Shell promotes former AGL innovation boss to head global ‘new energies’ division

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Former AGL ‘new energies’ boss to lead Shell’s global expansion into electricity business, with Australia identified as a key target market.

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Elisabeth Brinton. Credit: Supplied.
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The former head of AGL Energy’s ‘new energy’ division is set to lead Shell’s global expansion into the clean electricity sector after the oil and gas giant announced that Elisabeth Brinton would be promoted into the executive vice president role.

Brinton has previously served as the executive general manager of AGL’s New Energy division in Australia, which had been established to lead the company’s expansion primarily into clean energy technologies, but was disbanded as part of a major restructure.

Brinton has been serving as global vice president of strategy and portfolio at Shell New Energies since late 2018 and will be promoted into the new role as executive vice president of Shell New Energies in April.

She will now oversee Shell’s push into clean electricity, and the initial focus will be on the Australia market – and incumbents such as AGL – where Shell intends to take a leading position. It has already bought ERM Power.

At AGL, Brinton oversaw the establishment of AGL’s first residential virtual power plant, as well as overseeing the growth and subsequent sale of AGL’s metering business Active Stream to Ausgrid for $165 million in 2017. The ‘new energies’ division had been established under the leadership of former AGL CEO Andy Vesey, who had lured Brinton from the United States to lead the division in Australia.

However, AGL dissolved the division in 2018, which saw Brinton leave AGL for Shell. Brinton will replace Mark Gainsborough in the executive vice president role, with Gainsborough retiring from Shell after a 39-year career with the company, including almost four years in charge of the new energies division.

“I’m looking forward to contributing to the energy transition in new ways in the next few years. Congratulations to Elisabeth Brinton, who takes the reins from April 1st, and a huge thank you to everyone for all we have achieved together,” Gainsborough said in a post on LinkedIn.

Brinton likewise announced that she would be taking over Gainsborough’s role as executive vice president via LinkedIn, thanking her processor for “his guidance, support and momentous contribution throughout a distinguished career with Shell.”

The promotion of an executive will extensive experience in Australia’s electricity sector further signals Shell’s shift into electricity, as a company that has traditionally focused on oil and gas looks to diversify its business into areas that can be decarbonised.

Shell has identified Australia as one of its key target markets for the company’s expansion into the electricity sector, and the company has set itself a target to reinvest up to $US2 billion a year in ‘new energies’, which has so far focused on shifting into electricity.

Shell has already made substantial acquisitions as part of its entry into the Australian electricity market, including the purchase of battery manufacturer Sonnen, the acquisition of electricity retailer ERM for more than $600 million, and an almost half stake in solar project developer Ecso Pacific.

ERM Power shareholders agreed to the sale of the commercial and industrial electricity retailer in November, which provided a major windfall return to founder Trevor St Baker.

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