Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 16, 2016:     General view of Shams1 solar power plant in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi south of Madinat Zayed on March 16, 2016. Christopher Pike / The National

Job ID: 61721
Reporter: LeAnne Graves
Section: Business

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Total has been a leader in the most recent investment by energy majors in renewables, with the French firm participating in Abu Dhabi's Shams 1 solar plant. Christopher Pike / The National

Oil majors get serious on 'new energy' investments

In the late 1990s, international oil companies all wanted to be like Enron. The flashy Texas firm had shaken up the staid energy world with its ventures into gas and electricity trading, broadband, solar power, and the US’s then largest wind turbine developer. That desire faded somewhat after Enron’s ignominious 2001 collapse. But almost two decades later, new energy is again on the agenda for the world’s oil supermajors.

The context of the investments of the late 1990s into new energies is in some ways similar to what’s happening today, but different in others. A decade of low prices had left the major oil companies searching for elusive profit growth. After a false start in the 1970s, European and American governments had begun backing green energy with enthusiasm. The growing power and influence of environmentalist movements put oil companies under pressure following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, Shell’s plans in 1995 to sink the disused Brent Spar oil platform in the North Atlantic, and its record on human rights and land degradation in Nigeria.

In 2000, BP, under the PR-savvy leadership of John Browne, rebranded itself as “Beyond Petroleum” and changed its logo to a sunflower, derided by some as “Big Petunia”. It bought out Enron, its partner in a solar power venture, and became involved in wind and hydrogen power. Chevron invested in geothermal, Shell in wind, biofuels and solar, with Total committing to nuclear power.

But as oil prices recovered, the super-majors increasingly came to see renewables as a small, low-return business dependent on government subsidies, and were slow to innovate. The rise of China-made solar panels made manufacturing highly competitive, and Shell sold off its solar interests in 2006. BP Solar, meanwhile, was wound up in 2011.

Fast forward to the present day, and a new spell of low oil prices, combined with environmental policy pressure, has again driven a search for other businesses. But things seem different this time around.

BP’s latest Energy Outlook, released late last month, showed that oil companies are increasingly willing to contemplate a peak in oil demand, though the estimated date ranges from the mid-2020s to the 2040s or beyond. Renewables meanwhile are a much larger and more competitive industry than a decade ago.

Total has been an early mover in the latest renewables surge; just as BP was getting out of solar, the French firm got in, buying 60 per cent of US-based SunPower in 2011. It is also a partner in Abu Dhabi’s Shams 1 solar thermal power plant.

The sums being committed to new energies now are larger than in the early 2000s: $1 billion annually for Shell by 2020, equivalent to 3-4 per cent of its total capital spending, while Total paid $1bn for French battery maker Saft in 2016. Over the past five years, large oil companies have spent more than $3bn on solar acquisitions.


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Oxford University professor Dieter Helm has questioned whether most renewable energy really fits within oil companies’ business models. Such firms have traditionally been built to brave high levels of geological and political risk to find or acquire resources in remote areas, and then deploy vast amounts of capital over several years to build complicated infrastructure to bring them to market.

Such business models did not fit well with small-scale renewable manufacturing ventures in the early 2000s. But today’s strategy seems better thought-out and more integrated with the super-majors’ legacy businesses, moving from gas to electricity and powering battery vehicles. Some deals for example have concentrated on securing outlets for gas, a relatively clean fuel on which all the oil companies are increasingly betting.

Biofuels have been part of the core business of supplying transport fuels for years now, as they are mandatorily blended into petrol and diesel. Hydrogen, which might eventually be a fuel for ships, planes, home heating, small-scale power, and industry, is typically made from gas and seems like a natural fit. Carbon capture and storage relies on skills in chemical engineering, pipelines and understanding geology and fluids underground, all core competencies. Statoil has been developing floating wind turbines, an outstep of its skills in offshore structures in harsh northern seas.

The question for European majors is whether they will ever incorporate non-hydrocarbon technologies into their DNA, and find a way to generate synergies between them and their traditional businesses. If not, they might as well return capital to shareholders, who can then redeploy it into renewables.

This is the philosophy of the American super-majors, ExxonMobil and Chevron, which have stayed firmly wedded to fossil fuels. Their stance reflects less political pressure over the environment in the Trump era than a decision to concentrate on shale oil and gas resources, and their philosophy of staying close to their core business.

The big national oil companies –Saudi Aramco, Adnoc, Rosneft, China National Petroleum Corporation – have likewise concentrated on hydrocarbons. Their main areas for growth and diversification are gas, refining and petrochemicals, while the rise of renewable energy in the Middle East has been led by utilities and specialist units such as Masdar. But the large state-owned firms have at least to think about the impact on their businesses of electrified mobility, competition to sign up gas end-users, and the synergy or struggle between renewables and gas power.

And the Middle East countries need to keep a close eye on the strategies of Shell, Statoil, Total and BP. If their ventures into new energies are successful, it will be a valuable pointer to how to diversify today’s oil-dependent economies. Failure, though, will be an early-warning signal of the challenges of the great energy transformation.

Robin M. Mills is CEO of Qamar Energy, and author of The Myth of the Oil Crisis

Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1
Calvin Harris


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Globalization and its Discontents Revisited
Joseph E. Stiglitz
W. W. Norton & Company

Our legal consultant

Name: Dr Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

The specs

Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cyl turbo
Power: 190hp at 5,200rpm
Torque: 320Nm from 1,800-5,000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel consumption: 6.7L/100km
Price: From Dh111,195
On sale: Now


Main card

Robert Whittaker defeated Ikram Aliskerov via knockout (Round 1)
Alexander Volkov def Sergei Pavlovich via unanimous decision
Kelvin Gastelum def Daniel Rodriguez via unanimous decision
Shara Magomedov def Antonio Trocoli via knockout (Round 3)
Light heavyweight:
Volkan Oezdemir def Johnny Walker via knockout (Round 1)
Preliminary Card

Nasrat Haqparast def Jared Gordon via split decision
Felipe Lima def Muhammad Naimov via submission (Round 3)
Rinat Fakhretdinov defeats Nicolas Dalby via split decision
Muin Gafurov def Kang Kyung-ho via unanimous decision
Light heavyweight:
Magomed Gadzhiyasulov def Brendson Ribeiro via majority decision
Chang Ho Lee def Xiao Long via split decision

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government


Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Publisher: Odd Meter
Console: PlayStation 5, PC and Xbox series X/S
Rating: 4/5


Ashraf Ghani 50.64 per cent

Abdullah Abdullah 39.52 per cent

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar 3.85 per cent

Rahmatullah Nabil 1.8 per cent


Directed by: Shaka King

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons

Four stars

Abaya trends

The utilitarian robe held dear by Arab women is undergoing a change that reveals it as an elegant and graceful garment available in a range of colours and fabrics, while retaining its traditional appeal.

Brief scores:

Toss: Nepal, chose to field

UAE 153-6: Shaiman (59), Usman (30); Regmi 2-23

Nepal 132-7: Jora 53 not out; Zahoor 2-17

Result: UAE won by 21 runs

Series: UAE lead 1-0

The specs

Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6
Power: 456hp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 691Nm at 3,500rpm
Transmission: 10-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 14.6L/100km
Price: from Dh349,545
On sale: now

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
The 15 players selected

Muzzamil Afridi, Rahman Gul, Rizwan Haider (Dezo Devils); Shahbaz Ahmed, Suneth Sampath (Glory Gladiators); Waqas Gohar, Jamshaid Butt, Shadab Ahamed (Ganga Fighters); Ali Abid, Ayaz Butt, Ghulam Farid, JD Mahesh Kumara (Hiranni Heros); Inam Faried, Mausif Khan, Ashok Kumar (Texas Titans

Yahya Al Ghassani's bio

Date of birth: April 18, 1998

Playing position: Winger

Clubs: 2015-2017 – Al Ahli Dubai; March-June 2018 – Paris FC; August – Al Wahda

The specs

Engine: 2.9-litre, V6 twin-turbo

Transmission: seven-speed PDK dual clutch automatic

Power: 375bhp

Torque: 520Nm

Price: Dh332,800

On sale: now

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 620hp from 5,750-7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 3,000-5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh1.05 million ($286,000)

Secret Pigeon Service: Operation Colomba, Resistance and the Struggle to Liberate Europe
Gordon Corera, Harper Collins

Past winners of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

2016 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-GP)

2015 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes-GP)

2014 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-GP)

2013 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing)

2012 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)

2011 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)

2010 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing)

2009 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing)



Second Test

Pakistan v Australia, Tuesday-Saturday, 10am​​ daily​​​​​ at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Entrance is free

RoboCop: Rogue City

Developer: Teyon
Publisher: Nacon
Console: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC
Rating: 3/5


Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

About Okadoc

Date started: Okadoc, 2018

Founder/CEO: Fodhil Benturquia

Based: Dubai, UAE

Sector: Healthcare

Size: (employees/revenue) 40 staff; undisclosed revenues recording “double-digit” monthly growth

Funding stage: Series B fundraising round to conclude in February

Investors: Undisclosed

Artist: M.I.A
Label: Island
Rating: 3.5/5

The Farewell

Director: Lulu Wang

Stars: Awkwafina, Zhao Shuzhen, Diana Lin, Tzi Ma

Four stars


Red Jersey
General Classification: worn daily, starting from Stage 2, by the leader of the General Classification by time.
Green Jersey
Points Classification: worn daily, starting from Stage 2, by the fastest sprinter, who has obtained the best positions in each stage and intermediate sprints.
White Jersey
Young Rider Classification: worn daily, starting from Stage 2, by the best young rider born after January 1, 1995 in the overall classification by time (U25).
Black Jersey
Intermediate Sprint Classification: worn daily, starting from Stage 2, by the rider who has gained the most Intermediate Sprint Points.

How to volunteer

The UAE volunteers campaign can be reached at www.volunteers.ae , or by calling 800-VOLAE (80086523), or emailing info@volunteers.ae.

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

The specs

Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat-six

Power: 650hp at 6,750rpm

Torque: 800Nm from 2,500-4,000rpm

Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch auto

Fuel consumption: 11.12L/100km

Price: From Dh796,600

On sale: now

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  • The loss of sodium chloride in our sweat can lead to confusion and an altered mental status and slurred speech
  • Body temperature above 39°C
  • Hot, dry and red or damp skin can indicate heatstroke
  • A faster pulse than usual
  • Dizziness, nausea and headaches are also signs of overheating
  • In extreme cases, victims can lose consciousness and require immediate medical attention
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Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Consoles: PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox: 360 & One & Series X/S and Nintendo Switch
Rating: 4/5

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge

Developer: Tribute Games
Publisher: Dotemu
Consoles: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox One
Rating: 4/5

Bridgerton season three - part one

Directors: Various

Starring: Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton, Jonathan Bailey

Rating: 3/5

All We Imagine as Light

Director: Payal Kapadia

Starring: Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha, Chhaya Kadam

Rating: 4/5

Expert input

If you had all the money in the world, what’s the one sneaker you would buy or create?

“There are a few shoes that have ‘grail’ status for me. But the one I have always wanted is the Nike x Patta x Parra Air Max 1 - Cherrywood. To get a pair in my size brand new is would cost me between Dh8,000 and Dh 10,000.” Jack Brett

“If I had all the money, I would approach Nike and ask them to do my own Air Force 1, that’s one of my dreams.” Yaseen Benchouche

“There’s nothing out there yet that I’d pay an insane amount for, but I’d love to create my own shoe with Tinker Hatfield and Jordan.” Joshua Cox

“I think I’d buy a defunct footwear brand; I’d like the challenge of reinterpreting a brand’s history and changing options.” Kris Balerite

 “I’d stir up a creative collaboration with designers Martin Margiela of the mixed patchwork sneakers, and Yohji Yamamoto.” Hussain Moloobhoy

“If I had all the money in the world, I’d live somewhere where I’d never have to wear shoes again.” Raj Malhotra

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