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Constructing the Future: NEOM - Erkin Sancarbaba


When the Vision 2030 program of Saudi Arabia was announced on April 25, 2016, the comprehensive plan delivered a clear message about the country's future expectations. With its growing economy and increasing population, the Vision sets comprehensible targets to Saudi Arabia such as reducing dependency on oil revenues, creating alternative energy sources, promoting infrastructural investments, and revising health and education systems. As a major actor of the Vision, the futuristic NEOM giga-city project is planning to gather the aforementioned goals under a single roof. The relatively new and ambitious leadership of the Kingdom expresses determination about building a regional attraction center that has high potential to become the new financial and hi-tech hub of the Middle East region. The giant project represents the investment model that revises and transforms investors’ line of business. Furthermore, the construction plan has the potential to reveal the evolution process of a country that is highly reliant on its oil revenues into an ecosystem that is environment-friendly and self-sufficient.


As the largest exporter of crude oil, Saudi Arabia's plan to construct a sustainable giga-city that is fully energized by renewable energy sources can be inspirational for other energy producer countries. The $500 billion worth of giga-city plan that is part of the country's 2030 vision is not only about building a sustainable ecosystem. The plan represents a model in which fossil fuel revenues fund sustainability at last. The aforementioned model cannot be implemented without the support of the new Saudi leadership and local investors alongside international investors of course. The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, which operates $500 billion and has shareholders such as SABIC and Saudi Aramco, is the leading financier of the project. Furthermore, the contribution of the money flow which is the result of the Aramco IPO cannot be underestimated. After the actualization of the project, the world will be witnessed to an investment that is funded by a group of companies including oil giants, and fully energized by renewable energy sources same time.


As highlighted, the project NEOM promises a giga-city that meets its energy requirements from renewable sources only. The giga-project targets to save three million tons of CO2 per year which equals the emissions of 700.000 automobiles. By using solar, wind, and hydrogen-based power generation, the main purpose is to provide clean and pollution-free urban environments. These green energy production methods have the potential to evolve production and manufacturing back into the community in a zero-emission, carbon-positive ecosystem. As a part of the project, Saudi Arabia predicts to generate more than 10 GW of energy per year from renewable sources such as solar and wind. The aforementioned production capacity means replacing about burned power of 80.000 barrels per day with green energy. This kind of energy production capacity has a crucial role not only in meeting the energy requirement of the giga-city but also in supplying energy to surrounding settlement areas.


Furthermore, the futuristic city project aims to become one of the world’s pathbreaking hubs for green hydrogen as well. The planners of NEOM’s green hydrogen plant estimate that the construction of the production units will start in the first half of 2022. The plant will have the capacity of producing produce 650 tons of carbon-free hydrogen per day and 1.2 million tons of green ammonia per year, which can potentially reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the equivalent of 3 million tons per year. In the current state, that kind of investment constitutes a unique example and positions the country in a highly strategic position in the sector and the region. As a country that has targets to achieve the positive separation in the region, the aforementioned investment opportunity can be an accelerator effect.


All in all, the 2030 vision of the Saudi Arabia and the NEOM project represents an alternative future for the country and its people. The project that is planned to be constructed under Vision 2030 has the potential to overcome the country's main and upcoming challenges which can be defined as becoming sustainable and self-sufficient. In this direction, maintaining the determination of the aimful leadership of the country is crucial, just as continuous local and international investments. On the other hand, the fate of the giga-projects which are within the scope of comprehensive Vision is directly related to the country's image on public opinion. The human rights violations, direct interventions to the freedom of the press, and deficiency on the rule of law are just the some of factors that directly threats the future of the initiative. In short, the NEOM centers around the vital challenges of Saudi Arabia, and it should be implemented as a part of national policies towards the future of the country.


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