Hedging against a foreseeable peak in demand for crude oil, France’s Total SA (TOT), one of the world’s largest oil companies, has revealed big plans to double down on the production of electricity to its global network of businesses and consumers.

Last summer, a handful of Total’s top executives were sent to Silicon Valley to meet with tech investors and futurists, including a visit to Tesla Motors Inc.’s (TSLA) Bay Area factory. The French oil company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanné explained that the trip was an effort to “open the minds” of the business leaders, writes The Wall Street Journal.

Total’s ambitious plans would ultimately lead it to become one of the biggest suppliers of electricity, or what its CEO calls “the energy of the 21st century.”

Hedging Against Oil'sp Decline

The corporation has made strategic acquisitions, including a $1 billion deal to buy a French maker of industrial batteries and a takeover of a small utility that supplies gas and renewable power to households in Belgium. Total also owns a majority stake in San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower Corp. (SPWR) as it aims for 20% of its energy output by 2035 to be from low-carbon energy such as electricity from renewable sources including wind and power. Last year, the company’s recently added “gas, renewables and power” reporting segment accounted for 5% of Total’s $9.42 billion in net operating income.


Total isn’t alone in its plans to build out a business unit to hedge against oil’s downfall and the realities of climate change. As oil prices plummet, automakers improve fuel efficiency and electric vehicles gain speed against traditional cars, even the leaders must adapt in order to survive the industry disruption. The world’s largest oil company, Saudi Aramco, has invested $5 billion to acquire renewables companies and help the kingdom reach its goal to produce 10 gigawatts of power from solar, wind and nuclear in the next seven years. (See also: 2017: A Turning Point for the Solar Industry.)

While oil is forecast to remain a major source of energy for global economies for the time being, and companies such as Total and Saudi maintain their businesses as first-and-foremost for oil, the heightened focus on clean energy investment speaks volumes to the long-term direction of the industry. (See also: Saudi’s Aramco in $5B Renewable Energy Investment.)

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