Passion for green energy

He was part of the problem, but now Tor Arnesen wants to be part of the solution. The former CEO of Norske Shell believes the green transition will happen faster with BI on board.

Position: Partner & chair of the board, PeoplewithE

Bosted: Stavanger

Education: BI – Executive Master of Management,

Organizational Leadership

We must save our planet. It's as simple as that.

The former Shell CEO leans passionately over the cafeteria table at BI's campus in Stavanger.

Outside, the sun shines from a blue sky over the North Sea. Far out there, the oil rigs lie, pumping oil from the depths. After 37 years in the oil industry, Tor Arnesen knows most of what's happening in the energy sector. Now, he's doing everything he can to connect BI closely to the green transition. That's why he's involved in the BI Alumni Advisory Board, the board responsible for ensuring that BI's educational offerings meet the needs of the business world.

-I wanted to contribute to the needs I saw, especially because after my time in the oil and gas industry, I became involved in renewable energy. To accelerate the green transition, we need as many educational institutions as possible to contribute to the changes.

Giving back to BI

Students participating "Næringslivsdagene" stroll around him. Tor Arnesen has had a close relationship with BI for many years. Alongside his job at Norske Shell, he himself has studied at BI on multiple occasions. He recently completed his Executive Master of Management degree.

-It is part of the continuous learning that I have tried to maintain. BI offers practical learning that is suitable for the times we live in," he says.

-BI has given me a lot, and I want as many people as possible to have a good experience with BI as an institution. I want BI to be relevant and engaged in more than just itself, to be part of developing a better society," says Tor Arnesen.

On this morning, during BI's Business Days, he has just given a lecture alongside his partner, organizational psychologist Endre Lima Løvås, on how smart companies attract and retain talented individuals. Human resources was his area of work for a significant part of his career before becoming a CEO. Now, Arnesen generously shares his knowledge with BI students.


"We need to accelerate the energy transition. And we cannot achieve that without industrializing, for example, offshore wind turbines."

Tor Arnesen, partner & chair of the board

Pure magic 

-The three values are equally important. Do you agree with that? Learning, engagement, and respect," he summarizes for the students.

And there, the business leader suddenly starts performing magic. With each point, he magically pulls a rope end out of his sleeve.

-But it's not enough. It has to be connected. You want to be part of a culture where these values create a unity so that it becomes the world's best organization, together with all of you," he says.

And just like that, in front of astonished students, the three short rope ends turn into one long connected rope.

Tor Arnesen is an experienced magician who often used magic tricks to break the ice with his colleagues in the oil industry.

-After all, it's the people who create value. You have to go around and talk to people and show care," he says to a student seeking advice after the lecture. Tor Arnesen takes his time in the conversation.

Listen to the Youth 

-That's when I realized that we had to get Shell involved in the green transition. We had to show people that we were serious and that it wasn't just words. Of course, we started by doing everything we could to reduce emissions, and then it continued with: Can we also make money from clean energy?

This is where the environmental commitment began for the person who would become the CEO of Norske Shell. But are people from the oil industry really the right ones to create an environmentally friendly society?

-Yes, I believe so. Many of us who have worked in the oil and gas industry for a long time have come to understand that we can no longer subject our planet to significant greenhouse gas emissions. Research and international reports show that we cannot live with this. I wasn't aware of it when I started working in oil and gas.

Today, Tor Arnesen is convinced that BI students share his goal.

-For a long time, young people have been asking, 'What will we live off after oil?' That's why it's important for decision-makers to try to facilitate fulfilling their desires and needs, and for us to be able to combine what society needs with what people are interested in working on, he says.

Green goals 

As an early retiree, the former oil executive now spends his time accelerating the green transition.

-We need to speed up the energy transition. And we can't do it without industrializing, for example, offshore wind turbines," says Arnesen, who utilizes his network to the fullest extent.

He holds several board positions in organizations involved in industrial transformation and innovation. Among them, he serves as chairman of the energy cluster Norwegian Energy Solutions in Stavanger, which has 120 member companies, including BI.

-All the major energy giants that aim to reduce their emissions and excel in renewable energy are part of the cluster. We connect them with academia and small businesses, which are entrepreneurial ventures with great ideas, explains Arnesen.

Investors also contribute to realizing these promising ideas. According to Arnesen, teamwork is essential for achieving the green transition. He draws inspiration from Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the light bulb. All of Edison's inventions were created in large, interdisciplinary teams. 150 years ago, he predicted that the future energy sources would be the sun, waves, and wind.

-In the past, it wasn't profitable to invest in alternative energy. But today, the costs have decreased for solar energy and offshore wind. We are exploring the possibilities of making it profitable.

Hydrogen can also become a valuable energy source, and combinations of multiple technologies can make it economically viable. This makes it easier to believe in the transition, says Arnesen.

He urges BI to equip students to contribute to the necessary changes.

-My suggestion to BI is that the business world needs individuals who are innovative, creative, entrepreneurial, and adaptable to change," says Tor Arnesen.

-The business world is undergoing significant transformation, but the changes are happening too slowly.