SoftBank dismisses report that $200bn Saudi solar scheme is cancelled

Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group has denied reports that its $200bn plan to build the world’s biggest solar power scheme in Saudi Arabia has been shelved.

It was responding to a report published 30 September in The Wall Street Journal that quoted an unnamed Saudi energy official as saying: "Everyone is just hoping this whole idea would just die."

According to the WSJ, the programme, which is still at the discussion stage, would be shelved in favour of broader strategy to boost renewables.

SoftBank responded by issuing a written statement saying "progress continues to be in line with expectations for a project of this scale and complexity", and that it would make a further announcement of its plans in the coming months.

Saudi Arabia’s solar potential

The Japanese giant added that its project team had been working closely with the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and government agencies to deliver on the New Solar Energy Plan 2030 "to transform the future of renewable energy production in the kingdom."

Softbank’s statement came after a PIF spokesperson said it was continuing to work with the SoftBank Vision Fund on "multibillion dollar projects relating to the solar industry".

Masayoshi Son, richest man in Japan and founder of SoftBank, signed a preliminary agreement to work on a network of solar farms in March. The agreement was reached with Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman in New York during the prince’s three-week visit to America.

The plan was to base the kingdom’s future energy supply on solar farms with a total generating capacity of up to 200GW, with completion scheduled for 2030.

Top image: Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter: an ideal home for solar power plants? (Nepenthes/Creative Commons)

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