Rystad Energy: Spending gap narrows between renewables and oil and gas

22nd March 2021

Rystad Energy: Spending gap narrows between renewables and oil and gas

Capital expenditure for renewable energy projects is set for a new record in 2021, a Rystad Energy analysis shows, forecast to reach US$243 billion, and narrowing the gap with oil and gas spending, which is projected to be relatively flat this year at US$311 billion. While oilfield service suppliers have taken considerable steps to make structural changes and diversify, 2020’s financial results suggest more needs to be done.

Renewables capex, which equals purchases from supply firms, is set for another record year, picking up where last year left off, when spending hit US$224 billion. By contrast, oil and gas capex this year is expected to stay in line with 2020’s US$306 billion – a far cry from the industry’s better days, as just in 2019 E&Ps splurged US$422 billion on supply purchases, Rystad Energy states.

The spending gap between renewable energy and oil and gas is closing, as capex for renewables is now just 22% below the estimate for upstream projects. Most of the renewable energy spending will go towards onshore wind projects, rising to US$100 billion from US$94 billion in 2020. Solar photovoltaics (PV) spending is expected to climb to US$96 billion this year from US$88 billion last year, while offshore wind will see capex grow to US$46 billion from US$43 billion, according to Rystad Energy.

Most of the expenditure stems from Asia, which has 156 GW of capacity under construction as of January 2021, followed by Europe with 32 GW. China’s decision to slowly reduce subsidy assistance from January forced many projects to start construction early, which further supported spending activity. Much of the spending is down to China’s 800-MW Rudong offshore wind farm and the 2 GW Zhuozi County Project, as well as Orsted’s 1.4 GW Hornsea 2 project off the UK.

Rystad Energy states that upstream capex is expected to increase by less than 2% in 2021, with spending on greenfield projects declining by 6%. However, sanctioning activity is estimated to increase this year by 30%, mainly due to Qatargas’ US$30 billion North Field East development, which makes up 33% of the total budget to be sanctioned this year.

“Last year’s events forced leading oil and gas businesses to look at strategies to reduce exposure to the risky market amid the energy transition. Oilfield service suppliers, for instance, have started a considerable transformation, hoping to be more relevant in a greener market and become a more attractive option for investors,” says Chinmayi Teggi, Energy Service Analyst at Rystad Energy.

After a lamentable 2020, the financial results of some companies suggest more needs to be done. Rystad Energy has compared the revenues of 170 listed suppliers exposed to the upstream oil and gas, wind, and solar markets. Its analysis reveals that while oil and gas-focused businesses on average saw revenue drop 23% in 2020 from the previous year, wind and solar PV-focused businesses enjoyed an 18% growth in sales.

Quarterly revenue for service companies exposed to the upstream sector has seen a massive deterioration, with 4Q revenue last year slumping 25% from a year earlier amid a lack of new contracts and slow execution of backlog work. Revenue from well services and seismic segments fell last year by 35% from 2019 levels, while drilling tools revenue shrank 25%, according to Rystad Energy.

However, some positive performance was seen from giants Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Halliburton, driven by a combination of backlog execution improvements and an uptick in US shale activity towards the end of the year. The overall revenue of these companies gained 6% in 4Q from the preceding three months.

By contrast, service companies exposed to the wind and solar sectors saw growth in 4Q of last year compared to 2019. Service players exposed to wind projects recorded a 15% y/y boost to revenues for the 4Q2020, with full-year revenues improving by 20%. Sales at service providers exposed to solar projects rose 3% in 4Q from the year-earlier period and climbed 14% for the full year, Rystad Energy states.

Almost 65% of the wind equipment revenues analysed – which includes 18 listed companies – is down to the top three suppliers Vestas Wind Systems, General Electric (GE) and Siemens Energy. The companies explored multiple opportunities to increase profitability and reported order intake growth, indicating a fruitful future.

Chinese service suppliers, including LONGi Green Energy, Jinko Solar, and Trina Solar – companies that also manufacture solar panels – accounted for most of the growth. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent decline in demand last year for PV systems led to a slowdown in sales in the 2H2020. Reduced demand, coupled with the price increase of raw materials, brought notable changes to the solar PV industry, including a shift to high-margin orders and efficiency improvements for modules – all in a bid to increase margins.

Meanwhile, companies exposed to both oil and gas and renewable energy were able to offset deteriorating conventional revenues with better-performing wind and solar PV-focused segments.