Oil giant shells out $1bn on renewable energy

Oil giant Shell will invest between $500m and $1bn in renewable energy technologies over the next five years, the company told an analysts’ briefing in London yesterday.

The planned investment represents a big increase in the company’s commitment to renewable energy sources, following an announcement in 1997 that it would spend $500m on such technologies by 2002.

Robert Kleiberg, vice-president for strategy and planning at Shell Renewables, said the $500m figure would now be exceeded by the deadline as the company focused on wind and solar projects, predominantly in north America and Europe.

However, the investment will not be exclusively in wind and solar. ‘There are a number of other energy technologies we’re also evaluating,’ said Kleiberg. These include geothermal, hot dry rocks, biomass and biofuels. For the time being, the company has decided not to become involved in wave or tidal power.

Kleiberg said that in solar business ‘it’s pretty much a global presence’, with north America and Europe again leading markets along with Japan.

He was unable to say how much of the investment would go into the UK but said the country was in a good position in wind energy – particularly with proposed offshore developments. Earlier this year, Shell won a government licence to build a 30-turbine wind farm off the coast of Blackpool, which should generate about 60MW of electricity.

While UK investment in photo-voltaic solar power has lagged well behind other European countries, Kleiberg said there were signs that the situation was improving. ‘We see some developments that make the UK more attractive.’

While some renewable technologies are now firmly established – notably the three-blade turbine in the wind sector – Kleiberg said the company would pursue others that are still in the development stage. These include a ‘whole host of technologies’ in the biomass field and the possibilities from hot dry rocks.

Kleiberg said the same was even more true of some renewable technologies that Shell had discarded for the present. ‘Wave power is still going through a lot of development. It’s very much at the experimental stage.’

But he stressed that this would not rule out the company’s involvement in wave power at some point in the future.

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