* PM says Statoil should stick with renewables projects
* Statoil concerned green push may hit profitability
By Wojciech Moskwa
STAVANGER, Norway, Aug 24 Norway's centre-left
government told its majority-owned oil major Statoil (STL.OL) on
Tuesday to remain in renewable energy projects despite concerns
by the company over their profitability.
Statoil's chief executive has said that renewable energy
must become profitable to attract investment, and that within
three to four years it may consider whether it makes sense for
an oil company to branch out of renewables. [ID:nLDE67M0QZ]
In response, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told reporters
at a large oil and gas conference in western Norway that the
government "would like to have Statoil invest in renewables" and
that it was working to make such investments more profitable.
Norway's Petroleum and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen
said that renewables should be part of Statoil's strategy,
adding that this was a signal from the firm's biggest owner.
"It is necessary that the big companies are engaged. We need
their knowledge to develop new energy sources and bring down
costs," Riis-Johansen told Norway's NTB news agency.
Public officials in Norway usually refrain from commenting
on decisions at state-owned firms.
The spat also highlights the reluctance of energy companies
to continue to pile money into renewables at a time when the
political will to put a high price on carbon emissions -- and
provide incentives for companies to turn green -- appears weak.
The 67-percent-state-owned Norwegian company, which produces
about 2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, has pledged
to invest 5 billion Norwegian crowns in a wind farm off Britain.
It it is also involved in developing offshore wind
technology and is a partner of the government in a
carbon-capture testing facility.
Its total spending on renewables remains only a fraction of
its $13 billion annual oil and gas capex.
Marius Holm, deputy chief of environmental group Bellona,
said that the government had effectively told Statoil that its
potential exit from renewable energy projects would be
He said the government did not want Statoil to "bet against"
the success of any future global climate talks by ditching its
The centre-left government sees itself as a champion of
green causes and has on occasion used its oil wealth to fund
projects aimed at limiting emissions of greenhouse gasses blamed
for global warming.
But a study showed that Norway spends five times more on
subsidies to the oil industry -- which provide a quarter of the
country's GDP -- than on rewewable energy. [ID:nLDE67N0X5]
(With reporting by Gwladys Fouche, Joachim Dagenborg and Ole
Petter Skonnord, editing by William Hardy)