Saudi Arabia: The ‘Green’ Kingdom?


Why is the world’s largest petroleum exporter interested in “going green?” It might seem counterintuitive, given the fact that new green technologies would seem to reduce world dependence on oil for transportation and other energy needs. While that may be true, the bottom line calculation for Saudi Arabia and other oil producing states is that the world will use every last drop of oil, no matter what. Once it’s all gone, whenever that will be, the world will need to find another energy source, Saudi Arabia included.

The story is deeper than that, of course. As we’ve discussed on Arabianomics before, Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues are financing some of the most massive investments on infrastructure and domestic growth ever seen by any nation in history. That reinvestment, which has kicked into high gear in the last decade, has allowed for its population to soar, and a soaring population means increased demand for domestic energy. It’s a sign that Saudi Arabia is becoming a diverse economy and growing global trade partner for many, but it also means that the Kingdom will need to somehow provide energy for its growing number of citizens. If it doesn’t, it will ultimately use all of the oil it produces just to power its own economy.

Not only will Saudi Arabia have to find alternative sources of power, conservation is also a must. So as the Kingdom prepares to build up to 500,000 housing units in the coming years with cash from the “Saudi stimulus,” green technologies to save energy in those units is likely to be implemented.

Writing in for the website, Rola Tassabehji discusses how the implementation of green construction has a very high potential, and may add up to “insurance” for a new green economy in the Kingdom. Tassabehji discusses the “unique opportunity” that Saudi Arabia has with a renewed focus on real estate in the Kingdom to pioneer the world green movement.

Wouldn’t that just blow perceptions about Saudi Arabia out of the water?

Tassabehji writes:

[T]he Saudi government has also drawn up preliminary building standards in collaboration with regional and international experts, with the aim of reducing the cost of construction and power consumption, while extending the age of current buildings. New universities under construction are leading the way. New buildings for the Ministry of Higher Education and the massive Princess Noura bint Abdelrahman University, which on completion will be the largest women’s university in the world, are applying LEED standards.”

Back in late October, Abeer Allam for the UK-based Financial Times discussed ways in which the “Kingdom of Oil” was going green.


“New universities under construction are leading the way. Abdullatif Abu Arida, project manager of “smart buildings” at the ministry of higher education, says new campuses in Jazan and Al Kharj in the south and centre of the country respectively will use internet protocol-based systems. Using sensors, these control lighting and cooling, and mix natural with artificial light.”

The advantages for green construction are numerous: new job opportunities, reduced bill costs for Saudi citizens, the obvious environmental gains, and the opportunity to pioneer new technologies for the rest of the world. After all, Saudi Arabia is one of the hottest places on the planet – if any place is ground zero for the battle against leaked air conditioning, it’s Saudi Arabia.