We know how the Holy See feels about solar power – after all, the Vatican ranks second only to Germany in the world for countries with the most installed cumulative solar capacity per capita – but it is news this week that Mecca, the city that hosts Islam’s most holy shrine, is working towards becoming the first Saudi Arabian city to operate a utility-scale solar plant. Bloomberg reports that on January 5, 2013, the city plans to select from a group of minimum 20 bidders who will be competing to build and operate facilities producing 385GWh per year of power, including 100MW of solar capacity, according to Mayor Osama al-Bar.
“No city in Saudi Arabia owns power-generation assets, and we want to be first city that owns power plants and hopefully the first in the Muslim world,” al-Bar said in an interview last week. As Bloomberg points out, the Saudi central government has its own big solar plans, starting with gathering $US109 billion of investment for building a solar industry, from which it aims to get a third of the Gulf nation’s power by 2032 – compared with almost none now. The target is almost as much as the $136 billion invested worldwide in solar energy last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Adnan Amin, director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, describes the Mecca solar project as “very visionary,” not least of all due to the city’s “special significance around the world” as the birthplace of Islam. “The case is very simple,” said Amin in an interview in London last week. “In 25 years, they (Saudi Arabia) could become net importers of energy. That makes renewables comparatively cheaper.”
In other news…
The number of UK rooftop solar installations has fallen dramatically since the government cut subsidy rates at the start of the month. BusinessGreen reports that figures published on Friday show a huge rush by householders aiming to install panels before a 1 August deadline, followed by a sharp drop with nearly three-quarters less capacity installed in the past six weeks than the equivalent weeks in 2011.
The US Senate has passed a measure that would effectively shield US airlines from having to participate in the EU emissions-trading system’s program designed to curtail aviation emissions. Bloomberg reports that the bill, supported by the airlines, was approved on the weekend, before lawmakers adjourned to campaign for the upcoming election. It must now be reconciled with similar legislation passed by the House last year. The EU decided in 2008 to include flights to and from Europe within its greenhouse-gas-reduction system from 2012 after airline emissions in the region doubled over two decades.
US-based zero-emissions truk-maker, Smith Electric Vehicles, has scrapped plans to float on the stock market, saying the proposed company valuation was too low. BusinessGreen reports that the company announced yesterday it had withdrawn an IPO that was planned to take place today, and hoped instead to raise $US76 million by offering 4.5 million shares at a price range of $16-$18 each.