climate change energy

Saudi Arabia’s future beyond fossil fuels

Last week was the Business and Climate Summit in Paris, and among the panels of CEOs and their warm words was a rather surprising announcement from Saudi Arabia. Their oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, admitted that the era of fossil fuels will come to an end.

“In Saudi Arabia, we recognise that one of these days, we’re not going to need fossil fuels” he told his audience. “I don’t know when – 2040, 2050 or thereafter.”

Looking to that time, he said the country had plans to produce solar energy on a large scale, and in time become an exporter of renewable electricity. Even the slump in oil prices would not change the shift towards solar power: “I believe solar will be even more economic than fossil fuels.”

Saudi Arabia is a major oil user as well as an exporter, so this is not going to happen any time soon. 2040 is too late to prevent dangerous climate change. But, it is interesting to see that even the oil minister of the world’s biggest oil exporter recognises that fossil fuels are on borrowed time, and that the economics of renewable energy is improving all the time.

We can’t depend on it just yet, but with a little luck the point at which renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels will come a whole lot quicker than Mr al-Naimi expects. Then we won’t need a campaign to keep the oil in the ground. Nobody will want it anyway.


  1. In some ways this is stating the bleedin obvious. In other ways it makes you wonder about the security of their oil supply and whether wikileaks was right.

    1. Saudi Arabia’s true reserves have been a state secret for over thirty years, so we don’t really know. Matthew Simmons predicted a 2007-2008 peak to Saudi production in his book Twilight in the Desert and that looks premature. But the peak and decline will happen. It’ll be interesting to find out if it’s driven by falling production or falling demand as renewable energy gets cheaper.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: