Black gold to sunshine: Ex-Saudi oil minister goes solar

Black gold to sunshine: Ex-Saudi oil minister goes solar
As former head of Saudi Arabia's oil industry, Ali al-Naimi commanded huge influence in the market. Now he is looking at working in the kingdom's $50 billion renewable energy drive
2 min read
28 February, 2017
Al-Naimi presided over Saudi Arabia's oil industry for 21 years [AFP]

A former Saudi oil minister who presided over the Kingdom's lucrative black gold industry for 21 years has emerged as a keen advocate of solar energy.

"As far as oil prices, and oil, I have left that behind," said Ali al-Naimi, speaking at an event in Singapore on Friday to launch his autobiography Out of the Desert: My Journey from Nomadic Bedouin to the Heart of Global Oil.

"Now, I'm much more interested in solar energy, making solar panels."

Naimi - previously one of the most powerful figures in the OPEC oil cartel - was replaced as oil minister in May 2016 as part of a major government overhaul under King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Naimi had presided over Saudi Arabia's oil sector since 1995 and replaced by Khalid al-Faleh, the former health minister.

The move also saw the oil ministry renamed to the ministry of energy, industry, and mining with an expanded portfolio for the new minister.

Now 81-years-old, Naimi says he is looking at working in the renewable energy sector but it is not clear in what capacity.

Earlier this month Riyadh announced plans to kick-start a $50 billion renewable energy push, to balance domestic oil use with investments in solar and wind power.

A deadline of 20 March has been set for prospective bidders to submit applications to qualify to build wind and solar power plants aimed at creating 700 megawatts of power.

Commenting on his change of course Naimi said his focus on solar energy, in addition to benefiting Saudi Arabia's sustainable energy future, provided an avenue for him to keep active in old age.

"You need to keep the brain going," Naimi told reporters in Singapore. 

Saudi Arabia's renewable energy push is set to see solar power infrastructures housing 300MW established in Sakaka, in addition to a 400 MW wind project in Midyan, both located in the north west of the country once succesful bids have been processed.