The rise of renewables and energy transition: what adaptation strategy exists for oil companies and oil-exporting countries?
The energy landscape is changing rapidly with far-reaching implications for the global energy industry and actors, including oil companies and oil-exporting countries. These rapid changes introduce multidimensional uncertainty, the most important of which is the speed of the transition. While the transformation of the energy system is rapid in certain regions of the world, such as Europe, the speed of the global energy transition remains highly uncertain. It is also difficult to define the end game (which technology will win and what the final energy mix will be), as the outcome of transition is likely to vary across regions. In this context, oil companies are facing a strategic dilemma: attempt the risky transition to low-carbon technologies by moving beyond their core business or just focus on maximising their return from their hydrocarbon assets. We argue that, due to the high uncertainty, oil companies need to develop strategies that are likely to be successful under a wide set of possible future market conditions. Furthermore, the designed strategies need to be flexible and evolve quickly in response to anticipated changes in the market. For oil-exporting countries, there is no trade-off involved in renewable deployment as such investments can liberate oil and gas for export markets, improving the economics of domestic renewables projects. In the long run, however, the main challenge for many oil countries is economic and income diversification as this represents the ultimate safeguard against the energy transition. Whether or not these countries succeed in their goal of achieving a diversified economy and revenue base has implications for investment in the oil sector and oil prices and consequently for the speed of the global energy transition.
Authors: Fattouh, B., Poudineh, R. & West, R. The rise of renewables and energy transition: what adaptation strategy exists for oil companies and oil-exporting countries? Energy Transitions, December 2019, Volume 3, Issue 1–2, pp 45–58