Riyadh: US Energy Secretary Steven Chu expects that Saudi Arabia will emerge as a major exporter of solar energy and this could reach the current level of the kingdom's oil exports.

He also dismissed fears of a looming crisis caused by dwindling oil production.

Chu, a strong backer of alternative energy, said that there is big scope for Saudi Arabia to tap into its vast solar energy sources.

"The kingdom's drive to invest a portion of its oil revenue on scientific and technical research will enable it to strengthen diversification of energy sources and promote renewable energy programmes.

"This will contribute to achieving remarkable growth in its industrial output and increasing productivity potential," he said.

Chu made these remarks during his meeting with a number of senior government officials and media persons following a lecture at the office of the International Energy Forum here on Monday. He also held talks with King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz.

Speaking to reporters with regard to oil supply, Chu said the market would adjust even if supplies were to decline. "I don't see any peak in oil," Chu said, dismissing the idea that global oil production was at or near a peak and is expected to slide because depletion was outrunning new discoveries. "I see a transition to more expensive forms of oil like that produced from harder-to-access fields and secondary recovery schemes.

Tighter supplies

"If tighter supplies drive up prices, countries would cut back on oil and seek alternative energy sources like solar and nuclear power," Chu said, adding that there will be a renaissance in nuclear energy because it is cleaner.

The top US energy official said that the two countries have common interests in the energy sector. "We want to improve our energy efficiency and use it in the best possible manner to develop the economy," said Chu, adding that both are interested in diversifying energy resources.

"This is an area where we both can cooperate for each other's benefit through research and technical programmes," he noted. Chu voiced concern over the Iranian nuclear programme while emphasising that all countries should respect the treaty of non-proliferation.

Anybody violating these regulations will affect the rhythm of security, and economic and political activities in the global and regional arenas, he said.