March 22, 2012 / 5:52 AM / 6 years ago

Shell challenges Big Tech to cut innovation times

BURLINGAME, Calif., March 21 (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s CEO challenged major technology firms to speed up the pace of energy-related innovation, admitting his own industry had trouble thinking “outside the box”.

Shell CEO Peter Voser, addressing guests at a business and technology forum dinner south of San Francisco, said new energy technologies now take between 25 and 30 years of development before they account for just 1 percent of overall supply.

“This is not a six-month mobile phone type of change,” he said, pointing out that wind turbines now had a capacity 100 times they once did, but that this development took 30 years.

Voser also said his own industry, like most, found it difficult to adopt the “how can I destroy my business” kind of philosophy needed to bring about dramatic change.

“I don’t think we have cracked that nut,” he said. “Clearly there is a tendency to start too close to where you are today.”

“When I look around, I don’t see too much in the energy industry really being outside the box,” he added at the dinner hosted by the Churchill Club, a forum founded by Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard.

Voser also said the oil industry would continue to struggle to meet fast-growing demand because from the moment they find a barrel of oil, it takes as long as eight years to produce.

Stopping short of making an oil price prediction, Voser cited Saudi Arabia’s view that $100 per barrel is about right, and at that price, most oil and gas projects would be built.

“I would also say it will not go too much down because it will not actually otherwise allow the industry to develop enough of the supply,” Voser said.

Asked by an audience member what Silicon Valley could do to help, he said it should aim to cut the 30 years of energy technology development time in half, and ensure it works at scale, since the nearly 3 billion people living in China and India would drive most of the energy consumption in the next 40 years.

He singled out electricity storage as a key technology. “If you have that breakthrough, you have got a really big business,” he said.

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