For the Total Group, meeting energy demand in the decades ahead also means stepping up our capital investment in sectors expected to complement oil and gas and promoting cost-effective, environmentally efficient alternatives.
Oil and gas will remain central to our operations for many years to come. However, our involvement in renewable and other alternative energies that are virtually or completely greenhouse gas-neutral is not a recent development. To give just two examples, we have been active in photovoltaic solar energy since 1983 and in biofuels since 1992.
As an energy producer and provider, we are striving to diversify our supply to help meet growing energy demand in the long term. That means that we are investing in renewable energies that emit less greenhouse gases, such as photovoltaic solar energy and biomass.
In the US, Total acquired a majority share in SunPower in June 2011. SunPower is a global leader in the solar photovoltaic industry and number one in the residential and commercial sector. After the integration of Tenesol – Total’s French solar subsidiary – the group now owns 66% of SunPower. This is a major milestone in Total’s solar strategy. Leveraging Total’s financial strength and international networks, SunPower will be the flagship of Total’s solar activities.
SunPower is integrated across the entire value chain, from solar cell production to turnkey development of large-scale solar power plants: upstream SunPower produces all of its cells in Asia, in the Philippines and Malaysia; downstream the company is present in the two main regional markets, the USA and Europe, through residential solutions and investment in large solar power plants and is taking positions in new emerging solar markets.
SunPower enjoys a strong technological advantage with the most efficient cells on the market, averaging 22.6% versus 18% at most for its competitors and continuing to work towards even better performance.
The Group is also pursuing R&D in this field through several partnerships, as well as in the fields of thin films, transverse systems research and solar energy storage.
TOTAL has committed to developing innovative technologies to improve its portfolio of solar projects. The Group has major R&D programs through partnerships with major laboratories and international research institutes in France and abroad. MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI): Regarding solar energy storage, TOTAL entered in 2009 into a research agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States to develop a new stationary battery technology.
In the US, Total concluded a partnership with Amyris, a San Francisco Bay Area startup at the cutting edge of biotechnology. This fast-growing field, which involves reprogramming living cells (for example, yeasts) to efficiently perform chemical transformations at an industrial scale, is an important step for biomass fuel technology.
The Group holds a 21% stake in Amyris' share capital and has partnership agreement that includes research, development, production and marketing of biofuels. In addition, the Group continues to develop a network of R&D partnerships, including with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and Novogy in technology segments that are complementary with Amyris' platform: deconstruction of lignocelluloses and new biosynthesis processes.
The unique feature of the partnership between Total and Amyris is that it combines the investment and R&D expertise of a global energy group with the core technology and experience of a start-up. As the only partner to take a stake in the start-up (17%), Total is committed to acquiring a solid expertise in the area of white biotechnology. Total and Amyris R&D teams will work together to develop new products and to build biological processes to produce and commercialize renewable fuels and chemicals.
Learn more about the Total Group's renewable energies projects over the world.