When the great and good of the oil industry gathered at their annual conference in Texas this month, they were joined by a few unfamiliar names. In a sign of shifting times, the guest list at Ceraweek in Houston also included Amazon Web Services boss Andrew Jassey and executives from Japanese car maker Mitsubishi. Big Oil, facing disruption from huge shifts in technology and energy use, is gradually trying to do something about it. Shell executive Maarten Wetselaar, responsible for so-called new energies, spoke for the first time of the Anglo-Dutch giant’s ambitions to become the world’s biggest electricity company in little more than a decade. He outlined audacious plans for up to 30% of Shell’s $400bn (£303bn) business to be in generating, trading and selling electricity, compared with a fraction now. “Electrification is the biggest trend in energy over the next 10 to 15 years because we think it is the easiest way to decarbonise energy usage.” Meanwhile, energy efficiency is making household devices less power hungry, and efforts are under way to electrify home heating. This month, the UK said that gas boilers would be banned in new homes by 2025 to ease climate change. The proportion of energy provided by electricity is set to jump to about 50%, up from 20% now. Within that, renewables such as solar and wind power are set to become the world’s target source of global electricity by 2040, BP is predicting, as the technology gets cheaper. Shell’s plan to shift towards electricity is a logical next step for it and many of its peers, positioning it as a provider of energy, not just oil and gas – but it also plays to its core strength. Others are also dipping their toes into the electricity market. French oil and gas major Total splashed out $1.7bn on Direct Energie in a challenge to state-controlled utility EDF. BP bought a small stake in UK supplier Pure Planet and has a partnership with solar power developer Lightsource BP, taking a 43% stake in the company. The tie-up is central to an advertising campaign BP has launched in recent weeks.
Sunday Times 24th March 2019 read more »