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The Push For Alternative Energy In The GCC

The worldwide energy industry is headed towards an extraordinary excursion and the Gulf Cooperation Council (“GCC”)  is pushing to be a pioneer in this rising market. The United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (the “Kingdom” or “KSA”) are two of the central figures in the movement toward utilising more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy sources, and both have made large investments in research and development for these fields.

From NEOM to ADNOC, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are working to establish themselves as leaders in the global energy market, and it is clear that alternative energy will play a major role in their plans. These two nations have access to the necessary technical expertise and financial resources to drive a more clean-energy strategic focus in the future.


GCC Clean Energy Drive Requires $50b for Grid-related Speculations

The GCC would require approximately $50 billion by 2026 to boost the proposed increments from renewables, as highlighted in a recent white paper, ‘Clean Energy — Going Beyond the Grid’.

Improvements in sustainable power innovation are one of the critical mainstays of the UAE’s Operation 300bn and Saudi Arabia’s Made in Saudi Initiative, which are both national plans that envision improving the contribution of renewables in the energy blend of their nations.

The UAE National Energy Plan 2050 calls for clean energy to achieve 50% of the country’s complete energy blend by 2050. This would lower the carbon footprint by 70%, requiring an investment of $190 billion along the way.

Two of the biggest single-site solar plants in the world are currently being created in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Both will add to the developing UAE green economy while advancing the nation’s status as a global renewable energy player.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is focused on deriving 50% of its energy from renewables by 2030 and the Kingdom also intends to spend up to $50 billion on this sector by 2023. Under the normal expansion in grid-related ventures, the transmission and circulation gear industry are supposed to top $312.8 billion universally by 2026.


Minerals Projects

Inside the unique energy sector, organisations with a history of upgrading power age and energy stockpiling arrangements are assuming a significant part in empowering the practical creation of minerals universally. This is subsequently assisting the world to decarbonize more quickly.

Perhaps the best illustration of that, is in Saudi Arabia, where at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, consent was given to supply a 45 MW power plant to the biggest gold venture for the Saudi Arabian Mining Company.

The Mansourah-Massarah plant uses a crossover of motor innovation and solar power, and Finnish energy company Wärtsilä has the mandate to introduce six power motors — working in close coordination with project worker for hire, Larsen, and Toubro and EPC project worker, Outotec.

The task is important for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which plans to expand revenue sources for the Saudi economy by moving away from oil dependency and increasing the mining of under-exploited assets such as gold.


Changes to the Legal and Regulatory Framework Governing Clean Energy

The GCC’s ambitious plans for alternative energy will have major legal implications, both in terms of the regulatory frameworks that need to be put in place and the contracts that need to be negotiated.

Accordingly, a coordinated approach to alternative energy may need to be taken by the GCC and the applicable GCC national laws and regulations may need to be further developed and enhanced in order to become a suitable regional market for alternative energy.


Saudi Arabia

The Ministry of Energy (“MoE”) has introduced the National Renewable Energy Program (“NREP”), which aims to diversify the Kingdom’s energy resources. Several incentives were issued to promote investments into the renewable energy projects under the NREP, which include direct foreign ownership and land incentives that include subsidized leases for projects. This will further entice foreign entities to invest in the Kingdom’s renewable energy schemes, while also resulting in the formation of innovative technologies within the renewable energy sector that include solar photovoltaic technologies, waste to energy technologies, wind energy technologies and concentrated solar power technologies. All such renewable technologies have been identified and developed under the NREP to further diversify the Kingdom’s local energy supply and to further encourage foreign investment along with public-private participation within the energy industry.

To that end, MoE, in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources and Non-oil Revenue Development Center, introduced further initiatives that allow companies whose activities involve renewable energy and solar power plants to apply for and obtain industrial licenses. These initiatives aim to support the renewable energy industry and economic growth while enhancing the Kingdom’s capabilities regarding renewable energy, and to achieve an optimum energy usage in electrical productions. Furthermore, the Gulf Cooperation Council (“GCC”) grants industrial projects with benefits and facilities to promote the industrial sector and to attract investments to countries in the GCC under the scope of the Common Industrial Regulatory Law of the GCC Countries (the “Law”). This Law grants companies’ certain exemptions from customs duties in relation to manufacturing and industrial projects. Such exemptions are aimed to enhance investments and increase production and adoption of renewable energy in the KSA.

In addition to having solar power plants, KSA’s 2030 target includes the usage of the aforementioned Solar Photovoltaic (“PV”) Systems. The Water & Electricity Regulatory Authority (“WERA”) issued a regulatory framework for the use of Small-Scale Solar PV Systems. The framework aims to promote the use of Small-Scale Solar PV Systems and ensure efficient and safe production, installation, operation, and maintenance of these systems within the Kingdom. Under the regulatory framework, customers may build/possess and operate on a premises in which a Small-Scale Solar PV System may be installed. This Solar PV System helps convert solar energy into electricity and gives a more efficient way of obtaining electricity using renewable energy, thus, reducing the usage of oil and instead using a renewable energy source that does not emit carbon.

Moreover, the Kingdom has also introduced the Saudi Green Initiative (“SGI”) which works to combat climate change as its main goal while also aiming to offer significant investment opportunities for local and foreign investors in the energy sector in KSA. The SGI’s programs which include environmental protection, energy transformation and sustainability, aims to reduce carbon emissions and increase domestic usage of renewable energy. To that end, the kingdom developed cost-effective technologies for efficient carbon management, with the aim of eliminating gas combustion by 2030.



The UAE has taken a leading role in the development of renewable energy in the GCC, and currently has the largest installed capacity of solar PV in the region.

The objective of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 is for clean energy to contribute 25% of Dubai’s overall energy output by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2060. To achieve this, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (“DEWA”) has launched a number of initiatives, including the Shams 1 solar-thermal plant (100MW) and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which represents a total investment of AED 1.2 billion and is the largest single-site solar park in the world.

In addition to this, the Dubai Green Fund has been established to provide financing for renewable energy projects. The Fund is open to both local and international investors and offers a number of benefits, including tax exemptions and visa facilitation.

In the realm of transportation, the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy has initiated free charging, parking, and registration fees. The Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy also aims to have 25% of all trips made using driverless vehicles by 2030.


The Future

Ultimately, the GCC is at the forefront of the global energy transition, and its ambitious plans for alternative energy will have major legal implications.

In order to meet its renewable energy targets, the GCC will need to make significant changes to its current regulatory frameworks and invest in developing the infrastructure needed to support large-scale renewable energy projects.

The GCC is also likely to face challenges in relation to water availability and land use, as well as the need to develop a skilled workforce for the renewable energy sector.

Despite these challenges, the GCC is well placed to become a global leader in renewable energy, and its commitment to this transition will have far-reaching legal implications.


Ebaa Tounesi

Associate – Corporate & Commercial Practice