Investing in the transition

Investing in the transition

Giacomo Maniscalco
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Shell is readying itself for the energy of the future, diversifying its investments in favour of natural gas and renewables

In a few decades we could regard the era of drills as a "downsized" reality, because it could no longer represent the core business of the energy companies of the future. This the warning launched from the CeraWeek stage in Houston by the Shell managing director Ben van Beurden. "If one continues to trivialize the threat of climate change, the patience of customers and stakeholders will run out," remarked van Beurden, announcing the company's relinquishing of Canadian Oil Sands and its subsequent sale to Canadian Natural Resources, for a value of 8.5 billion dollars. "We must recognize that the demand for oil will already reach its peak in the next decade - clarifies van Beurden - and we have to turn quickly to renewable energy and natural gas." On the basis of this insight the, Shell AD explains why the company is seeking to diversify its investment portfolio by shifting the focus on sources that are capable of "more easily adapting to a long-term vision."

A blow to CO2

The cutting of pollutant emissions has to rank high among the priorities on the company's agenda. A goal that requires a concerted effort to meet the global agreements reached in Paris and regain the faith of stakeholders. Although this does not mean erasing fossil fuels completely. Indeed, according to van Beurden "clean energy alone is not enough: Our goal can only be reached via a collection of synergistic actions. Reiterating a metaphor of his it is "as if the energy industry were skating on the thin ice of political choices."

Without a security plan, the slab could crack suddenly.

Towards renewables and natural gas

In the face of growing demand and the imperative to pollute less, van Beurden's recipe is simple: "Increase the share of natural gas and add an increasing share of renewables". Shell is in fact turning towards green energy, in particular by investing in hydropower, wind, biofuels, as well as the capture and storage of CO2. Even if, as van Beurden pointed out, "Shell has already made investments in these fields in the past, evidently when they were still premature and unprofitable." Today, renewables are competitive with fossil fuels, the reason why - continues van Beurden - "we are ready to follow the energy transition. Our approach is to ready ourselves for the era that is about to begin."

The long road towards energy transition

According to the Shell AD the necessary transition to a low carbon energy system will take decades, but the action of governments, as well as political decisions on pricing, will be essential to gradually reduce the amount of energy produced from pollutant sources such as oil and coal. And Shell chose the stage of the energy forum to announce that, starting this year, it will not only pay its executives according to cash flow, but also on the basis of by how much they manage to cut greenhouse gas emissions. "The world needs more energy," said van Beurden. "While we have a duty to fulfil this need without discharging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere." This is the key factor behind the energy transition, a long albeit necessary process.