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It’s hard to say whether Elisabeth Brinton joined Shell at the best or worst possible time to lead its clean-energy work.
She started the job in April, when a pandemic-fueled collapse in oil demand had pushed crude prices down by as much as 70%.
Around that time, some analysts thought companies like Shell would have to divert funding away from their renewable-energy divisions.
So far that hasn’t happened. In fact, a few companies including Shell have doubled down on their commitments. Right around when she stepped into the role, Shell announced that it would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
“The energy transition is not pausing because of a pandemic,” she tells Business Insider.
A chemist by trade, Brinton is helping turn Shell into a massive renewable-energy powerhouse that sells far more than just oil and gas.
“New Energies is investing up to $2 billion in different services and products from a range of cleaner sources,” Brinton says. “We look at what fits and is accretive to the positions we already have in the market.”
Brinton is no stranger to leading a renewable-energy team. Before working at Shell, she was the head of AGL Energy’s new energy division, set up to lead the Australian utility’s foray into clean energy. Today, Australia is one of New Energies’ major markets of interest.
Brinton was at Shell when it made several deals that expanded its clean-energy footprint, including the purchase of energy-storage firm Sonnen in 2019. That year, Shell was the most active private investor in the renewable energy sector.
“Shell is at the forefront of the transition together with Total,” Valentina Kretzschmar, a vice president for corporate research at Wood Mackenzie, says.