Climate change drives oil dinosaur to invest in a friendlier face local news-journal.com gas in babies home remedies

Leading Shell’s efforts is Ben van Beurden. Since taking over as Shell’s chief executive in 2014, van Beurden has had to balance the company’s mainstay oil and gas business with the regulatory, shareholder and societal pressures — not to mention familial guilt — that will perhaps inevitably push Shell and its competitors to leave those businesses behind.

To insulate itself, Shell has begun allocating up to $2 billion per year — out of a capital budget of up to $30 billion — to electric power and other alternative energy. So far, it has bought First Utility and invested in operations as varied as a California solar energy business, an offshore wind farm in the Netherlands, a ride-sharing app startup in London and even a company that provides charging outlets for electric vehicles.

First Utility is the kind of business that could thrive. It couples low prices with a warm approach. Sales agents, who work online and by phone, are trained to try to help customers through problems like the loss of a family member, rather than following a script.

That formula has won over some 850,000 customers in Britain’s bruising energy market and has impressed Shell, which had been supplying the company with power and natural gas. Shell closed a deal to buy First Utility in March after it decided that the company could be an important part of the future energy business it wants to build.

It is something of an evolution for Shell, which — along with other oil companies — has long argued that it was helping mitigate climate change by investing tens of billions of dollars in cleaner-burning natural gas. Shell even completed the purchase of BG, a British energy company, for $54 billion in 2016 to bolster its position as a leader in liquefied natural gas.

If energy companies want to regain that trust and prevent public skepticism from leading to government mandates, van Beurden said, they have to change their tune. Last fall, at a country retreat near his home in the Netherlands, he worked out a new plan with his executive team. Shell, he said, will start reducing the carbon footprint not only of its operations but, more important, of its products like gasoline and jet fuel, in line with the Paris climate agreement.

For a company as sprawling as Shell, which is Europe’s largest company, that can take many forms: having electric charging points and hydrogen, a clean fuel, available at its filling stations, and generating large amounts of green power from wind and solar installations to sell to industrial customers.

Mark van Baal, founder of Follow This, a Dutch shareholder activist group, said that accepting responsibility for the emissions of its products was “an industry-leading move” by Shell. But he added that the plan that van Beurden had outlined, which would allow oil and gas production to grow, was “not enough” given the dangers of global warming.

The company is placing bets on a number of new businesses and technologies. Last year, for example, it acquired NewMotion, a Dutch supplier of charging outlets for electric vehicles. In an interview, the company’s chief executive, Sytse Zuidema, said having Shell behind his firm, which has about 100 employees, would give it credibility with potential partners and customers like carmakers and corporate fleet owners.

“There is no ideology here,” said Damien Sauer, a partner at Greentech Capital, which brokers clean energy deals. “I believe oil and gas companies have a role to play here because they can bring customer access and they can bring knowledge of how to develop very complex projects.”