Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani unveiled an ambitious push into clean energy involving 750bn rupees ($10.1bn) of investment over three years, marking a new pivot for one of the world’s biggest fossil-fuel billionaires.
Reliance Industries Ltd, which gets 60% of its revenue from oil refining and petrochemicals, plans to spend 600bn rupees on four “giga factories” to produce solar modules, hydrogen, fuel cells and to build a battery grid to store electricity. An additional 150bn rupees will be invested in value chain and other partnerships, Asia’s richest man told shareholders yesterday.
The move towards green by the Mumbai-based giant, which reported an annual revenue of $63bn, offers a glimpse of the new order awaiting some of the world’s major fossil-fuel producers.
Global giants such as Exxon Mobil Corp and TotalEnergies SE have been under pressure to pare their carbon footprint, as governments, investors and consumers join to fight climate change and global warming.
Speaking at the company’s virtual annual meeting, Ambani gave scant details of how he would execute the plan. He was ranked No 4 among global fossil-fuel billionaires by Bloomberg Green last year. The $10bn in green investment over three years compares with Fitch Ratings’ estimate – published on Wednesday – of $7.4 billion in annual average capital expenditure by the Reliance group through March 2025.
Shares of the company fell 2.4% yesterday in Mumbai, the most in more than two months.
“There is an apprehension that the new initiatives, especially green energy projects, will require high gestation period and may also result in fresh debt for the capex plans,” said Kranthi Bathini of WealthMills Securities Pvt. He expects these initiatives to benefit the company over the long term.
Ambani isn’t entirely turning his back on his legacy oil and petrochemicals business. Yesterday, he said that a delayed plan to bring Saudi Arabian Oil Co as an investor in the energy division – announced two years ago – will be finalised this year. He didn’t elaborate. In a move to reassure investors, he also said Aramco chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan will join the board of Reliance.
The proposed green transformation aligns with the priorities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which has been debating aggressive climate targets that would cut net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by mid-century, a decade before China. Though fellow tycoon Gautam Adani, who built a coal-centred conglomerate of ports and power plants, is already pursuing a similar path expanding his presence in wind and solar energy, Ambani’s plans are bigger in scope.
“The world is entering a new energy era, which is going to be highly disruptive,” said Ambani, 64. “The age of fossil fuels, which powered economic growth globally for nearly three centuries, cannot continue much longer. The huge quantities of carbon it has emitted into the environment have endangered life on Earth.”
One of Reliance’s “giga factories” will manufacture solar modules, enabling 100 gigawatts of solar energy by 2030, including on rooftop installations in villages across the country; the second involves large-scale grid batteries to store electricity, for which Reliance will collaborate with global leaders on the technology; and, the third will build and install electrolysers for separating green hydrogen from water.
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