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Shell’s lack of ambition is maddening: it’s time to speed up transition to renewables

The Guardian

Shell’s lack of ambition is maddening: it’s time to speed up transition to renewables

Nils Pratley

Thu 2 Feb 2023 19.30 GMT

The chief executive has changed at Shell but the song remains the same. The energy transition will be “balanced” and “we intend to remain disciplined while delivering compelling shareholder returns,” declared Wael Sawan. Translation: the company will not use the sudden arrival of spectacular financial riches to boost spending on renewables.

Being “disciplined” is, of course, an admirable ambition when presented starkly and without context. No chief executive of any company is ever likely to tell investors that the plan is to take wild punts on projects with little prospect of a decent return. But there is a world of nuance between the extremes.

The infuriating thing about Shell, after a year in which profits reached almost $40bn (£32bn), is the refusal to contemplate even a modest course-correction in favour of a faster energy transition. Distributions to shareholders via dividends and buy-backs were cranked up to $26bn last year, but spending on the renewables and energy solutions division was just $3.5bn within the overall capital expenditure outlay of $24.8bn.


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