Dumping Coal Assets Near the Bottom of the Market a Green Energy Success?

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From Watts Up With That

Essay by Eric Worrall

“Her … contract was not renewed”: A recent 4000 attendee climate change summit in Paris came up with some interesting ideas on promoting renewable energy to company boards.

Incentivizing Boards Of Directors To Address Climate Change, At ChangeNow Summit

Joan Michelson

To truly avoid reaching that potentially irreversibly devastating 1.5 degrees Celsius warming – which the UN’s World Meteorological Organization just announced that we’ll cross in a few years – we need every aspect of the economy to take action, literally.

At the ChangeNow 2023 Summit in Paris, France last week with over 4,000 attendees from 120 countries and across industries, gathered to strategize how to do that and share solutions, as well as to make deals.

Isabelle Kocher de Leyritz explained in one of my sessions at ChangeNow how she did just that as CEO of Engie, one of Europe’s largest fossil fuel energy companies. She talked about how the board asked her, then CFO, to develop a plan to transition the company and then elevated her to the CEO role to execute her plan. She told us about the robust debates she had with Engie’s board of directors, and how she persuaded them to sell off coal assets and invest that money into renewable energy assets instead. Now CEO of Blunomy, a consultancy, her Engie contract was not renewed, but Engie remains in renewable energy.

…Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/joanmichelson2/2023/05/28/incentivizing-boards-of-directors-to-address-climate-change-at-changenow-summit/?sh=24d9ee77722d

Engie CEO Isabelle Kocher de Leyritz announced the deal to sell Engie’s European coal assets on the 26 April 2019, close to the bottom of the coal price cycle.

Shortly after disposing of European coal assets in 2019, in February 2020, Engie announce they would not be renewing Isabelle’s CEO contract.

… In an interview with French newspaper Les Echos, Clamadieu explained the board blamed Kocher for Engie “falling behind over four years in the area of electricity generation and gas infrastructure, which now represents 80% of our profits”.

Engie’s stock price opened at €15.63 on 7 February — down from the previous close of €15.71/share — following the announcement. Its shares continued to fall as low as €15.51. …Read more: https://www.windpowermonthly.com/article/1673343/engie-will-not-renew-ceo-kochers-contract

Engie didn’t just own coal plants, they also owned at least some of the adjacent coal mines. Isabelle was CEO when Engie decided to close the Australian Hazelwood plant, which used to provide 25% of the State of Victoria’s energy.

… Engie shuttered Hazelwood with just five months’ notice in 2017 – a scenario that the Victorian government has avoided with Yallourn by arranging with its owner to close the plant, which delivers about 20% of Victoria’s electricity, in 2028, four years earlier than planned.

Before Engie closed it, Hazelwood produced about 25% of Victoria’s electricity and was responsible for about 14% of the state’s emissions.

The nearby open-cut mine from which it sourced brown coal also burned out of control for 45 weeks in 2014 after a bushfire spread into it.

Engie’s chief executive for Australia and New Zealand, Augustin Honorat, said the company had a “long-term commitment” to Hazelwood and the Latrobe valley that included remediating the site and acting as “the builder and owner of a new energy asset that helps with the decarbonisation of the energy system”. …Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/dec/01/australias-biggest-privately-funded-battery-under-construction-at-hazelwood-power-station-site

Hazelwood produced $387 million dollars profit in 2010. Even if Hazelwood needed to be completely scrapped, a brand new 1GW HELE coal plant would cost around AUD $2.2 billion according to APO, an Aussie think tank. $387 million / year profit on a $2.2 billion investment would have been a 17.5% return on investment, as opposed to what actually happened – a site rehabilitation money pit and speculative, subsidy dependent 150MWH green battery investment, which is still struggling to arrange connection to the grid.

Obviously my interpretation of events could be wrong, my apologies to Isabelle if I have misunderstood the situation. I would be happy to publish her version of events if she gets in contact.

But something obviously went very wrong with the relationship between Isabelle Kocher de Leyritz and Engie, otherwise they would have renewed her CEO contract.

What can I say? If I have understood the situation correctly, if this is the green movement’s idea of successfully influencing an energy company to go green, I’d hate to see their idea of a failure.

Correction: h/t Mr – got my millions and billions mixed up.