When the world's largest petrostate decides to bet on clean energy, it's time to pay attention
THE STREET — Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia's massive state-owned oil company, is gearing up to sell a small stake to the public. Just 5% of this $2 trillion firm would equate to a $100 billion IPO, four times larger than Alibaba's 2015 IPO, which currently stands as the biggest new stock issue ever.
However, here's where things get even more interesting: Saudi Aramco has telegraphed its long-term direction. The company has tasked a team of global investment banks with lining up a portfolio of solar energy firms primed for acquisition. According to Bloomberg, $5 billion is available for this spending spree, which should help Saudi Aramco meet its goal of generating 10 gigawatts of power from renewable energy sources by 2023.
Make no mistake, this is likely just the first warning for OPEC and the oil majors. While firms such as Royal Dutch Shell have made tentative moves toward embracing clean energy in recent years, the economics of solar power are improving so quickly that oil exploration may soon be a losing proposition.
Until now, solar power has depended on a series of global tax credits. Yet, falling solar panel prices mean that solar is now cheaper than coal in many countries. And the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020 "solar photovoltaic is projected to have a lower [levelized cost of electricity] than coal or natural gas-fired generation throughout the world."
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