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Saudi Arabia’s Ex Oil Minister Looks To Tackle World’s Energy Problems

Ali al-Naimi, the former oil minister of Saudi Arabia, has announced the establishment of a new energy forum called the Energy Elders Forum, in an effort to promote renewable energy as a solution to the world’s energy problems.

Al-Naimi, who served as the Kingdom’s top oil man for twenty years before being replaced by Khalid al-Falih, said the forum, which is part of the Al-Attiyah Foundation, will seek to tap into the knowledge and experience of the 30 laureates of the Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah International Energy Awards to figure out sustainable ways of tackling some of the biggest challenges that the energy industry is facing today.

Prior to the May 9th inauguration of the forum, Al-Naimi said that, “According to scientists, planet earth is 4.5 billion years old - all this time, the planet has run quite effectively - on solar power. It is the only reason we are all here today. It is constant, reliable, and free. Our energy quest today is to utilise solar and other renewable forms of energy. I have no doubt fossil fuels will retain a vital place, but all forms of energy will be required as we go forward.”

The concept of renewable energy is relatively new for Saudi Arabia – hardly surprising against the backdrop of its huge oil wealth, but the oil crisis of 2014 and the change in government with the crowning of King Salman have prompted a shift in priorities that has so far yielded the Vision 2030 program aimed at turning the Kingdom into a major renewables energy producer.

The program made headlines last year, but then media stopped talking about it as Saudi Arabia had more important things to do; namely, to find a way to plug an unprecedented budget hole. The chosen path turned out to be an OPEC-wide agreement to reduce crude oil output and strengthen prices, helping everyone suffering from deficits to ramp up their oil revenues.

Related: The Oil Crisis: An Ice Cream-Flavored Asteroid?

However, at the start of the fifth month of the agreement, oil prices are back where they were before it – below US$50 a barrel. In this situation, renewables will probably once again take the spotlight, after in February Riyadh announced it was seeking bidders for 700 MW of wind and solar projects. Plans in the Vision 2030 program envisage the installation of 10 GW of renewable energy generation capacity, worth between US$30 and US$50 billion.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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