Royal Dutch Shell Just Bought an Electric Utility. I Wonder Why...

©. Ed Robinson/Shell

Could it be that oil is not the energy commodity of the future?

From the Tesla Semi to the very real prospect of electric commercial flight, we talk a lot about the electrification of everything here on TreeHugger.

Given that this electrification must go hand in hand with a transition to 100% low carbon electricity, it's fair to say that this might not be an entirely rosy prospect for oil companies.

But while these giants will no doubt try to delay where they can, there are signs that they might also try to adapt. Recently, for example, Royal Dutch Shell—Europe's largest oil company—decided to buy Europe's largest electric vehicle charging network. And now Business Green reports that they are also buying their very first electric utility. This seems to me like a promising sign that Shell doesn't necessarily see its long-term future in fossil fuels, at least not exclusively.

True, with "only" 825,000 customers in the UK, First Utility is not exactly a giant in the electricity sector. But it is not a trivial player either. Given that BP also just made a $200 million bet on solar, there's reason to be cautiously optimistic that the forces that have for so long held us back might actually take a step or two toward moving us forward.

I'm not naive enough to assume that their interest in—or advocacy for—fossil fuels will disappear. But these moves do represent yet another shift in the balance of power between clean and dirty energy.