News came out of France last week that, although net 2017 profit rose, EDF saw its revenue slide from $88.3 billion to $86.7 billion, a decline that occurred largely in its traditional energy sectors such as nuclear. This was combined with an announcement that the French energy giant would invest more than $31 billion in solar in the coming years.
Other large energy companies appear to finally be reading the writing on the wall: that the traditional electricity generation strategy of burning fuels (or creating fission) and boiling water is giving way to the sustainable and cost-effective harvesting of photons and Aeolian currents. In other words: Renewables (and storage) are where the future growth opportunities lie.
In fact, a number of the larger European energy companies are making moves to embrace and propel the sustainable emerging energy economy. Consider these recent activities:
Orsted — the former DONG (Danish Oil and Natural Gas) — sold off its oil and gas business last year to become a renewables energy company with a great degree of expertise in offshore wind (it has developed 25% of the world’s offshore wind capacity).
BP recently announced it would invest about $0.5 billion of its annual capital expenditures on clean energy (not huge by any stretch of the imagination, but not trivial either — the key will be to see whether it is followed up by additional activity). Although the company’s CEO, Bob Dudley, indicated hydrocarbons were still core to the company’s strategy, the company’s deputy chief executive, Lamar McKay, was quoted as saying “Our industry is changing faster than any of us can remember, certainly in my career.” The company recently plunked down $200 million for a 43% of LightSource, a big solar developer, and is said to be evaluating additional such investments.
Meanwhile, Shell recently bought electric vehicle charging company NewMotion, picking up 30,000 charging stations in Europe in the bargain, with plans to install charging installations at its retail stations in the U.K, the Netherlands, Norway and the Philippines. It also bought a 44% piece of Silicon Ranch, an owner/operator of U.S. solar plants, with 880 MW either under contract, in construction, or operating and nearly 1,000 MW in the development pipeline. Shell currently spends between $1 and $2 billion dollars on clean energy..