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ANALYSIS-BP will not have easy to achieve its green goals

By Shadia Nasralla and Susanna Twidale

LONDON, Aug 10 (.) – BP will need to invest tens of billions of dollars over the next decade and may have to accept lower returns than it can get from oil if it is to meet its goal of becoming one of the biggest renewable energy generators of the world.

The British oil and gas company wants to have 50 gigawatts (GW) of renewables such as wind, solar and hydro in its portfolio by 2030, up from 2.5 GW today. That target exceeds the UK’s total renewable energy capacity at this time.

European oil companies are under pressure from activists, banks, investors, and some governments to move away from fossil fuels and are trying to find business models that offer higher margins than would be generated by the mere production of renewable energy.

Last week, BP followed Eni’s lead by pledging to cut its oil production over the next decade and set a higher target for cuts than the Italian company.

According to analysts consulted, large offshore wind farms probably offer the fastest route for BP to grow in the green sector, but because they can take years to develop and high start-up costs, they may have to resort to acquisitions , and they won’t be cheap.

“Obtaining value in these deals will be difficult because these assets are very attractive and are sold at very high prices,” said Peter Atherton, a partner at British strategy consultancy Stonehaven.

BP already has $ 41 billion in debt and as investors increasingly turn away from fossil fuel producers in favor of green energy companies, its shares have dropped to half their value in the last two years, reducing its market value to less than $ 80 billion.

By contrast, shares in Denmark’s Orsted, one of the world’s largest offshore wind developers, have risen 135% in the same period to give it a market value of $ 60 billion.

Orsted currently has 10 GW of installed wind power capacity – still just a fifth of BP’s target – and has committed to adding another 3.8 gigawatts.

The shares of the Spanish energy group Iberdrola, which has 33 GW of installed renewable power and is developing several projects, have risen 78% in the last two years, taking its market capitalization to 80,000 million dollars, on a par with BP .

Global renewable energy capacity is just over 2,500 GW, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, but it is expected to grow rapidly as countries try to reduce emissions to meet the targets set in the Paris climate agreement. of 2015.

Data from the International Energy Agency show that renewable energies, including wind, solar and hydroelectric, accounted for around a quarter of the electricity produced in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in the year past.

STRATEGIC RISKS In a strategy update released last Tuesday, BP said it would reduce its oil and gas production by 40% by 2030 and spend $ 5 billion a year on low-carbon projects that it hopes to become one of the largest producers of green energy in the world. It also plans to sell oil and gas assets that are not economically viable in the context of lower oil prices to raise $ 25 billion through 2025 to help finance its transition to cleaner energy. Considering that renewable energy companies are publicly traded with a higher PER (price / earnings ratio, which if high reflects high expectations for growth), analysts say BP could also build wind farms from scratch, but with high initial costs. For example, Iberdrola’s 3.1 GW project at the East Anglia wind farm, off the British coast, has an estimated cost of about $ 8 billion, while Seagreen 1 (by SSE and Total), a facility of offshore wind power with a projected capacity of 1.1 GW, will cost about $ 3.7 billion. Biraj Borkhataria, an analyst at the Royal Bank of Canada, estimates that BP will have to spend about $ 60 billion to reach its renewable energy target, assuming a 50% split between offshore wind and solar power production. Assuming that 70% of this amount could be obtained through “project finance” or structured financing – a foreign capital external financing formula based on the project’s long-term cash flow generation capacity – BP would have to carry out a net investment of $ 18 billion over the next decade, he said.

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Jason Gammel, an analyst at investment bank Jefferies, put BP’s bill at about $ 30 billion plus structured finance, but sees the plan still relying on renewable energy assets being available and offering acceptable returns. “The capital requirements assume that there are sufficient opportunities available with acceptable rates of return, which we view as a significant risk in the strategy,” he said. Large oil companies generally aim for a return on investments in oil of around 15%. BP says it expects a return of 8-10% on its investments in low-CO2 electricity, so with the help of traditional oil and gas affiliates, overall returns will rise to 12-10%. 14% by 2030, according to their forecasts. BP’s two largest shareholders, BlackRock and Vanguard, declined to comment on its renewables strategy. Vanguard said it held the majority of its BP shares in index funds. Another major investor, Legal & General, declined to comment at this time. Other fund managers, including Allianz, did not respond to requests for comment sent by ..


BP Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney said in a conference call last week that the company is only interested in renewable capacity that generates adequate levels of profit, rather than simply looking to increase capacity.

BP CFO Murray Auchincloss told the same conference that the company’s huge power buying and selling business, its ability to combine renewable energy with natural gas to ensure flow stability, and its expertise with currencies and Financial hedging services can push yields “clearly in the double digit zone”, that is, above 10%.

Some analysts are skeptical.

Borkhataria, the analyst at the Royal Bank of Canada, predicts the return from renewables to be around 7%.

“It is difficult to imagine that these are projects with double-digit returns,” he said. “The energy sector has been unable to execute its strategy in its core business, so I am not very confident in taking another leap into the void in a new business.”

Rating agency Fitch’s chief oil and gas analyst Dmitry Marinchenko believes that while renewables could be a less profitable business now, BP is betting that returns from oil and gas will be weaker in the future.

“The energy transition path will be difficult for big oil companies; they have little experience in renewables and new investments will expose them to execution risk. Not all investments are likely to be successful,” he said.

“However, the ‘business as usual’ strategy may be too risky in the long term. Reinventing the business now that oil prices remain relatively high should be easier than 10 years from now.”

GRAPH-Renewable energy generation by technology:

GRAPH – Energy targets of the big European oil and gas companies:

GRAPH- The shares of renewable energy operators exceed those of oil companies:

GRAPH-Renewable energy generation by technology

GRAPH- Energy objectives of the big European oil and gas companies

GRAPH- The shares of the renewable energy operators exceed those of the oil companies

BP halves dividend after record loss, accelerates reinvention

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(Information from Shadia Nasralla and Susanna Twidale; edited by David Clarke; translated by Tomás Cobos)

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