Environmentalists are blasting Shell’s new low-carbon plan that outlines a future energy system dominated by solar, electric vehicles and carbon-capture technologies.
The scenario wasn't enough for Greenpeace.
Kees Kodde, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Netherlands, said Shell’s newly minted, low-carbon "Sky" scenario, a new addition to scenarios that Shell has been publishing since the 1970s, is still “a future full of fossil fuels.”
Under Sky, which Shell says it developed to see how the world could meet net-zero emissions by 2070 “within techno-economic possibilities,” society would still be using 88 percent of current levels of oil by 2050, Kodde said.
Gas use, meanwhile, would be at 93 percent of today’s level, and coal at 62 percent. “That is not a rapid transition, as Shell claims,” said Kodde.
Also, he noted, Shell’s model relies heavily on carbon capture and storage (CCS) and negative-emissions technologies to take greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere. “These technologies are a gamble, and most CCS projects have been unsuccessful,” said Kodde.
“The scenario seems to be modeled in order to justify the current billions of euros of investment by Shell in risky oil and gas projects such as deep-sea drilling and shale gas.”
Greenpeace is not the only pressure group unimpressed with Shell’s apparent attempt to steer a clearer path toward a low-carbon future.
This month a Dutch shareholder activist organization tabled a resolution, to be voted on at Shell’s annual general meeting on May 22, calling for the Anglo-Dutch oil major to set more aggressive carbon mitigation targets.
“I don’t think a 50 percent reduction of CO2 emissions footprint in 2050 meets the Paris climate agreement,” said Mark van Baal, the group's founder, in a Reuters report. “Shell uses these ambitions to [continue with] business as usual in the next decades.”
Shell’s management had urged shareholders to vote against the resolution, Reuters said.
But some observers are still hailing the Sky scenario as a bold move by the oil company.
Speaking on The Interchange this month, Shayle Kann, senior vice president of research and strategy at Energy Impact Partners, said: “The Sky scenario is pretty ambitious in general and certainly very ambitious, from a decarbonization perspective, for an oil and gas company.”
“But it doesn’t happen overnight, so despite...a pretty big transition out through 2050, you still don’t hit peak oil demand until 2025,” he said. “For what they call the near- to medium-term, there’s not only demand for fossil fuels, there’s increasing demand for fossil fuels.”
Meanwhile, a close look at the data used in the Sky scenario reveals uncanny similarities with a forecast of fossil fuel availability published in 2014.
The 2014 research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Fuel by a team led by Dr. Steve Mohr, an associate with the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, looked at recoverable resources of fossil fuels.
It offered three scenarios, based on low, best-guess and high fossil fuel reserves. In the low scenario, coal supply peaks around now, while oil and gas hold out until around 2050 and then decline sharply.
Shell’s Sky scenario, which likely incorporates more recent estimates than the Mohr study, is only slightly more conservative. It assumes peak coal has passed, oil demand will max out in the 2020s, and gas will follow suit from 2040.
Shell’s Sky scenario predicts fossil fuels will only have around 20 percent of their current share of the global energy system by 2100.
Within the last year, Shell has made numerous acquisitions in renewable energy, electricity retailing and electric-vehicle charging. How might these technologies guide Shell's energy transition? Listen to a discussion on The Interchange below.