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Published on October 20th, 2012 | by James Ayre


Saudi Arabia Unveils Plan to be Powered Entirely by Renewable Energy

October 20th, 2012 by  

Saudi Arabia recently revealed that it is planning to be powered 100% by renewable and low-carbon forms of energy.

One of the state’s main spokesmen, Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, said that he was hoping that Saudi Arabia would be powered completely by low-carbon energy within his lifetime. He made the groundbreaking statement during the Global Economic Symposium in Brazil. He did acknowledge, though, that it was likely to take longer, as he is already 67.


Realistically, the process would take at least a few decades, and that’s if the country is serious about it. There have been some observers expressing skepticism about the purpose of the announcement, suggesting it may just be greenwashing.

The Saudi prince expressed that the country was most definitely moving forward with investment renewables, nuclear power, and other undefined alternatives to fossil fuels. Noting that their vast oil reserves would still be in demand for their use as plastics and polymers.

“Oil is more precious for us underground than as a fuel source,” he said. “If we can get to the point where we can replace fossil fuels and use oil to produce other products that are useful, that would be very good for the world. I wish that may be in my lifetime, but I don’t think it will be.”

Joss Garman, political director of Greenpeace, said: “It speaks volumes that a Saudi prince can see the benefits of switching to clean energy sources when [UK chancellor] George Osborne seemingly cannot, but Saudi Arabia will only truly be a green economy when it leaves its fossil fuels in the ground.”

Currently, Saudi Arabia’s energy is provided nearly completely by burning fossil fuels, nearly two-thirds from oil and the rest from natural gas. It produces around 12 million barrels of oil every day. That’s more than 12% of the entire world’s production, and the country has at least 1/5 of the world’s proven oil reserves, according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration. And because of how artificially-low oil prices are kept within the kingdom, the per capita energy use there is quite high.

As noted by Prince Turki, though, the kingdom has an equally vast potential for solar power. “The cost of solar energy is now 15% of what it was 20 years ago,” he noted.

Source: The Guardian
Image Credits: Solar Plant via Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

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  • Oh, the irony. Maybe the message between the lines is that their reserves are running low?

    Nuclear power is not renewable, though.


    • Bob_Wallace

      One doesn’t have to look between the lines.

      It’s cheaper to make electricity with solar, wind and geothermal than with oil. Hawaii makes most of their electricity using oil and their cost of electricity is over 25 cents per kWh.

      It’s true that Middle Eastern countries can get their oil “wholesale”, but it makes more sense to sell it for market prices and use cheaper generation.

    • Bill_Woods

      The Guardian‘s headline, copied here, is inaccurate. As the article’s text says, “[Prince Turki] insisted Saudi was moving ahead with investment in renewable energy, nuclear power and other alternatives to fossil fuels …”

      • Saudi Arabia plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years at a cost of more than $80 billion.
      • It projects 17 GWe of nuclear capacity by 2032 to provide one sixth of the power then, along with over 40 GWe of solar capacity.


    • Yes, that’s certainly the message I read.

  • Maybe it is green wash, but maybe not. Look at the numbers:
    1) They do have a boat load of cash coming in everyday
    2) They know their oil will not last forever
    3) They have unemployment also.
    4) Saudi prince is only 67, so in his life time could happen in 20 years.

  • Ronald Brak

    It may not be greenwashing but hard headed economics. Saudi Arabia would be better off using point of use solar for daytime electricity and exporting the oil and gas saved. (Yes, they still burn oil for electricity although they’re moving away from that.) I would also guess they have decent wind resources.

  • What, no time tables? No plans? Given that China has been doubling their renewable energies every two years and they are far from being 100% green I would think Saudi Arabia would have some details… With centralized governmental control, capricious spending habits, unlimited monies, it’s possible they might just do it in a single year!

    • mds

      http://cleantechnica.com/2012/05/11/109-billion-increase-for-solar-in-saudi-arabia/ “$109 Billion Increase for Solar in Saudi Arabia” – May 2012
      “Saudi Arabia is well known for being a leading exporter of crude oil, but soon enough it may also add substantial solar to its energy profile. The country is planning to have a solar capacity of 41,000 megawatts by 2032. How will it grow so much in just twenty years?”

  • ronwagn

    Their major concern is to stop fracking around the world. It is threatening high oil prices. A Saudi prince is financing the movie Promised Land with Matt Damon. It is an anti-fracking movie.

    Natural gas is the future of energy. It is replacing dirty, dangerous, expensive coal and nuclear plants. It is producing the electricity for electric cars. It will directly fuel cars,pickup trucks, vans, buses, long haul trucks, dump trucks, locomotives, aircraft, ships etc. It will help keep us out of more useless wars, where we shed our blood and money. It lowers CO2 emissions. Over 2,200 natural gas story links on my blog. An annotated bibliography. The big picture of natural gas. https://www.ronwagnersrants.blogspot.com

    • Natural gas is not the future of energy. It only looks better when compared to its ugly sister coal but it still contributes to global warming.

      • ronwagn

        It is the best alternative, and has reduced America’s CO2
        production and pollutants by replacing coal.

      • Bo Orr

        I agree with Ross. The best alternative , clean, renewable fuel is the fuel that we grow and refine into ethanol. Brazil has already replaced 40% of it’s need for petroleum with ethanol refined from sugar cane. Think how many great permanent good paying jobs would be created if we used desalinized water to irrigate land that that is currently unproductive because does not get enough rainfall.

    • mds

      NG is a good bridge fuel and nothing more. The faster we use it up the quicker we end up in the same soup. The cost of solar has been dropping like a rock. It is here to stay and will soon be the lowest cost energy source of all.
      Fracking is destroying water resources, aquifers, in some areas. This is not ok. Those water resources may never be replaced. Clearly solar, wind, EVs/EREVs, and storage (Li & other batteries, pumped hydro, thermal heat and cold) can completely replace fossil fuels. That’s already happening in places like Hawaii and will continue to expand as prices continue to drop.
      Cost of NG has always been volatile. It is at the limit of its’ cost drop now, as some wells have had to close because they are no longer profitable at current low prices. Solar and wind are not at any limt. Their are numerous tech innovations coming that can continue their drop in price.
      Sure, the Saudis are worried about NG replacing oil. At ruoghly $100/barrel they’re making what, about $96/barrel? …and they couldn’t pump it fast enough to keep up with world demand in the last few years …and China and India are using more. Yes, they are probably very worried. They couldn’t be planning for the future could they? You and also our congress are blind to the change occurring.

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