BP has named former RWE Renewables chief executive Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath as the new head of its fast-growing renewables and low carbon energy unit, putting one of the biggest names in the green power industry at the forefront of the supermajor’s energy transition plans.

Dotzenrath – who left the German utility giant at the end of August – replaces Dev Sanyal as executive vice president, gas and low carbon energy, with the latter set to leave BP at the end of the year for a new role elsewhere.

After joining BP in March 2022, Dotzenrath will lead a renewable and low-carbon push, with headline targets to develop 20 gigawatts net of renewable assets by 2025 and 50GW by 2030.

Dotzenrath is among the highest-profile executives in the renewable power sector after steering RWE Renewables through the integration of the former E.ON and Innogy green energy businesses that resulted from a mega-merger between their German utility parent groups. She had previously been chief executive for E.ON Climate & Renewables.

By the time she left last month, RWE Renewables was among the largest green power players in the world and among a clutch of leaders in offshore wind, one of the key growth areas for BP under its own renewables plans.

BP chief executive Bernard Looney said he was "delighted" Dotzenrath had joined the company to help lead BP’s transformation from international oil company to integrated energy company.

"She is exactly the right person for BP, at exactly the right time – a globally respected and deeply experienced leader in renewable energy with a proven track record of transforming and growing businesses," Looney added.

“I have been hugely impressed by the quality of her strategic thinking and her deep operational expertise. But as impressive as this is, I am even more impressed with how she has done it – leading teams with the right values and a strong sense of purpose.”

Dotzenrath said: “I spent much of my career building renewables businesses and I’m thrilled about the opportunity ahead with BP. Its global reach, ambitious low carbon growth targets and vision for a net zero future are a great platform for making a material contribution to a more sustainable and inclusive energy future. By integrating gas, renewables, hydrogen and biofuels at scale we can build a world-leading business in low carbon.”

Transition pacesetter

BP has since early 2020 – when Looney announced plans to turn the UK-based supermajor into a net-zero emissions company by 2050 – been a pacesetter among oil and gas giants diversifying into renewables along with fellow European groups such as Total, Shell and Equinor.

By the end of the second quarter of this year Looney said a 24.9GW renewables pipeline was already in place, 3.7GW of that in projects that have taken a final investment decision.

BP’s renewables growth has been dominated by solar – mostly through its Lightsource BP joint venture – and offshore wind, where the group has within a year come from a standing start to become a major player, first by buying a half share of Equinor’s projects off New York and then by securing new acreage in the UK Irish Sea. BP has also stated its ambitions in floating wind auctions off Scotland and Norway.

Looney has on several occasions robustly defended BP’s strategy against claims by some analysts that it overpaid for the Irish Sea acreage, pointing to a strict returns threshold and saying offshore wind is just one part of a new value chain for integrated energy companies that will also include green hydrogen.

Departing: Dev Sanyal will leave BP at the end of the year Photo: BP

Sanyal to lead Varo's energy transition

Sanyal, a BP veteran over three decades, and has been at the core of BP’s latest push into renewables – an earlier foray had fizzled out several years earlier – and formed the joint venture with Lightsource that marked its start in 2017.

Looney said: “I have worked with Dev for decades and have seen first-hand the incredible contributions he has made to BP, most recently creating our gas and low carbon energy business and building first-class positions in solar, biofuels and offshore wind. He has always been a tireless champion and ambassador for BP around the world.”

It was confirmed later on Tuesday Sanyal is leaving to take up the role of chief executive of Vitol subsidiary Varo Energy from 1 January next year, overseeing the company's growth as it looks to evolve its business with the energy transition.

Varo claims it will look to leverage its asset base to capitalise on opportunities in renewable energy, from its existing biofuel business to hydrogen and decarbonisation initiatives, among other energy solutions.

"Dev has hands on experience of repositioning a business in the context of the energy transition," said Vitol chief executive Russell Hardy.

"We are delighted he is joining Varo and believe his track record and deep understanding of the complexities associated with the energy transition will enable Varo to capitalize on the opportunities ahead.”

Speaking on his appointment, Sanyal said he was was "honoured" to have been asked to lead Varo at a pivotal time in its energy transition.

"I look forward to accelerating the development of our renewable products business and taking advantage of the wealth of opportunities presented by the energy transition," said Sanyal.

"We have an excellent starting point with our outstanding infrastructure and logistics combined with a track record of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. The journey to date and the ambition shown by Varo and its world class shareholders is incredibly compelling and I am excited by the company’s potential in a lower carbon future.”

Varo chief operating officer Julian Stoll will take up the role of interim chief executive until Sanyal officially joins the company next year.

Varo is based in Switzerland and operates across the downstream fuel supply chain with refining, storage, blending, distribution, sales and marketing assets.

It also holds a 51% stake in SilviCarbon, which invests in nature-based carbon removal projects.

(This article first appeared in Upstream's renewable energy sister publication Recharge on 14 September, 2021)