Following plans to transform Mecca into a solar city, an influential member of the Saudi Royal family has announced even more ambitious renewable energy plans for the country. Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, founder of the King Faisal Foundation and one of the state’s top spokesmen, said he wants to the country to switch completely from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The prince admitted that the shift would not be complete in his lifetime (he is 67) but that it will happen.
“Oil is more precious for us underground than as a fuel source,” said Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud at conference. “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.” He said he wanted the country to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels such as renewables, nuclear and other low-carbon sources of energy. Vast oil reserves could then used to create useful materials such as plastics and polymers, he explained.
The plans come hot on the heels of a damning Citigroup report which found that Saudi Arabia could be an importer of oil by 2030 due to the high levels of domestic consumption. Saudis are consuming a quarter of the 11.1m barrels a day of crude they produce, with residential use making up 50% of the demand. Two thirds of the residential use is going directly into air conditioning. The country is also consuming all of its gas supplies domestically. As such, these huge renewable plans are a good idea as the country clearly won’t be able to supply its citizens with the kinds of energy it currenly is.
However, some commentators have denounced these plans as window-dressing in the lead up to the COP18 climate conference which will take place in Qatar. They state the the plans to switch to 100% renewables simply frees up more oil to sell abroad – which fetches a much higher price then selling it locally. So, there’s money to be made and the notion that this is all in the name of the environment is misleading.
Indeed, Prince Turki – who served as director of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services for more than 20 years – was also clear that the rest of the world was likely to continue to rely on fossil fuels for many years to come. “No country can ban itself from any one form of energy,” he said. So, I guess that means they are still very much up for selling their supplies to those who have not quite made the switch.
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: Image of Arabian falconer via Shutterstock.com