​BP ‘scanning’ for renewables deals to plan for a life beyond oil

BP CEO Bob Dudley. Image: BP

BP Plc, the oil major that sold a third of its assets after a disastrous rig accident in 2010, said it won’t be left behind as the industry boosts investment in new energy.

“We haven’t made really big bets but we’re scanning and screening everything” to assess renewables opportunities, Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said Tuesday. BP must “get its balance sheet really strong, and then we’ll be able to do whatever we think is the right thing to do.”

In December, the U.K. oil producer re-entered the solar market after a six-year absence with a $200 million investment in a company that develops photovoltaic farms in Europe. The move followed recent forays by peers Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Total SA into offshore wind and solar-panel production as Big Oil prepares for a future dominated by clean energy.

“We’ve got lots of experience in renewable energies,” Dudley said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Davos, Switzerland. “We’re only going to make bets like that if it’s economic, and this solar investment is economic.”

BP this week was said to be considering a bid for Italian solar company Rete Rinnovabile Srl, valued by its owner at $1.8 billion. Dudley said that people at BP may be speaking to the firm but indicated he wouldn’t be prepared to spend that much money.

The U.K. company will focus on project development rather than manufacturing solar or wind equipment, according to the CEO, who sees such efforts proceeding in tandem with natural-gas growth. He also addressed concerns surrounding U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to impose duties on solar imports, saying it’s unlikely to change BP’s plans.

The Deepwater Horizon rig disaster in April 2010 -- as well as a flood of solar panels from China -- forced BP to curtail its renewables ambitions as a massive asset-sale program was set in train. With soaring crude prices and earnings back on track, growth is now back on the cards.

“We still have very large wind and biofuels businesses, we didn’t lose the expertise after the Deepwater Horizon,” Dudley said. “We’re not going to be behind in this.”

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