Add a pinch of salt when looking at Shell’s renewables plans

“The company is also looking to reorganise the business around its new target of cutting emissions to “net zero” by 2050. It is expected to invest more heavily in is nascent electricity business.” The Times. Today.

In my forty years in Shell I saw so many failed and abandoned diversification initiatives its hard to recall them all ! It started with Nuclear Energy (one of the great corporate disasters) which was followed by the company dipping its toes in a series of non oil/gas sectors. And fairly rapidly withdrawing them ! Heres a list, though I may have forgotten some. I wrote about it more extensively here.

▪️Forestry ▪️Solar power ▪️Wind power ▪️Hydrogen ▪️Power stations ▪️Coal ▪️Domestic electricity ▪️Home insulation ▪️Seeds ▪️Horticulture

The truth is that Shell is good at oil and gas pretty much from well to pump, but not much good at anything else. The corporate culture is technocratic and financial. Thirty years ago I saw Shell Energy planners predicate the likely rise in renewables in their Scenario work. It was very far-seeing. But the high-priced-help couldn’t translate this into investment or action and the initiatives which did happen were inadequately financed, poorly managed and faded away.

The company always retreats to its comfort zone of finding, producing, transporting, refining and marketing/trading oil and oil products. Years ago Tom Peters wrote about the benefits of “sticking to your knitting” The multinational energy companies are not likely to succeed outside their narrow comfort zone. Partly because they’ve never needed to and partly because they can’t.

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