Asia's richest man plans to invest $103 billion in green projects

Reliance Industries, controlled by Mr Mukesh Ambani, has signed pacts with the state government of Gujarat for a total investment of 5.96 trillion rupees (S$108.5 billion). PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) - The conglomerate led by Mr Mukesh Ambani, Asia's richest man, announced plans to invest US$76 billion (S$103 billion) towards clean energy projects, dwarfing an earlier commitment of US$10 billion by the world's biggest fossil-fuel billionaire.

Reliance Industries, controlled by Mr Ambani, has signed pacts with the state government of Gujarat for a total investment of 5.96 trillion rupees (S$108.5 billion), according to an exchange filing on Thursday (Jan 13).

Of this, about 5 trillion rupees would be used over the next 15 years to build 100 gigawatts of renewable power projects and a green hydrogen network while 600 billion rupees will be for factories making solar modules, hydrogen electrolysers, fuel cells and storage batteries, the filing said.

The remaining sum is to be spent in the retail-to-refining group's new and existing projects, including the upgrade of its telecom network for 5G services and expansion of its consumer retail businesses. Reliance has already "started the process of scouting land" for its renewable energy power projects and has requested the Gujarat administration for 182,110 hectares in the arid Kutch region.

Though the investment pact is just a memorandum of understanding right now, it outlines the scope of Mr Ambani's green ambitions and is a big step up from the US$10 billion investment over three years he had announced in June.

Mr Ambani is in the midst of transforming his fossil fuel-fed empire and pivoting it towards green energy and digital technology.

Ambitious target

These projects will also boost Reliance's target to make its operations carbon neutral by 2035 - an ambitious target for a company that derives 60 per cent of its revenue from oil refining and petrochemicals.

The announcement follows the Gautam Adani-led conglomerate's pact with South Korean steel giant Posco to explore business opportunities in India, including setting up a green steel mill in Gujarat, with a potential investment of US$5 billion. Billionaire Adani has committed to invest a total of US$70 billion by 2030 across its green energy value chain.

Both the billionaires and their ability to walk the talk on their green energy commitments are crucial if the Narendra Modi-led government is to achieve its target of making the country net carbon zero by 2070. Like their global peers, Reliance and Adani groups, who made their fortunes from fossil fuels, are now aggressively expanding their clean energy footprint amid mounting pressure to join the fight against climate change.

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