Is TotalEnergies going fast enough in renewables?

Is TotalEnergies going fast enough in renewables?

“Fossil fuels still represent 70% of its investments”

Maxime Combeseconomist at the Multinationals Observatory (1)

“TotalEnergies’ investments in renewable energies remain relatively low. Another 70% of its investments relate to fossil fuels in current sites but also in the exploration and operation of new sites. However, the International Energy Agency, the organization that coordinates the energy policies of rich countries, called in 2021 to abandon any new oil or gas project if we want to keep global warming below the 1.5 mark. °C.

Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of TotalEnergies, argues that the profits from hydrocarbons make it possible to finance the development of renewable energies. This does not hold: from 2021 to 2022, profits have increased from 14 to 20 billion euros. Investments in renewables have only increased from 3 to 4 billion.

If we were still at the beginning of the 1990s, we could salute this beginning. But today, it is not up to the challenges. I think these investments in clean energy are a way to turn public opinion around after the company has long downplayed the importance of climate change.

Especially since TotalEnergies plans to stabilize its oil production and increase that of gas. However, a study published on September 29, 2021 in the journal Nature estimates that, to keep global warming below 1.5°C, it would be necessary to organize a drop in gas and oil production of 3% per year until 2050 and of 7% for coal. We should be in a logic of replacing fossil fuels with renewables. However, in the strategy of TotalEnergies, the production of renewables is only added to that of fossils.

Certainly, if we look at the top five oil majors in the world, there is clearly a difference between the Americans and the Europeans. These are better positioned. But just because you’re the first in a class of bad performers doesn’t mean you should get kudos.

The most serious thing is that, given the financial logic in which TotalEnergies is embedded, the group has no other choice than to invest massively in oil and gas, at the risk of seeing its stock market valuation collapse. . Either we let it do it, or we equip ourselves with public policy tools to prevent it from pursuing this type of investment. One could imagine going through more taxation, regulation, exploration bans or even the nationalization of the most harmful subsidiaries. If we continue like this, we will not get out of fossil fuels. »

“The group has very ambitious objectives”

Brice Lalondepresident of the Equilibre des Energies association and former Minister of the Environment

“The group has very ambitious objectives in terms of renewable energies. He aims to integrate the world’s top 5 players in the sector, he puts a lot of money on the table to develop projects in wind and solar power and wants to be carbon neutral fairly quickly. I am not a director of TotalEnergies, but I find that the strategy led by Patrick Pouyanné is going in the right direction.

We don’t say it enough, but it’s a chance for France to have such a company. It is one of the last major energy majors within the European Union, which is trying to implement the energy transition, to the point of having become one of its best agents. With Sunpower, for example, it now controls the entire solar chain, from the manufacture of cells to the construction of power plants.

TotalEnergies is an oil company that is more and more gas-intensive and that is investing massively in renewable energies, without forgetting its obligation to provide oil to those who still need it, and there are many of them, like motorists French.

The only regret we can have is that TotalEnergies did not engage in nuclear power, which is absolutely key to limiting the carbon footprint.

In any case, we must not focus solely on renewable energies, which have today become the marker for saying what is good or not. We are in one-upmanship all the time, which is likely to lead to disappointments.

Renewables are crowned with the virtue of being energies that consume relatively little capital. But let’s stop believing that they provide solutions to everything. Their intermittency raises questions, as does their integration into the grid, and solar has a higher carbon footprint than nuclear. Sorry to say, but no one knows how to operate an electricity system composed entirely of renewables.

Nor is it possible to get out of fossil fuels right away, as some claim. This is not serious. In an international negotiation, we can tell the rich countries to go faster in decarbonization. But how to tell poor countries that they no longer have the right to gas and oil? It’s totally unfair.

Despite everything, the number one objective is to reduce CO2 emissions to combat climate change. The immediate priority is therefore to get out of coal. If we can replace it with nuclear, that’s good, but it takes a long time to build, and safety standards must be put in place.

Gas is easier, and moreover it is an abundant energy. By replacing all the coal-fired power plants with gas-fired power plants, a large part of the problem would be solved, provided, however, that methane leaks were stopped. This is a very important objective, and the major companies, such as TotalEnergies, have made commitments in this regard. »


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