Shell renewables pledge greets scepticism

Oil giant Shell is stepping up its involvement in renewable energy by establishing a fifth core business to bring together its current activities in solar, biomass and forestry. The company, which has long talked of its commitment to developing renewable energy, seems to be putting its money where its mouth is: the group is to invest $500 million in renewables over the next five years. According to ENDS Environment Daily news service, however, "British Petroleum and Enron of the USA are both well ahead of Shell in renewables development." And Shell's announcement has been greeted with scepticism in some quarters. "Will Shell now leave the Global Climate Change Coalition?" asks Jeremy Leggett of solar lobby group The Solar Century. The coalition is an industry group which, despite its green sounding name, campaigns against the reductions in C02 emissions now being discussed by governments. "If they don't then people will be forgiven for concluding that this is a bare minimum measure intended to control the pace of development of renewables rather than to get explosive growth," Leggett told ENDS. For the time being wind energy does not get a look in under Shell International Renewables' plans, but the group says it is appraising investment opportunities in this and other renewable technologies. It aims to capture a 10% share of the rapidly expanding solar energy market -- which is currently worth about $1 billion annually -- by 2005. Biomass is the other renewables area where Shell sees large scope for worldwide market opportunities.