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Climate tech finds a booster in Saudi Arabia

The Miraah solar thermal project in Oman.

The Miraah solar thermal project built by GlassPoint. Courtesy of GlassPoint.

Saudi Arabia is enticing climate tech startups and companies alike.

Driving the news: The Future Investment Initiative, dubbed Davos in the Desert, kicked off in Riyadh this week. Deal announcements have followed.

  • GlassPoint, a New York-based startup that makes solar tech to produce steam for industrial companies, disclosed a partnership with Saudi Arabia's development group, the Ministry of Investment, to build an $80 million factory in the kingdom's Eastern Province.
  • That arrangement is on top of an existing partnership it has with the Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma'aden) to build the world's largest solar process steam plant.

State of play: Other announcements so far from Riyadh include:

  • Korean auto giant Hyundai announced it's partnered with Saudi's Public Investment Fund to build a $500 million factory to make both EVs and gas-powered vehicles in Saudi Arabia.
  • Danish freight forwarder DSV said on Monday it's setting up a $10 billion joint venture with Neom, Saudi Arabia's futuristic megacity project.
  • Last month, electric vehicle maker Lucid Motors said it opened a factory in Saudi Arabian city Jeddah, and the kingdom plans to buy up to 100,000 Lucid vehicles over 10 years. Saudi PIF is Lucid's largest shareholder.

Of note: Five years ago, tech companies and Silicon Valley investors were among those that abruptly turned away from Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

  • Clearly, that stance has loosened.
  • "All the resources that we can leverage into solving [the climate] problem, we should leverage," said Val Miftakhov, the CEO of hydrogen aviation startup ZeroAvia, which counts Saudi Arabia's Neom as one of its largest investors.
  • GlassPoint's CEO Rod MacGregor says, "When it comes to reducing emissions, you have to go to where the emissions are."

Yes, but: Others remain cold to the idea.

  • "It is immoral to raise money from Saudi Arabia," Founders Fund Partner Keith Rabois posted earlier this month on X.

Big picture: Despite the flow of deals this week, the Gaza conflict could stall Saudi Arabia's foreign investment ambitions.

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct GlassPoint's home state as New York.

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