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Oil giant Shell aims to be 'world's biggest power company'

Oil giant claims it can get better returns than current players in fast-changing electricity sector

Oil giant Shell plans to be the world’s biggest power company by the early 2030s, said the head of its new energies unit.

Maarten Wetselaar claimed the oil & gas group can get better returns from the electricity sector than current incumbents as it rapidly builds a presence spanning wind, solar, gas, and energy storage and trading.

“We are not interested in the power business because we liked what we saw in the last 20 years. We are interested because we think we like what we see in the next 20 years,” Wetselaar told Bloomberg.

The Shell executive said: “We can make better returns than the industry has done so far – 8-12% is the range we’ve been talking about.

“We believe we can be the largest electricity company in the world in the early 2030s.”

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Wetselaar did not specify whether Shell planned to be the largest player by revenue or generation, but the scale of the ambition tallies with the oil group’s recent spree of activity in the clean energy space.

This year alone that has included stakes in two innovative offshore wind technologies – one with Google-owner Alphabet – and the acquisition of battery pioneer Sonnen.

Shell has also indicated it plans to enter the UK offshore wind sector, adding to a range of existing interests in the industry.

Wetselaar said “electrification is the biggest trend in energy … it’s easier to grow in growing markets”.

Shell currently plans to put $1-2bn a year into New Energies up to 2020, but Wetselaar has previously said that could double as the oil and gas group ramps up its power sector presence.

Its recent determination to be a player in wind and solar is a big shift from a 2016 statement by CEO Ben van Beurden that 'no one makes money from renewables'.

The Anglo-Dutch group is one of a growing number of fossil players raising their profiles in renewables and power. Norway’s Equinor and Total of France are other prominent examples.

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