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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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The Race Is On: Big Oil Rushes To Supply The 1 Billion Disconnected

Supermajors are taking on more renewable energy commitments lately as they prepare for a less carbon-intensive future. Some of them are going a step further, coupling these green commitments with humanist causes such as providing access to energy to part of the one billion people all over the world who have no electricity.

Power for All director William Brent reviewed in a recent story this push that will see Shell, Total, French Engie, Schneider Electric and others of their caliber, build electricity supply from clean sources for 200 million of this one billion within the next ten years. Shell is the most ambitious, aiming to provide access to electricity for 100 million, and Total plans to provide 25 million people in Africa with solar energy derived power within the next two years.

Others are also catching up with the green agenda. Exxon recently announced it had inked a 12-year deal with Danish renewable energy company Orsted to buy 500 MW of electricity produced by solar and wind farms to power its oil production in the Permian. The deal reflects falling renewable energy prices, which is making renewable energy a lot more competitive with fossil fuels, not to mention the reputational effect its deployment would have on Big Oil-- and Big Oil is in serious need of news that is good for its reputation. Even with a redoubling of efforts to move more quickly into renewable energy territory, challenges remain, however.

Shell and BP, for instance, are being pressured by activist shareholders into doing more to lower their carbon footprint. One such activist shareholder, Dutch group Follow This, has been actively pressuring the companies it holds shares in to be more active in carbon footprint reduction work. Related: Saudi Arabia Under Fire From All Sides

Shell’s dealings with the group, whose sole purpose for owning shares in oil companies is to apply the abovementioned pressure, are a case in point. A recent Bloomberg report said Follow This will once again, for the fourth year in a row, present at Shell’s 2019 AGM, a resolution seeking to force the company to move its business goals closer to Paris Accord commitments undertaken by more than a hundred countries.

Shell has been Follow This’s first target, and the resolutions, although invariably beaten down by other shareholders, have had an impact and Shell has clearly undertaken more commitments in the cleaner energy transition area.

But Follow This is not stopping with Shell. Its resolutions have been garnering growing support despite their failure at the shareholder votes, and the group is now setting its sights on other sector players. BP is facing a resolution of its own with the same call to action, and, according to the group, Chevron and Exxon may also join Shell and BP in case no other shareholder beats Follow This to the resolution tabling line.

So, Big Oil is doing more, but it’s nowhere near enough and the latest climate talks in Poland suggests pressure will continue increasing on the industry. Governments met in Poland to devise a rulebook for implementing Paris Agreement commitments, but doing this has turned out to be trickier than maybe some expected. As per a BBC report on the topic, there are too many factors to contend with while deciding on the best way to arrest the warming of the atmosphere. Yet one thing is certain: fossil fuel producers will continue to be in the focus of attention as the biggest culprits behind climate change whatever they do to move into renewables and cut their carbon footprint. After all, whatever they do, until the world doesn’t need oil, oil will be produced.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Tim on December 16 2018 said:
    Nothing is as polluting as a dead electric car battery. Nothing wastes so much energy as recycling an electric car battery. Nothing is quite so expensive as replacing an electric car battery.
  • Lee James on December 16 2018 said:
    Isn't it time for big oil companies to become ENERGY Companies, in the broad sense?

    These companies have picked a good focus for their future, and it a future that works for the undeveloped world. Clean, uncentralized electric energy has got to be one of the best choices. This power is initially right-sized and has a faster ramp-up, it's flexible and adaptable , and of course is much cleaner than fossil fuel generation.

    Hopefully, state-side efforts will keep pace with clean energy development by European oil companies.
  • Steve Bull on December 17 2018 said:
    I often wonder if the 'renewable energy' narrative isn't just a feel good one as we rush towards an impending cliff? It seems to me that it is quite self-evident that the infinite growth culture imbedded within this storyline is imperilled by the fact that we live on a finite planet with real biophysical limits (despite attempts to suggest our ingenuity and technology will save us from any such restrictions). An unbiased view of the mathematics of exponential growth are pretty convincing that perpetual growth cannot and will not continue to double ad infinitum, regardless of a transition to 'clean' energy (which isn't even close to being clean, by the way, and relies mightily on fossil fuels for its continuing existence). And, unless we find a way to replace/remove fossil fuel-based pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers from industrial agriculture, the majority of the globe's citizens that depend on this energy-intensive food system better hope the oil and gas industry doesn't ride off into the sunset.

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