Global Energy Council Q3 2020 editorial by James Mawson, editor-in-chief, Global Corporate Venturing

Sometimes a chart really does tell a story of a thousand words.

This month, US-listed renewable energy producer NextEra Energy overtook oil major ExxonMobil in market capitalisation. A decade ago, ExxonMobil was the world’s biggest public company.

As the Financial Times noted in spotting the crossover point: “NextEra’s ascent and ExxonMobil’s decline reflect a collapse in oil consumption in the pandemic, the rise of renewable resources on the electric grid and investors’ desire for steady returns at a time of low interest rates.”

The point has struck home. Nacho Gimenez, managing director at BP Ventures, the corporate venturing unit of oil major BP, in a post on the subject,  said: “Seeing a renewable company valuation above oil ones is not news anymore; except when that company is Exxon, the biggest [independent oil company]. This is why BP is reinventing itself. This is why oil companies have to follow that path. It is not about pivoting BP, it is about reimagining energy and re-designing the whole energy system.”

Gimenez, along with his peers at other CVCs, discussed sustainability and energy trends at last month’s GCV Digital Forum and venturing activity in the sector is holding up.

Demand for energy is not going away, although it might fall this year following slowing growth last year, according to BP and the International Energy Agency’s annual reports. The source of the power and  its uses, however, are changing.

Electric car maker Tesla’s rise to a $400bn market capitalisation over the past year has been fuelled in part by expectations that its car batteries can be useful for other purposes. Vehicle-to-grid or bidirectional charging uses networks of batteries in parked electric vehicles to create a virtual, grid-scale storage system.

These trends help explain why our quarterly oil and gas (O&G) reports are being renamed the Global Energy Council quarterly.

By taking in utilities as well as O&G majors and looking at the mobility and storage trends, the report can tackle the countdown to 2030 and a 45% fall in global carbon emissions required on the world to net zero emissions by 2050 as outlined by the UN.

Barbara Burger, head of Chevron Technology Ventures and chair of the GCV Energy conference and sustainability stream, points to the innovation and collaboration required and her optimism that it can be achieved “because, frankly, society depends on it”.

My thanks to Burger, BP, Shell and the other corporate venturing leaders behind the past four years’ reports, produced by Kaloyan Andonov, and a welcome to the new members under incoming Global Energy Council chairwoman, Lisa Lambert, chief technology and innovation officer at utility National Grid and founder and president of its National Grid Partners corporate venturing unit.

In addition, my thanks to Tom Whitehouse, CEO at investment bank Leif Capital, for his expert moderation of the GCV Energy events and a welcome to Paul Morris, founder and former head of the CVC operation of Dow Chemical in Europe and Israel and head of the GCV Academy for helping facilitate the future network between the energy industry corporate venturing units.