Energy giant struggles to find new renewable projects

Equinor's chief executive said the company is struggling to find new renewables project to invest in, urging governments around the world to offer more opportunities.

“There aren’t enough projects,” Eldar Saetre told Reuters in an interview at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference in Houston.

Equinor, one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, is targeting rapid growth of its renewables business which today includes large offshore wind projects in Europe and the United States.

The Norwegian firm, which last year changed its name from Statoil, plans to increase its share of spending on clean energy from 5 percent to 15 to 20 percent by 2030.

Rival’s Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total are also expanding their low-carbon businesses as investor pressure rises for the industry to meet targets to cut fossil fuel burning set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Critics warn that profits from renewables can often not rival those from oil and gas.

Saetre said governments around the world should offer energy companies more opportunities to develop renewables projects.

“We need to access projects that we don’t have today ... so that’s part of my call for politicians to work hard to offer acreage for solar and wind and regulations to support it.”

Equinor last year won a license in a large wind farm project off the coast of Massachusetts. It plans to bid for offshore floating wind farms in California planned for later this year or early 2020, according to Christer af Geijerstam, Equinor’s head of wind in the United States.

Floating wind is significantly more expensive than fixed turbines due to its limited use around the world but its costs are expected to decrease sharply if the technology is deployed more extensively, af Geijerstam said.

Saetre called for government support to advance the technology.

Floating wind “is one of the areas where governments need to wake up. It is not so obvious when you come from offshore seabed wind and that’s different from floating.”

“We talk to governments a lot about this and tell them there is an opportunity there. We see it and they might not see it.”

Equinor set up offices in India, Japan, South Korea and Spain’s Canary Islands in recent months to develop renewables businesses, Saetre said. (Reporting by Ron Bousso Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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