Members of the UK’s clean tech community have criticised Shell over its plan to invest £25bn into green energy technologies and accused the oil and gas giant of “kicking the can down the road”.
Last month, Shell said it will invest between £20bn and £25bn into the UK’s energy systems over the next decade. More than 75% of that will be put into “low and zero-carbon products and services, including offshore wind, hydrogen and electric mobility”.
However, UK clean energy tech companies have accused Shell of taking a plan of action that delays the shift away from fossil fools for too long.
“The reason we’re in this mess in the first place is because we’ve been half-arsing net-zero and climate change commitments for the last 10 years,” said David Hunt, founder and CEO of Hyperion Executive Search.
Hunt told UKTN that much of the current energy crisis is due to “years of incoherent, incongruent, and poorly constructed policies”.
He said that there have been “pockets of green investment and support for offshore wind and electric vehicles” but “against a backdrop of tax breaks, subsidies, and policy support for continued ‘business as usual’ of the fossil fuel industry.”
Hunt added: “The problem with kicking the can down the road is that at some point you run out of road!”
According to Hunt, the solution is simple: “It’s not rocket science. We need to stop burning stuff. End fossil fuel subsidies and policy support and transfer those policies and monies to the clean energy transition. The journey won’t be without challenges, but at least it’s an easy path to see.”
Shell green investment ‘clearly falls short’
In 2021, Shell reported net profits of $19.3bn (£14.8bn) on revenues $261.5bn (£200bn).
Under Shell’s plans, it would be spending between 1% and 1.25% of its revenue on green UK energy tech projects per year.
Nicholas Beatty, co-founder and director of green tech energy solutions company Zenobe, told UKTN that despite Shell’s goals being “an important part of addressing the current geopolitical climate”, it’s still too small of a move for a company of that size.
Beatty added: “Given the improvement of Shell’s cash flow, as well as the company’s own strategy of becoming a provider of net-zero emissions energy products and services, combined with the level of the investment required to decarbonise the world’s energy system by 2050, the size of the investment clearly falls short.”
Brian Scott Quinn, a professor at Henley Business School and member of the EU High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, told UKTN that “Shell still needs to prove that returning large dividends to shareholders and continuing to invest in oil and gas is no longer their policy”.
Quinn said that this would “require a much greater change in mindset than has been demonstrated by their recent contribution to the UK’s energy transition”.
Quinn added: “We don’t yet know what the Shell green investment will actually be supporting, nor do we have their global investment plans. But it would seem that the volume of green investment in the UK is not going to make a large contribution to the actual need.”
In response to the comments, a spokesperson from Shell said: “Shell has a clear target to become a net-zero emissions business by 2050, in step with society.”
The spokesperson told UKTN that Shell’s goals “cover the full range of our own emissions and our customer’s emissions, not just from the energy we produce but also all the energy we sell”.
The spokesperson expanded on the investment plan and said in 2022 “around a third” of its spend will be used for energy transition businesses and activities.
“This includes the Renewables & Energy Solutions business but also carbon capture, utilisation and storage, nature-based offsets and energy transition resilient activities in the downstream and marketing businesses, such as EV charging, low carbon fuels, lubricants.”