Total switching to cleaner energy

TOTAL is deepening its investments in clean energy, reducing its exposure to tar sands and dropping any plans to drill in the Arctic in order to meet international targets designed hold global warming below 2C
Total switching to cleaner energy Total switching to cleaner energy Total switching to cleaner energy Total switching to cleaner energy Total switching to cleaner energy

Haydn Black


In a strategy paper published to coincide with its Annual General Meeting, in the clearest industry acknowledgment to date of the risks of unfettered exploration, Total said it was factoring in a carbon price of $US30-40 a tonne ($A41-55/t) when deciding when and where to drill.

"The 2C scenario highlights that a part of the world's fossil fuel resources cannot be developed. Total's growth strategy takes this into account," the document stated.

CEO Patrick Pouyanne emphasised the significance of the Paris Agreement in shaping the company's business plans, calling last year's COP21 climate talks as "a watershed".

"Despite the current instability worldwide, 195 countries managed to unite around an ambitious climate agreement. That sends a strong message."

Total is basing its investment decisions around the International Energy Agency's 2C scenario that sees oil and gas making up nearly half the energy mix in 2035.

But "strict investment discipline is vital," Pouyanne said, to avoid wasting money on costly resources that may be surplus to requirements.

Total's new environmental discipline comes as a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change

Average temperatures would climb by up to 9.5 degrees, with the Arctic rising by up to 20C.

The report stated that if fossil fuel trends go unchanged, ten times the 540 billion tonne of carbon emitted since the start of industrialisation would be reached near the end of the 22nd century.

Most of the UN climate science panel's projections for greenhouse gas emissions do not forecast beyond two trillion tonnes of carbon, already more than enough to unleash a "crippling maelstrom of rising seas, drought, heat waves and floods".

To have a better-than-even chance of holding global warming at 2C the total carbon budget - including what has already been released - is about one trillion tonnes, meaning a third of proven oil reserves and half of natural gas should be left in the ground.

Total's plan to remain relevant is to invest heavily in renewables, notably solar and biofuels, to form 20% of the company's $130 billion portfolio in 20 years' time.

Pouyanne said Total wants to make a business out of the changing energy landscape, unlike its peers, which he said were acting defensively.

Total will remain first and foremost an oil and gas company in the long term, the CEO said, but 60% of its hydrocarbon output should come from gas by 2035, up from around 50% today (2.3MMboepd) and 35% 10 years ago, he said.

The company is already a major player in European biofuels, with 2.2MMt blended into petroleum projects last year, and it is a top three solar player with six gigawatts of capacity installed.

One of its latest projects, announced this week, is a power purchase agreement for the supply of 300 gigawatt hours per year of clean solar energy to Metro of Santiago.

The deal, with affiliate SunPower, will see Santiago will become the first public transportation system in the world to run mostly on solar energy.

The Chilean capital's public transport system moves around 2.2 million people per day.

The power will be generated from the 100MW El Pelicano solar project, which is expected to be in operation by the end of 2017.

SunPower will design and build the project and provide operations and maintenance, using the Oasis power plant system that includes robotic solar panel cleaning capability that uses 75% less water than traditional cleaning methods and can help improve system performance by up to 15%.

Total's intervention follows rival Shell's unveiling of its first ever 2C-compatible energy outlook.

CEO Ben van Beurden acknowledged that Shell's long-term success as a company depends on its ability to anticipate the types of energy that people will need in the future in a way that is both commercially competitive and environmentally sound.

Meeting energy demand of net zero emissions by 2070 is technically feasible but very challenging, Shell said.

Shell is also factoring in a carbon price, but has offered far less detail than Total, and has ruled out plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio over its investment horizon out to 2035.

US oilers, such as ExxonMobil and Chevron, are taking a more defensive stance, arguing against carbon pricing and opposing shareholder resolutions to assess the implications of 2C for their portfolios and appoint climate experts to their boards.

Their AGMs will be held overnight.


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