Chief Executive Officer Helge Lund will test green options for another three to four years before deciding whether the oil company will continue its offshore wind investments and other renewable energy activities.
«99.5 per cent of Statoil’s activities are related to oil and gas. If fossil fuel continues to dominate the global energy landscape for the next decades, we have to determine within the next three or four years whether we should continue to combine our oil and gas activities with renewable energy the way we do today,» says Statoil’s Chief Executive Officer Helge Lund.
He believes that one of the most important tasks for the years ahead is to reduce the cost of renewable energy.
«The question is: Are we the right company to handle these challenges? Or should we concentrate on our role as an oil and gas company and instead focus on CO 2 cleaning and the cleanest production possible?» says Lund.
Our newspaper has an appointment with the CEO.
Helge Lund has been at the helm of Statoil for six years now. Journalists have been trying to dig up some dirt on him for just as long. We are still digging. Except from having been captain of the football team, student council leader and Boy Scout troop leader, we have found nothing. The term Wonder Boy springs to mind.
We therefore suspect that his failed pre-interview attempts to adjust his chair higher are all staged.
«I am not very technical,» he says laughing.
We are all ears when he starts telling us about his biggest blunder. He was replacing the wood panelling of the shed at his parents’ holiday cabin. He was at it for several days, sawing and hammering, until the more practical members of his family pointed out that the panelling had been put on the wrong way.
There was nothing for it but to take it all off again. The CEO is chuckling now, but we are still not convinced he is as clumsy as he makes out. He probably only has this one blunder story in his repertoire, as he told the same story to Aftenbladet in 2004. This only serves to prove our suspicions; he is as straight and square as they come. He is charming and capable, a Boy Scout leader grown up.
However, sometimes temperatures do run high, particularly when criticised for not being sufficiently involved in renewable energy.
«Many people want Statoil to invest in all types of renewable energy activities. Often with no concern for whether the company can achieve realistic profitability within a reasonable time span. It is an easy stand to take for people who are under no obligation to run a profitable business. But I know who will be blamed if Statoil decides to invest five billion Norwegian Kroner in something which is «in» today, but turns out to be a fiasco in five years’ time,» Lund says in a decisive tone.
In 2004, he left Kjell Inge Røkke and his position as CEO of the Aker Kværner group. The new position in Statoil draws constant media attention.
«There is an enormous public interest in the company. I was not prepared for that,» says Lund.
As one of the most powerful people in Norway, he is often recognised in the street. Consequently, his wife, Else-Cathrine Lund, does not talk to the press. The family wants to lead as normal a life as possible, and Lund has no ambitions of owning neither a Jaguar nor a house in the affluent Oslo area of Holmenkollåsen. He just wants to be a normal dad.
«Is that possible?»
«Well, I don’t come home in time for dinner that often,» says Lund. He does not want to give the impression that it is easy to combine an executive position with family life.
«I do try to achieve a good work-life balance. If there is disharmony between the two, you end up failing at both. However, imbalance occurs at different levels for different people,» Lund says.
Having to forego other activities is the price he pays for being a CEO.
«I do not go fox hunting. I am not very sociable at work and decline many dinner invitations. There is no time for boys’ trips,» Lund says.
The 47 year old CEO follows in the footsteps of Arve Johnsen, Harald Norvik and Olav Fjell.
«As CEO, what would you like to be remembered for?»
«Globalisation. What doesn’t grow dies. We are therefore intensifying our international presence. At the same time, the Norwegian Shelf will continue to be our most important area for many years yet. However, we have increased foreign production from 90.000 to 550.000 barrels in the last seven years.»
Employee representatives will remember him for introducing a change in corporate culture. They tell of «classified» documents and non-disclosure agreements. There is less room for debate.
«Statoil is not a democracy. It is perfectly all right to disagree with the management, but we try to keep the most heated discussions in-house,» Lund says.
«So you are tightening the reins a bit?»
«I wouldn’t put it that way. We have become a more professional company,» Lund replies.
Statoil employees will also remember Helge Lund for his anti-corruption training initiatives. Now, everyone knows how to handle a border guard requesting payment, or a business partner offering expensive gifts. The training followed in the wake of the 2003 Horton affair (corruption case that caused the resignation of his predecessor Olav Fjell).
«You are present in some of the most corrupt countries in the world. How do you keep your hands clean when you are playing with mud?»
«We have seen the cost of involvement in dodgy projects. I do not see a single reason why Statoil should have to operate on the edge anywhere in the world,» says Lund, promising full transparency for everyone who wants to take a closer look at Statoil’s activities.
Next to him, Statoil’s corporate star in effeminate pink is displayed on a drooping pennant. Last year when StatoilHydro decided that the company should be called only Statoil after all, Lund summoned everyone to an open meeting. It is at these meeting he wins his employee’s support.
«He is so charismatic,» employees say, female employees in particularly. Not many of them have actually talked to him. Most have only caught a glimpse of him stepping in or out of the revolving doors or rushing through the offices. But they have heard him talk – from the podium of Forus sports hall.
From this platform he is able to convince even the most sceptical employees that oil and gas produced by Statoil is a good thing, in order for the Chinese to achieve the same standard of living that we have. When Statoil purchased the oil sand area in Canada in 2007, people knew little about this type of oil production. Now, politicians and investors have discovered that the oil sand is dirty and emissions from production sky-high.
«The general focus on climate has challenged us. Being Statoil has become more of a «squeeze,» says Lund in a neutral tone.
Investors have engaged experts on ethics to determine whether investing in oil sand activities is a breach of ethical standards. Native Americans have asked shareholders to consider «Mother Earth» and environmentalist have staged demonstrations outside Statoil’s offices.
«And that is before we have even produced a single barrel from oil sand,» Lund sighs. He believes that his critics should be glad that Statoil is involved in oil sand activities. Norwegian companies will extract the oil in a more profitable and environmentally friendly manner than anyone else.
«But we realise that we cannot communicate our way out of oil sand, we have to deliver commercially,» Lund says.