'NEOM gives us a chance to build world’s first 100 per cent renewable energy infrastructure from scratch...' says Jens Madrian, Managing Director – Energy at Enowa. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Creating a brand new ‘region’ from a desert landscape dotted with mountains is hard enough. That’s what the makers of NEOM in Saudi Arabia have embarked on.

Building all that to the strictest of sustainability guidelines makes the process all the more arduous. Can it get any more difficult?

How about supplying all the energy needs for Neom? That’s the task the dedicated utility provider Enowa is taking on.

Any which way one looks at it, this will be no mean feat. In an interview, Jens Madrian, Managing Director – Energy at Enowa, gives the rundown on how those ambitions can turn into reality.

'The abundance of renewable energy in the NEOM region results in a low cost of electricity," says Jens Madrian of Enowa. Image Credit: Supplied

Will Enowa be the utility service provider for NEOM? Will all of your production ways be based around renewables or clean energy options?

NEOM aims to be home to the world’s first large-scale 100 per cent renewable energy system by 2030, providing abundant, affordable energy to residents and industries. 

It’s an interesting challenge because, on a personal level, if you join the team with an attitude of ‘I’ll just bring my experience and that’s going to be enough’, it’s probably not going to work. Because while a number of us have worked on legacy systems, that skillset alone is not going to allow us to build a new renewable system from scratch.

In fact, 100 per cent renewable is only made feasible because of NEOM’s unique wind and solar profile. Thanks to NEOM’s location in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, it offers a unique vantage point for leveraging both solar and wind power in one innovative dual system, paving the way for the next frontier in clean energy.

Will that be enough to power up?

In addition, we will use state-of-the-art storage technology (pumped hydro storage, batteries, etc.) and green fuel generation (H2) and demand-side-management to balance demand with supply from nature.

An integrated Digital Energy Platform will form the backbone of NEOM’s clean energy system, enabling the optimal provision of energy that automatically adapts to demand for, and supply of, power.

Enowa will use those renewable energy sources to power green hydrogen production, which will be both used domestically and exported internationally, and will be a key driver for global decarbonization.

NEOM will be a regional hub for green hydrogen technology and production. In part through its Hydrogen Innovation and Development Center (HIDC), which it began building in 2022. And which will gather operational data from the facility's first 20MW electrolyzer from thyssenkrupp Nucera to be used in the world's largest green hydrogen and ammonia plant (and operated by NEOM Green Hydrogen Company).

It will help to establish NEOM and Saudi Arabia as a global leader in hydrogen.

With legacy utility companies, the feedstock and production have been where it’s been carbon intensive. Are these cost-effective replacements for that?

Enowa has the sizeable task of developing and building renewable and sustainable energy, water and hydrogen infrastructure capable of supporting a region the size of Belgium — all from the ground up.

To create a low carbon energy system from scratch with a clear path to carbon neutrality free from legacy constraints is a hugely exciting opportunity.

The abundance of renewable energy (wind and solar) in the NEOM region results in a low cost of electricity, which makes it a competitive place to produce green electrons and - equally - to export them in the form of hydrogen and green fuels.

The unique opportunity to build the world’s first 100 per cent renewable energy infrastructure from scratch without legacy constraints will give us the unprecedented chance to use state-of-the-art technologies at competitive costs in the long run. Compared to legacy systems that need to become ‘RES’-ready.

What sort of captive energy capacity will NEOM be needing? Will all of this have to be met via clean energy sources?

NEOM has an abundance of natural resources – mainly powerful sun and reliable wind. Enowa plans to harness this at scale and is seeking to build up to 18GW of renewables by 2030 – more than the entire installed generating capacity of Denmark.

We are also looking at other, nature protecting supply choices. For example, geothermal is an interesting option to provide not only electricity but heat as well. On the demand side we will offer enhanced, innovative services to integrate and cooperate with customers more smoothly.

The moment someone mentions renewables or clean, the concern is about cost. Can this ever be settled?

Enowa is focused on creating a low carbon energy system from scratch with a clear path to carbon neutrality free from legacy constraints.

Our new approach for how market participants will be interacting with each other will bring transactional costs down significantly.