Oil-rich Saudi Arabia has plans to become entirely powered by renewable and low carbon forms of energy, an influential member of the kingdom’s royal family has revealed.

Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud told the Global Economic Symposium in Brazil last week that he hoped the world’s biggest oil producer would shift to low-carbon energy forms within his lifetime – he is 67 – with solar playing a central role.

Quoted in the Guardian newspaper, the prince highlighted how the falling cost of solar made it an attractive option for kingdom. “The cost of solar is now 15% of what it was 20 years ago,” he said.

The Prince added that oil remained an important resource for Saudi Arabia, but was more valuable for products such as plastics and polymers than for energy.

“Oil is more precious for us underground than as a fuel source," he said. "If we can get to the point where we can replace fossil fuels and use oil to produce other products that are useful, that would be very good for the world. I wish that may be in my lifetime, but I don't think it will be."

Beyond solar, the Prince indicated that nuclear and carbon capture and storage would be important future technologies for the kingdom. Saudi has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Argentina on future nuclear co-operation.