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Equinor's new U.S. wind chief Molly Morris talks strategy

Photo illustration of Molly Morris in front of wind turbine silhouettes arranged in a pattern

Molly Morris. Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Equinor

Equinor this week promoted Molly Morris to president of the company's U.S. wind division. She spoke with Axios yesterday at the American Clean Power Association's offshore wind conference in Providence, Rhode Island.

Why it matters: Equinor is among the world's largest developers of offshore wind. It brings particular expertise in building floating platforms, which will be vital off the U.S. Pacific Coast.

  • But the company traces its roots to oil and gas — and the energy crisis in Europe has prompted Equinor to reinforce its fossil fuel commitments.

Of note: The first of three pillars comprising the company's strategy: continuing and even expanding oil and gas development, Morris says.

  • The other two pillars: a renewables portfolio spearheaded by wind and some solar, and "low-carbon solutions" such as carbon capture and hydrogen production.
  • The company is investing $23 billion in its renewables and low-carbon solutions portfolios through 2026.

Catch up fast: The conversation took place just a couple of hours after the Interior Department announced the country's first lease-sale of offshore wind areas in the Pacific.

On the planned offshore wind auction in the Pacific: "Some people want to continue with more pilot-type of floating, but we feel very confident that the industry is ready for full-scale floating offshore wind. And that's what the California opportunity would be."

Project development costs are up 25%: Steel and fuel are expensive, global supply chains are still a mess.

  • "The towers are probably the tightest part of the market right now."

Further potential chokepoints: Slowdowns in permitting, and building ports large enough to handle massive turbines and blades.

  • "We don't want to create this massive bottleneck for all these projects that come up behind us.”

The biggest short-term bottleneck: "Project resources," including skilled laborers.

  • "Equinor needs to prioritize which projects we will put through first, because we only have so many project people, engineers."
  • The current priority: oil and gas projects in the North Sea. The company's looking at expanding its production there.
  • "A lot of that had to do with Norway having very beneficial tax schemes that were presented during COVID." Plus, with Russia cutting off gas supplies to Europe, "Equinor is now the top supplier of natural gas to Europe."
  • "But I can't say that that has robbed people away from the renewables activity. If anything, we are too short in this area, and we've gone out and hired additional people."
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