Feb 2, 2023
Shell Hits the Breaks on Growing Renewables Unit After Record 2022 Profit
(Bloomberg) -- Shell Plc plans to keep investment in its renewables and energy solutions business steady this year after it hit an all-time high in 2022, a signal that the company’s record profits won’t significantly accelerate its low-carbon ambitions.
Spending on the unit includes a variety of technologies from wind and solar farms, to carbon offsets, carbon capture and biofuels. Shell plans to expand in those areas to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, with a renewed focus on delivering value to Shell investors, said new Chief Executive Officer Wael Sawan.
“Our philosophy has been a real pivot toward energy transition investments,” Sawan said. “But we will make sure that those investments go into the areas where we can see line of sight toward attractive returns to be able to reward our shareholders.”
Shell invested about $3.5 billion on the renewables and energy solutions business in 2022, making up about 14% of total capital expenditures, according to figures released by the company on Thursday. That level will remain steady in 2023, Chief Financial Officer Sinead Gorman said in a call with reporters Thursday.
Spending on the the unit has risen steadily in recent years as Shell began to diversify away from fossil fuels, the combustion of which is the primary driver of climate change. Even at the record level reached last year, it was still less than half what the company spends on oil and gas exploration and extraction.
Shell is working to grow its natural gas business, the engine for record profits last year. While gas produces fewer emissions when burned than oil does, the world would need to consume a lot less of it in the coming decades to prevent the worst impacts of global warming, according to models of a future energy system that would reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Overall, Sawan said the company’s energy-transition spending is greater than the figures included in the renewables unit, making up over a third of overall investment of $23 billion to $27 billion announced for 2023.
“Is the pace of renewables investment fast enough? I don’t think we are moving as a world fast enough,” Sawan said. “But that requires significant change from government policies. It requires the right customer uptake and of course it requires companies like ours to continue to invest.”
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