Total CEO doubles down on renewables

NEW YORK: TotalEnergies SE chief executive officer Patrick Pouyanne (pic) is bullish on pushing his company into renewable energy even as the Russian invasion of Ukraine shakes up the global energy market.

The French oil major is increasing spending on renewable energy and on reducing its emissions next year to 33% of annual capital expenditure, compared with 25% going into clean power this year, the company said Wednesday in a presentation.

The plan comes against a backdrop of record oil and gas earnings for the world’s biggest energy companies this year, which has made them star performers amid a broader malaise across equities markets.

Europe’s energy crisis and its scramble to replace Russian natural gas supplies has also fueled a debate over whether energy security should be prioritised over environmental targets.

Pouyanne said in an interview with Bloomberg News in New York that oil and gas remain vital to the energy mix.

But the CEO added that if he didn’t also push a transition towards carbon-free energy, his successor would regret it.

“I don’t want my company to disappear,” he said.

“We have embarked into a strategy to diversify out of a pure oil and gas business model to add an electricity one.”

Pouyanne also said that as TotalEnergies builds out its solar and wind generation, he wants 30% of the portfolio to be unsecured, with no power price agreements.

That’s potentially more profitable than relying on long-term contracts, he said.

TotalEnergies has set a goal of 100 gigawatts of renewable power generation capacity by 2030.

To be sure, TotalEnergies has also made significant investments in oil and natural gas.

Gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) investments represent about a quarter of capital spending between 2022 and 2025.

Pouyanne said the company would seek to grow its LNG business in countries such as the US as doubts linger over its Russian operations.

While TotalEnergies still receives LNG from Russia – fuel that, as Pouyanne is keen to emphasise, is vital to European needs – he said it’s increasingly challenging to get the company’s cash out of the country.

The CEO also said buying a utility to accelerate its energy transition is “not on the agenda today.”

TotalEnergies prefers to continue building the company’s own power and renewable business step by step, including through some “selective” acquisitions, he said. — Bloomberg

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