Israeli-founded smart energy tech firm SolarEdge Technologies, Inc. has formed a joint venture with Saudi Arabia’s Ajlan & Bros Holding, a private sector conglomerate, based in Riyadh, to help advance the transition to solar energy adoption in the desert kingdom, which has no formal diplomatic ties with the Jewish nation.
Based in Herzliya and with US headquarters in California, SolarEdge, which is traded on the Nasdaq and is listed in the S&P 500 index, said that the joint venture will be established in Riyadh to “support the deployment of smart renewable energy solutions in Saudi Arabia,” as the kingdom has a target to reduce its dependence on oil by the end of this decade.
The venture will be managed by a team from both companies, with Ajlan & Bros Holding as the majority shareholder, the two companies said in a joint statement.
“SolarEdge is committed to driving the clean energy transition on a global scale, exemplified by this JV which will provide local enterprises in Saudi Arabia with the support they need to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to clean solar energy and meet their aggressive renewable energy goals,” said SolarEdge CEO Zvi Lando.
Ajlan & Bros Holding is one of the largest private sector conglomerates in the Middle East and North Africa region, with investments across more than 25 countries and 75 companies across sectors, including water, oil & gas, healthcare, food security, and mining and minerals.
SolarEdge was founded in 2006, seeking to make solar energy more affordable and widespread. It developed an inverter solution for harvesting and managing power in solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. In 2010, the company commercialized its SolarEdge direct current (DC) optimized inverter system to increase power generation and lower the cost of energy produced by the solar PV system.
As of August 1, the company has a market cap of $13.5 billion and is considered among the most valuable Israeli companies, alongside NICE Systems and cybersecurity giant Check Point Software Technologies.
Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have official diplomatic relations, but covert ties have somewhat warmed in recent years with Jewish business leaders visiting the kingdom to meet with Saudi business and government communities. The desert kingdom has shown interest in Israel’s startup culture, and its technological innovations around water, energy, food, defense and space.
The venture with SolarEdge marks one of the first known public agreements, if not the first between an Israeli company and a Saudi entity. The announcement comes after Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Monday that the country was “the closest we have ever been to a peace agreement” with the Saudis, and US President Joe Biden on Friday hinted at potential progress in the long-sought deal after months of US officials playing down the possibility, saying that “there’s a rapprochement maybe underway.”
Washington has sought to advance an Israel-Saudi normalization deal because of its perceived benefits to US national security. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Saturday that Biden has not yet made up his mind on the desirability of an Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization deal, which would likely require a massive security pact between the US and Saudi Arabia, but had nonetheless dispatched National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and White House Middle East czar Brett McGurk to discuss terms of a potential deal.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long sought an elusive normalization deal with the Saudis, repeatedly describing it as one of the top priorities of his new government and one that could lead to an end to both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On Sunday, Netanyahu announced plans to build a trans-Israel railway that he said could eventually connect Israel to Saudi Arabia, although the project’s financial feasibility is unclear.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.