We are used to considering the Middle East as a powerhouse of fossil fuel production; after all, this is where we find the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which happens to be the leading producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Let us not forget that Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait are founding OPEC member nations, which were later joined by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. There is no precise way to determine until when these countries will be able to enjoy the advantage of massive oil reservoirs; what we do know, however, is that fossil fuels are finite resources, and this is something that Middle East leaders clearly have on their minds in the 21st century.

With the current push towards replacing the use of hydrocarbons with renewable energy resources, major oil producers in the Middle East do not wish to be left behind. Although OPEC leaders have strategic choices they can make to promote the use of fossil fuels and continue to generate more profits; they have seen the writing on the wall with regard to what the rest of the world has in mind. Clean energy is preferable for many reasons; at the consumer level we have the awareness of environmental conservation as well as the use of advanced technologies to take advantage of renewable sources. At the producer level, we see a legitimate concern about fossil fuels falling out of favor; moreover, there is also money to be made in the clean energy sector, and no one wants to be left holding the crude oil bag when it falls completely out of favor.

Through the observations of energy analysts such as Amir Handjani, we know that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been contemplating serious moves into clean energy, and this was recently confirmed by a report published by the Arab News in late January 2020. At the Solar Forum of the World Future Energy Summit, which was conveniently hosted in Abu Dhabi, the Kingdom emerged as the Middle East leader in terms of national implementation, on track to generate 60 gigawatts of electricity by the year 2030. This effort puts Saudi Arabia at the top of the Middle East and even North Africa, where Morocco and Egypt have been competing to establish market leader status.

It should be noted that oil giant Saudi Aramco has been making major investments related to renewable energy production and harvesting outside of the Middle East. This is a company that is suddenly interested in the development of fuel cells for electric cars and the manufacturing of wind turbines. It is clear that Aramco wishes to be in a good position when the big clean energy revolution unfolds, but the Saudis are hardly alone. Oman and the United Arab Emirates have been investing and promoting clean energy projects for years, and their reasons for doing so have to do with economic diversification. The black gold will likely continue to flow for decades, but what happens when it falls out of favor among consumers?

 

Published by Matthew Piggot