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ABU DHABI, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's plans to build nuclear and solar energy projects will take about eight years longer to complete than originally intended, the head of the government body in charge of overseeing the projects said on Monday.
In 2012, the world's top oil exporter said it would install 17 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2032 as well as around 41 GW of solar capacity. Currently it has no nuclear power plants.
"The plan started by looking at 20 years down the road, with the year 2032 as the major milestone for long-term planning," Hashim Yamani, president of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, said at an energy conference in Abu Dhabi.
"Recently, however, we have revised the outlook together with our stakeholders to focus on 2040 as the major milestone for long-term energy planning in Saudi Arabia."
Yamani did not give a reason for the delay, or say when the first nuclear and solar plants would be operational. Although Saudi Arabia has ample financial resources to build the projects, it faces technical challenges, limited supplies of water for use in the plants, and potential bureaucratic obstacles.
Power demand in the desert kingdom is growing 8 percent annually, forcing state-run Saudi Electricity Co, the Gulf's largest utility company, to spend billions of dollars on projects to add capacity.
Nuclear and solar power stations would reduce the diversion of Saudi Arabia's oil output for use in domestic power generation, leaving more available for export.
Yamani said that despite a government initiative calling for energy efficiency, Saudi Arabia's peak electricity demand was expected to exceed 120 GW by 2032. (Reporting by Maha El Dahan; Writing by Reem Shamseddine; Editing by Andrew Torchia)