Shell Sells Solar Business (by the Seashore)

First BP quietly demoted its renewables division and decided to invest in dirty tar sands oil production. Now Shell has sold off the majority of its solar business. It’s almost like Big Oil, which has invested hundreds of billions of dollars in its infrastructure, doesn’t really want the clean energy industry to succeed!

Though energy companies continue to shellac themselves with green (like this), it appears that the Big Oil isn’t so keen on their current clean energy returns. And while reverting back to the standard profits uber alles might not have such a dramatic effect on other industries, when the result is climate change, it’s cause for concern.

Shell’s solar pullout began last year, when the company sold its 600-strong solar module production business to SolarWorld. Then last month, Shell announced that it was selling its rural PV business in India and Sri Lanka. The 260 employees and 28 offices are rumored to have gone for $100 million, a drop in the bucket for a company that generated $318 billion in revenue last year.

It’s hard to be surprised by moves like this when they’re being made by companies that have long fought the development of alternative energy sources to fossil fuels. But some in the environmental and sustainability movements had gotten their hopes up that perhaps so-called energy companies had realized that they do, in fact, sell energy, not just fossil fuels. Recent moves by the conglomerates have a message for those optimists: “No, really, it is just about the money.”

Moves away from clean energy sources by Big Oil are just fine for cleantech startups. While BP grinds away at the tar sands of Alberta, startups will be working on the technological end run. Moves like those of Shell and BP only increase clean energy startups’ chances of success.