Challenges. Two years ago, when TotalEnergies was set up, you said that it was more “fun” to lead a multi-energy firm. It’s always like that?
Patrick Pouyanne. The internal dynamic that we have created around a multi-energy company is good. At TotalEnergies, 89% of employees share this ambition and 86% are convinced that we will get there. The boss that I am is always having fun, even if 2022 was a paradoxical year. On the one hand, energy prices have exploded, on the other hand we have generated 45 billion euros in cash, a figure that we had never imagined reaching.
Even if our profits do not come from our service stations, these two phenomena have exacerbated passions. There is a repulsive love relationship with TotalEnergies that generates fantasies.
Does this antagonism tense you up?
2015 and the Paris Agreement were a turning point. The new generation has a high awareness of climate issues and I can clearly see that it considers that our generation is not doing its job well enough. What bothers me is that the TotalEnergies bashing can affect team morale.
But just because 20% of young polytechnic students say they don’t want to work for us doesn’t mean the remaining 80% want to do the same. Last year, for one position, we received 170 CVs. But it is obvious, there is a hardening of positions.
On your side too. You no longer hesitate to sue, Greenpeace in particular…
When Greenpeace communicates false data and implies in a wacky report that we are lying about our carbon emissions, it is intentional. They attack the image of a listed company. So we decided to respond and asked that the report be withdrawn. Today, whoever shouts the loudest is right and it becomes the truth. Going to court is not the path I advocate. But we have to defend ourselves.
Read also“There is a culture of lies at Total”: the NGO lawyer believes in the greenwashing trial
Is it important for employees?
Yes. When on the Russian question some people accused us of war crimes, we prosecuted them. For a long time we were the good guys playing low and it looked like we could be beaten up. It’s over. The current controversies are frustrating because they obscure the transformation that we have put in place. Last year, we invested four billion in low-carbon energies and we will be at five billion this year excluding natural gas, even if it participates in the transition by replacing coal.
Climate activists blame you for not doing enough. As these activities do not depend on the price of oil, the return on investment is more certain than that of hydrocarbons…
No, because at TotalEnergies, our electricity model wants to take advantage of price volatility. We are not an infrastructure fund, we are not looking for guaranteed income. Our know-how is to manage to be resilient when prices are low and to earn money when they are high.
Today, three quarters of your investments are still in hydrocarbons… ¨Because the world is not done with hydrocarbons and yields from oil fields are decreasing by 4% per year. The International Energy Agency says that to be in the trajectory of the Paris Agreement, new oil and gas fields must be stopped. The problem, and the IEA recognizes it, is that the demand for hydrocarbons in the world continues to increase. This year, oil demand will reach 102 million barrels per day against 100 million last year.
Read alsoJump in profits thanks to fossil fuels: is TotalEnergies really doing better than the others for the planet?
By developing new fields, you maintain dependence on fossil fuels…
We don’t maintain it! TotalEnergies does not build cars or planes. It would be in our interest to produce less since prices would skyrocket. When we increase our production, we are accused of polluting. When we produce less, we are accused of organizing scarcity. It is the income from hydrocarbons that allows us to invest massively and develop renewables.
Do you have any regrets about Uganda? Your oil project which will see the construction of a 1,400 kilometer heated pipeline is contested from all sides. Even the banks don’t support it…
We haven’t been very good. We did not know how to anticipate. It is the syndrome of the society of engineers which does not see the subject which is in the process of escaping it. We did not see that Uganda was going to become the symbol of the fight against oil. We underestimated it, because the discussions with the government dragged on the question of the compensation of the people. These relocation issues should have been managed upstream. Since then, we have improved the initial copy. The area of the park impacted – 10% – has been reduced to less than 0.03%.
Should the Ugandan project have been abandoned? No. It is not TotalEnergies that decides. Uganda is a sovereign country. Should we be on board? We have a Chinese partner who would have liked to take the leadership of the project. But due to the environmental conditions, we considered that we had to be in control of the implementation of the project. This project will be done with or without us.
When you say “the Ugandans” who are you talking about? The Ugandan president, a nomenklatura in Kampala?
President Museveni has been there for a long time. But in the world he is not the only one. What Uganda will do with the money produced from the oil is up to Uganda to decide. One thing is certain, the money will go to the country’s public treasury. For our part, we will reinvest part of our income in renewable energies in Uganda. With the ambition of one gigawatt, or one billion dollars. We will develop this multi-energy policy in most countries where we produce natural resources. Iraq and Libya for example.
We did not see that Uganda was going to become the symbol of the fight against oil.
Do you also regret the controversy over your salary? Last year, you tweeted being “tired of this accusation of me increasing 52%” in 2021?
Of course. I was wrong with that tweet. I was right in substance but the form was wrong. I think we have to be transparent about salaries. The country will progress when we manage to talk normally about money. It is not by not talking about it that we will advance the collective debate in France.
I’m tired of this accusation of “increasing myself by 52%” – here is the real evolution of my remuneration since 2017 – it is constant except for 2020 because I voluntarily cut my salary and my variable part has normally fallen with the results of #totalenergies l https://t.co/QdqtVuwuew pic.twitter.com/BYIgxaX4VD— Patrick Pouyanné (@PPouyanne) October 18, 2022
Your 2023 salary could reach 10.8 million euros…
The fixed and variable salary can reach a maximum of 4.3 million euros if TotalEnergies does everything well, the rest are shares which are also subject to performance conditions and whose price varies. It’s a very high salary but lower than that of some bosses in France and much lower than that of my peers in the oil industry. At TotalEnergies, there is debate on whether or not to align my salary with that of my peers abroad. I consider that the reference is the salaries of the CEOs of the CAC 40 in France.
Read alsoTotalEnergies: the real figures of the remuneration of Patrick Pouyanné
TotalEnergies’ profit amounted to 19.5 billion euros and the company paid 274 million in taxes in France. Do you consider the group’s contribution to the national effort sufficient?
Patrick Pouyanne. We paid 33 billion dollars in taxes mainly in producing countries. When dividends are paid to foreign shareholders, the State levies 500 million euros in taxes. In France, TotalEnergies is taxed on the profits we make there. Our contribution to the national effort primarily concerns security of supply.
Last year, fifteen million tonnes of additional liquefied natural gas were transported to Europe, and France did not run out of gas. The contribution also concerns the personnel of TotalEnergies. Salaries increased by 7.5%. The 65,000 employee shareholders also received 700 million euros in dividends last year. When dividends are paid to foreign shareholders, the State levies 500 million euros in taxes.
Your term ends in 2024. You have the option of serving an additional term. Is succession a question for you?
From day one, it’s been a major topic. I happened to take over from someone who lost their life in an accident. The company is bigger than the men and women who run it. Every year, I say to the lead administrator: “if something happens to me, this is what I recommend to do” and I give him an envelope with the name of a potential successor. At TotalEnergies, the bosses follow one another within the company.
Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.
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