French oil group Total is not ‘greenwashing’ when it comes to its renewables investments, a senior executive told a skeptical audience at a green finance conference in London on Thursday.
Soon after a poll revealed that the majority of the audience at the Green Investment Group’s Green Energy Conference thought that oil & gas players were not seriously interested in green electrons, Total senior vice-president for renewables, Julian Pouget said: “It’s not at all greenwashing. It’s a business decision driven first by the fight against climate change, but also by the fact that we see electrification of the full energy mix.
“We see ourselves as involved in the energy market — when you see the mix of your business evolving it makes a lot of sense to look into it and to take positions where the market is going.
“On a global basis, it is very clear that we, as an energy player, want to be in this new field, which is obviously taking a larger share of our market.”
According to a presentation by the Macquarie-owned Green Investment Group, Total has invested far more of its capital in low-carbon investments than its competitors — 4.3% of its total capex from 2010 to Q3 2018, compared to 2.3% for BP, 1.8% for Equinor and 1.3% for Shell, with Chevron and ExxonMobil on a lowly 0.23% and 0.22% respectively.
Pouget explained that Total has already built 3GW of wind and solar projects, is currently adding 1-2GW per year, and has a target of installing 25GW by 2025, with “10,000 people working on these topics in Total group”.
He added that Total wants to get more heavily involved in offshore wind, particularly in floating wind, where the company sees synergies with its oil & gas exploration and production business, and also in energy storage.
“We have been investing more than $2bn per year in the last few years, but this is still relatively modest,” the Frenchman noted, wearing a white scarf around his neck. Total invested $15.3bn in its oil & gas exploration and production segment last year, according to its Factbook 2018 report, albeit down from $26.5bn in 2014.
“I fully hope that these figures show that we are serious in this transition," said Pouget.
“When I joined Total three years ago I was a little bit scared to come to such an oil & gas company with my electricity topics, I was a little bit scared of the need to fight… and a little bit, even, of pullback. But actually, no, it’s not at all the case. People [at the company] are actually very proactive to support the development of renewables.”
He suggested that Total’s renewables business could grow even faster, and the 2025 target could rise, as its investors become more comfortable with greeninvestments.
“Our investors are a little bit worried that we would use our money on things which have not at all the same returns as our core business,” Pouget told the conference in London. “So what we do, which is basically what most of the developers are doing in this space, which is that we are turning down [sic] our assets in order to improve the returns.
"And what we have seen so far is, due to our balance sheet and the type of sales we can get from the banks, As long as we are able to deploy the assets, which takes a little bit of effort, we can reach returns which are actually in the same range as what we are doing in the oil & gas space.”