BP officially quits the solar business
Remember when BP tried to rebrand itself as “Beyond Petroleum” and came up with a new logo designed to evoke solar power? Well, looks like the company might have to call in some new branding consultants. NPR’s Morning Edition reports:
“We have thrown in the towel on solar,” [BP CEO] Bob Dudley said after delivering a wide-ranging speech Wednesday.
“Not that solar energy isn’t a viable energy source, but we worked at it for 35 years, and we really never made money,” he added.
BP has been winding down its solar operations for a few years. The company now says it is “focusing on those sectors of the energy industry where we can profitably grow our business,” which means a shift to wind and biofuels. Really though, can you blame BP for being worried about money? The company only made $11.6 billion in profits last year, and it might still have to pay billions to atone for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. Wah!
More from NPR:
BP’s exit from solar has more to do with a changing business than lack of will.
“The solar industry BP was involved in 10 years ago has very few similarities to the solar industry today,” says Finlay Colville, vice president of the research firm NPD Solarbuzz.
Colville says BP was one of the early companies in the solar business. Back then, the market was based on a different model — one more focused on research and development. He says now the business is all about efficient production and low prices, something more suited to the Asian companies taking a lead role in the solar panel-manufacturing business; so BP’s exit from solar doesn’t mean the industry overall is in trouble.
It’s not all sunshine for those Asian companies either, though. China’s sick of losing money on its struggling solar-panel manufacturers, and is encouraging mergers amongst debt-ridden companies while also discouraging local governments from stepping in to support them. From The Wall Street Journal:
In December, China’s State Council, or cabinet, signaled it would stop funding money-losing domestic solar-panel makers, which are caught up in a global downturn for the industry …
Chen Yuan, chairman of China Development Bank, said Tuesday on the sidelines of China’s annual session of parliament that the bank would limit fresh lending to solar-panel companies.
Beijing is offering “indirect help to solar companies in the form of new policies and incentives for solar-power development and to boost demand for panels,” but the companies are probably still in for some rocky times ahead.