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The Prospects for Coal-fired Power Generation in Saudi Arabia

Key Points:

Almost all of Saudi Arabia’s electric power generation is fueled by oil and gas. Plans for future capacity envisage nuclear and renewables supplementing this mix and freeing up oil for other revenue-generating opportunities. Coal-fired generation has been promoted in some Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries but not, so far, in the Kingdom. Our analysis finds that:
  • At current administered prices of oil and gas, other resources of energy such as solar, nuclear, or imported coal are not competitive for power generation.

If decisions were made based on deregulated oil and gas prices:

  • with the reference coal price, only moderate levels of coal-fired capacity would be introduced. If the remaining capacity were made up of nuclear and solar, this would result in lower Saudi CO2 emissions from power generation than under a ‘business as usual’ scenario.
  • with the low coal price, CO2 emissions in 2030 cannot be maintained at their current level since coal, rather than solar and nuclear, is used to displace oil and gas from the generation fuel mix.

Some forecasts of coal markets anticipate significant increases in real export prices, which would make coal-fired power generation unattractive compared with constructing nuclear power.

About the Project

We developed the KAPSARC Energy Model for Saudi Arabia (KEM-SA) to understand the dynamics of the country’s energy system. It is a partial equilibrium model formulated as a mixed complementarity problem to capture the administered prices that permeate the local economy. KEM-SA has been previously used to study the impacts of various industrial fuel pricing policies and improved residential efficiency on the energy economy. In the present paper, we use it to assess the feasibility of a power generation technology.

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