in countries like Azerbaijan, South Africa, and Uzbekistan. Currently, two-fifths of ACWA’s overall capacity is outside Saudi Arabia, with an eye on entering the competitive Chinese market.

Saudi Arabia

Navigating Challenges and Future Outlook

Meeting Ambitious Domestic Goals: To align with Prince Muhammad’s ambitious domestic targets, ACWA Power faces the daunting task of adding 6-7GW of capacity annually for the next decade. With only 14GW in various stages of development, the company must navigate rapid expansion, emphasizing cost management and debt control.

Challenges in Hydrogen Venture: ACWA Power’s foray into the hydrogen sector has encountered challenges, with costs for its nascent hydrogen venture escalating by 70%, reaching $8 billion. Managing and mitigating these challenges will be crucial for sustained success.

Strategic Partnerships and Global Reach: Despite the hurdles, ACWA Power eyes strategic partnerships globally, particularly in China, aiming to leverage both scale and technology partners. This reflects a calculated approach to not only expand its presence but also gain access to cutting-edge technologies in the wind and solar sectors.

Conclusion: ACWA Power’s journey from a family-run utility to a $50 billion market powerhouse underscores Saudi Arabia’s commitment to diversifying its energy portfolio. As it navigates the challenges of rapid expansion, financial resilience, and global competition, ACWA Power stands as a symbol of the transformative potential within the renewable energy sector. With Prince Muhammad’s vision driving its course, ACWA Power is not merely a regional player but a global force shaping the future of green energy.

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