By Mark J. Wood
Renewable energies are changing the face of geopolitics and China is at the forefront. Fossil fuels and oil have played a central role in geopolitics following the Industrial Revolution. As governments put their efforts into research and development of renewable energies, the geopolitics that were once determined by those who had control and scores of ‘black gold’ will eventually shift.
Crown Prince and Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs Muhammad bin Salman, of Saudi Arabia is the architect behind Vision 2030, a program that is seen as Saudi Arabia’s roadmap towards social and economic reform. According to Vision 2030 one of the key areas of development in the oil rich kingdom, is a move away from being solely reliant on its oil rich reserves to a more energy diverse economy. Investing in cheaper renewable energies is a key feature in the Gulf Nations’ vision.
Construction Week Online reports that there is a $1 billion project to build the Middle East’s first solar thin-film will be built in Saudi Arabia. The project will be headed by Beijing-based Hanergy Thin Film Power Group in conjunction with Ajlan and Bros. The deal between the two parties was signed at the launch of the Saudi Arabia National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP). The NIDLP, according Arab News is part of Vision 2030, “aimed at diversifying the economy” and to attract more than $400 billion over the next 10 years in from “Saudi and global private-sector investors.”
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabi’s General Authority for Statistics states that China is the main destination of Saudi oil. China may see Saudi Arabia as an opportunity to solidify its presence in renewable energy in the region. As rightly pointed out by Green Tech Media though, it may be a long time before the value of Chinese renewable energy equipment sales in Saudi Arabia approaches the amount that Asian economic giants pay for oil.
China may not have the volumes of ‘black gold’ that control world markets, however, its steadfast investment in renewables will make them a stronger force in the world. The renewable energy investments it is making around the world has made the geopolitical pendulum swing in favor of nations who are investing in renewable energy. Renewable energy allows for nations to be more independent and have a better energy security, which is a key reason as to why Saudi Arabia is investing in the solar project.
The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation states that countries like China will have a stronger influence on the international stage because they have invested heavily in renewable technologies. This will redraw the geopolitical map in the 21 Century, and alter relations among nations on an economic and environmental level. Energy is a crucial factor in economic activity and human development, and China is spearheading the sources of energy in the new millennium. These efforts will change nations demand for energy away from old, expensive and environmentally hazardous types, to cheaper and cleaner energy.
Green Tech Media further reported that Ben Backwell, the CEO of the Global Wind Energy Council believes moving forward, the major differentiation for successful economies will be the “willingness to embrace new energy technology.” China’s renewable energy soft power approach will yield in their influence in the region in the long run. The Middle East is an ideal region to further this conquest of economic influence and dominance around the world.