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U.S. Supports Saudi Arabia’s Clean Energy Goals
April 23, 2012

By Louise Fenner
IIP Staff Writer,

Solar panels in the desert
A site manager poses at the array field for a ”solar village” in Saudi Arabia that in 1989 was the largest facility of its kind in the world.

April 20,  2012

The United States supports Saudi Arabia’s goal of becoming a regional leader in renewable energy and energy efficiency and is encouraging U.S. companies to explore the “tremendous opportunities” for investment in the country, says a senior U.S. trade official.

Nicole Lamb-Hale, assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing and services, led a trade delegation to Riyadh and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, April 14–18 that included representatives of 13 U.S. clean energy companies, as well as officials from the Ex-Im Bank and the Department of Energy.

“We fully support Saudi Arabia’s desire to be a regional renewable energy and efficiency leader,” Lamb-Hale said during round-table discussions in Al Khobar April 17.

One of the companies in the trade delegation was First Solar, based in Arizona, the largest solar panel manufacturer in the United States (and second-largest in the world, according to the research company PVinsights). There were several other companies specializing in solar energy, energy efficiency, green building, grid modernization and smart grid technologies. The U.S. delegates met with senior Saudi government officials and business people.

Citing the Saudi government’s goal of developing 5 gigawatts of electricity from solar power by 2020, Lamb-Hale said, “U.S. companies stand ready to support you in these efforts.”

But the American companies aren’t looking for “just one deal or one event,” she said, “they want to establish long-term partnerships that bring U.S.-made technologies to Saudi Arabia.”

Saudi Arabia’s electricity market is growing rapidly, and currently 60 percent of the country’s power needs are met from petroleum, according to the International Trade Administration (a U.S. Commerce Department agency). The Saudi government has committed to investing $100 billion to develop clean, nonhydrocarbon sources of energy over the next decade, with a focus on nuclear and solar technologies.

The Saudi government also seeks to increase the reliability and efficiency of the electric grid and improve energy efficiency.

“We see great opportunities for increased Saudi-U.S. commercial cooperation in achieving the goals set forth by the Saudi government,” said Lamb-Hale.

She said the U.S.-Saudi commercial relationship “is a key international economic priority” for the Obama administration.

“As Saudi Arabia enters a new age, we’re willing to help the Kingdom diversify its economy as it expands its manufacturing and services sectors, and unleashes greater entrepreneurship,” Lamb-Hale said.

She promised she would make sure U.S. businesses “know that there are tremendous opportunities in Saudi Arabia.”

Lamb-Hale said she wanted to help establish “an ongoing renewable energy and energy efficiency dialogue between our two countries.”

“A strong clean energy relationship benefits everyone,” she said. “By working together, we will deploy more clean energy equipment, promote additional innovation, address our climate change and energy security concerns more effectively, and create thousands of new jobs for both our countries.”