Environment: Shell looks at the sun as energy source of future
Friday 17 October 1997
By 2050, half the world's energy is going to come from renewable sources such as sunshine, wind, running water and green plants rather than from oil, gas, coal and nuclear, according to a scenario Shell is working to.
The Anglo-Dutch group said it would be investing pounds 300m over the next five years in expanding its capacity to make solar cells and in growing trees to be burnt in electricity-generation power stations. It is a shift environmentalists have long been demanding.
Jim Dawson, president of the newly created Shell International Renewables, said no other company was investing as much. His aim is to win at least 10 per cent of the world market for solar or photovoltaic cells by 2005.
Shell had made its decision mainly because of how it expected the energy world to change over the next 50 years. ''We have not reacted in a knee- jerk way to environmental pressure, but we do listen to what the environmental groups and others say. We'd be stupid if we didn't.''
The new strategy compares with that of the other UK-based oil giant, BP, which has taken an earlier and larger, interest in photovoltaics. BP already has 10 per cent of the market, currently worth over pounds 600m a year and growing at some 14 per cent every 12 months.
Growing trees to burn them in power stations may seem a strange way of providing green, renewable energy. But if the trees chopped down are replaced by young, growing trees in plantations it is. These growing trees absorb carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas, which is produced when coal, oil, gas and also wood are burnt.
If wood replaces fossil fuels in power stations, and new wood is constantly being grown to replace it, then no extra carbon dioxide is released into the air.
Shell already has plantations of fast growing trees in South America, Africa and New Zealand, covering an area larger than Greater London. It promises that it will not take wood from virgin forests and where there are stands of natural trees near or among its plantations these will be protected.
Shell believes the big market for renewables is in rural areas of developing countries where many homes and businesses are not on the electricity grid. It envisages buildings covered with photovoltaic cells, and small power stations using locally grown wood. It plans to build several in the next few years.
Yesterday, Greenpeace UK welcomed the strategy. ''It is significant that they are trying to catch up with BP, but we won't be able to judge how serious they are for several years,'' said solar campaigner Marcus Rand.
''Hopefully 1997 will come to be seen as a turning point,'' he said.
In terms of Shell's total investment each year, which goes mostly into oil and gas exploration and oil products like plastics and chemicals, the new money for renewables is tiny - about one per cent.
But the planned investment in its new division is only a little less than what has been invested each year in Britain through the 1990s by the entire private sector on installing renewable energy sources.
Rupert Fraser of the UK Renewable Generators Consortium, which represents this young industry, said: ''I think Shell is a serious player. They're cautious people, and they wouldn't want to make a fuss about getting into renewables if they had to get out again a few years later.''
Shell is also working on genetic engineering of trees, to make them more resistant to frost and easier to turn into paper, at its forestry research division in Kent. That will not please Greenpeace, which is strongly opposed to the new technology of switching genes between species.
Life & Style blogs
Men in tights: getting to the bottom of the latest trend
Night Nurse could put drivers over new drug limit
Snapchat removed the Best Friends list feature and 'stalkers' are upset
Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
Xbox Live down: gaming service breaks itself, but hackers claim credit
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
- 5 Rashida Jones speaks out against male-centric porn saying 'women should have sex and feel good about it'
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...
Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...
Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...
Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...