The energy they use, not what they export, of courseThe rulers of Saudi Arabia aren't exactly my favorite people in the world, and that's the understatement of the century. Not so much because they produce so much oil: When you think about it, that's an accident of geology that made them sit on all those hydrocarbons (if the oil had been found under Japan, they'd be a huge exporter instead of importer), and producing oil is just one half of the equation. Someone has to buy and burn all that oil, and it's certainly not the Saudis that are doing it alone. What bothers me more is what has been done with all that oil money, like maintaining a totalitarian monarchy with a terrible human rights record, supporting various groups wishing ill on others or subverting science, etc. But that's a whole different story, and this isn't the place. My point is that I don't have to like everything that's done by Saudi Arabia to recognize when they do something right. Fair is fair, right?
So it's definitely a good thing that Saudi Arabia is setting for itself more ambitious renewable energy targets than many other countries, aiming to get 33% of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2032. To reach that goal, they're budgeting a gigantic pile of money of $109 billion.
Solar energy should be particularly effective, especially solar thermal with storage (molten salts, or maybe even liquid metal batteries.. they can afford it). If there's one thing that Saudi Arabia has in greater quantity than oil, it's sunlight...Their energy plans also include nuclear, which is usually not considered to be renewable energy but at least has the benefit of producing few carbon emissions. But safety is a concern as usual, and I'm not sure if the middle-east is the most stable place for nukes. Even if the geology is stable and you don't get earthquakes like in Japan, the geopolitics are very worrisome.. I wish they would instead just double-down on solar + wind + geothermal. With their deep pockets, maybe they could finance the DESERTEC project and build transmission lines all the way to the kingdom...
Hopefully this isn't just talk and we'll see multi-billion dollar investments in wind and solar in the coming years. This could help the whole industry move forward thanks to economies of scale and new plants being built.