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Incoming BP executive urges dialogue to speed up clean energy transition

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The incoming head of BP’s gas and low carbon business called for more dialogue with politicians to accelerate the transition to clean energy and meet carbon emissions targets.

Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath, who is set to join the oil major next March after 18 months as chief executive of RWE Renewables, told the Financial Times that governments needed to engage more with business to cut CO2.

“Good policy is absolutely vital,” said the German executive who helped build the RWE unit into one of the world’s largest renewables companies after merging it with Eon and Innogy’s green energy arms in 2019.

“The will is there, the money is there, and now we just need to ensure that the money is best invested wisely, and [that] we don’t waste it in technologies or in stranded assets.”

Announcing her appointment on Tuesday, BP chief executive Bernard Looney described Dotzenrath as “exactly the right person for BP, at exactly the right time”.

BP has ambitious clean energy targets, having pledged to invest up to $4bn a year in low carbon projects by 2025 and increase its renewable power generation capacity from 3.7GW to 50GW by 2030. It aims to become a net zero emissions business by 2050.

Dotzenrath replaces Dev Sanyal, who is leaving BP after three decades to head the European refiner Varo Energy, owned by Carlyle Group and Vitol.

While Dotzenrath focused on wind and solar power at RWE, she stressed that gas, of which BP remains a major producer, had an important part to play in the energy transition “for decades to come”, particularly in countries reliant on coal.

“I absolutely believe in building integrated regional positions with renewables, with hydrogen, with biofuels, with gas, then maybe in the future gas with CCUS [carbon capture, utilisation and storage], and I think that is the future of energy.”

Energy companies were best served by being “technology agnostic” and focusing on reducing emissions by any means, she added, noting that 10 years ago few would have predicted the dramatic drop in the costs of wind and solar power. “I think we will see similar developments, which we cannot fully predict today.”

In Europe, wind in particular remained highly prospective and was limited only by the pace at which concessions can be awarded and connecting infrastructure developed, she said. “There is more space available, but it’s not accessible, there are not enough auctions for investors to really move forward.”

The slow development of the grid infrastructure needed to link offshore projects to power grids means “it takes 10 years from first idea to connecting a wind farm”, she added. “That is too slow.”

Another challenge for BP is the recruitment, retention and retraining of staff amid massive competition for renewable energy expertise as oil majors and industrial giants seek to realign their businesses with international emissions targets.

Dotzenrath acknowledged that there would be some people who would not work for BP “full stop” because of its fossil fuel business but that she had no concerns about attracting staff in a competitive market.

“I mean it’s great to join a company which is totally green, but the much bigger impact is . . . making a company greener.”

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