Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer, has plans to become 100 per cent powered by renewable and low-carbon forms of energy, according to an influential member of the royal family, The Guardian reported.
But the process is likely to take decades, and some observers are sceptical as to whether it is any more than window-dressing.
King Faisal Foundation founder and one of the state’s top spokesmen Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud told the Global Economic Symposium in Brazil that he hoped the kingdom might be powered entirely by low-carbon energy within his lifetime – he is 67 – but that he thought it was likely to take longer.
However, he insisted Saudi was moving ahead with investment in renewable energy, nuclear power and other alternatives to fossil fuels and that it could use its vast oil reserves for other goods, such as plastics and polymers.
Saudi Arabia’s energy use is almost entirely from fossil fuels at present, with about two-thirds coming from oil and the remainder from gas.
The state produces close to 12m barrels of oil a day, representing more than 12 per cent of world crude production, and has about one-fifth of the world’s oil reserves, according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration.
Energy use per person within the kingdom is also high by world standards, because energy prices are kept so low.
But despite his commitment to advancing renewable energy in the Middle East, Prince Turki – who served as director of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services for more than 20 years and has also been an ambassador to the UK and the US – was also clear that the rest of the world was likely to continue to rely on fossil fuels for many years to come.
One of the other potentially important technologies for Saudi Arabia is carbon capture and storage, as depleted oil fields could be used as storage for compressed carbon dioxide, but it has so far made little progress.
The prince said the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology should be seen as an international effort rather than the responsibility of single countries.