The oil major BP is set to become a solar giant that rivals the world’s largest operators. How’s how it plans to get there — and still generate double-digit returns.

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As part of BP’s transformation from an oil giant to an integrated energy company, the London-based firm is set to dominate the solar energy industry. 

Data revealed this week in a series of investor presentations show BP has 16 gigawatts of solar in its pipeline through Lightsource BP, a joint venture formed in 2018 between BP and Lightsource Renewable Energy.

That’s enough to rival China’s State Power Investment Corp. the world’s biggest solar operator, in total solar capacity, according to Bloomberg News. State Power Investment has just under 12 gigawatts of installed solar capacity, according to its website. 

“Wind and solar are already the most competitive new builds in most energy markets,” Dev Sanyal, EVP for gas and low carbon energy at BP, said on a call with investors Tuesday. “This includes fossil fuel markets. We are leading in and planning to build material renewables businesses with an ambition to have developed 50 gigawatts by 2030. “

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BP’s push into solar energy is part of a broader strategy overhaul, first announced in August. By 2030, the company said it will spend $5 billion a year on low-carbon energy and by 2050 it plans to be a net-zero emissions company. 

Total, Shell, and other major oil companies have announced similar commitments but have yet to provide the level of detail BP shared with investors this week. 

How BP will deliver a massive amount of solar energy

Today, BP has about 20 gigawatts of renewable energy in some stage of development and most of that is solar, Bernard Looney, BP’s CEO, told investors. (For perspective, the entire US added a total of about 13 gigawatts of solar energy last year.)

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“How will we be able to do that? Well, we do that through Lightsource BP,” Looney said. “They move at lightning speed.” 

In 2018, the joint venture had less than 2 gigawatts of capacity in the pipeline and operated in just 5 countries. Now it has 16 gigawatts in development and operates in 13 countries including Australia, he said. 

Solar is unique among energy projects, Sanyal said, because developers can move from concept to construction in as few as 18 months. 

“This sector is characterized by fast cycle times, which allows us to grow our pipeline rapidly in the next 5 years,” he said. 

The key ingredients to BP’s solar growth

Lightsource BP says it has five “key ingredients” that drive its growth including “decisions at speed” and “cutting-edge tech.” 

“We are an early adopter of new technology,” Kareen Boutonnat, a cofounder of Lightsource BP, told investors. 

The company began designing plants with bifacial technology this year, for example, which allows solar panels to produce power from both sides. 

Boutonnat also said the company is able to move quickly on potential deals, giving them an advantage, and raise debt for projects “at rapid levels.” 

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Source:: Business Insider

      

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