BP quits solar industry amid supply glut

Scott Tong Dec 23, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: The British Oil Company BP announced this week it’s getting out of the solar business after some 40 years. This is the same BP that markets itself as “Beyond Petrolium.” So does this signal an end to that commitment? Not necessarily.

Here’s Scott Tong from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk.


Scott Tong: If you’re shopping for a share of a solar power plant, BP’s selling — in Long Island and Australia.

It’s exiting what’s now a struggling sector, says Nathaniel Bullard at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The field is crowded, and the market is slowing.

Nathaniel Bullard: Financial returns are pushed down. If you’re selling product, you may be selling it at very low to zero margin.

But when the down cycle ends, he expects the sun to come out again. In many places, solar’s cheap enough to replace coal or gas. As far as renewable energy in general, BP is staying in -– in windpower and alternative fuels.

Why?

Bullard: Energy is energy. It requires a long time, a deep balance sheet. It requires a lot of expertise in dealing with regulatory bodies. This is what oil companies do.

And many companies have fingers in the renewables pie, including Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil.

In Washington, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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