By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

As more attention turns to reducing emissions and climate change, it is encouraging to see some predominately oil- and natural gas-focused companies also are pursuing renewable energy sources.

That’s not to say that every oil and gas company should start dabbling in renewables. It is perhaps better for companies to stick to their own areas of expertise, and do their part to reduce their environmental footprint by taking advantage of other technologies.

But each energy source has strengths and weaknesses.

Energy can be harnessed via solar panels, wind mills and tidal waves; however, changes in weather patterns could leave you in a bind on cloudy or windless days if renewable energy is not stored. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, can be stored and transported more easily. Plus, hydrocarbons are part of the crucial mix for everyday items such as plastics, electronics and toiletries to name a few. But greenhouse gas emissions are among the drawbacks.

With global energy demand expected to rise by 37% by 2035, or an average of 1.4% a year, according to the BP Energy Outlook, why not foster the growth of all types of energy while working to lessen environmental impacts?

Demand for natural gas is expected to grow the fastest among fossil fuels, but rising conventional gas production and shale gas are expected to meet the higher demand. But the outlook also warns that emissions could rise by 25% by 2035.

Renewable energy could lessen the impact, and some energy companies are already making strides in renewable energy production.

“The world will need all the energy available to accommodate this growth in demand, meaning both fossil fuels and renewables,” Paris-based Total said on its website.

Total is among the handful of energy companies that are tackling both renewable and nonrenewable forms of energy to meet the world’s growing energy needs. The company said it has decided to invest half a billion euros annually in renewable energies alongside its fossil fuel activities. It is targeting solar power and biomass.

Total predicts that global energy demand will grow by more than 30% by 2035, and renewable energies production could triple by 2035. But renewables would still account for only 6% of the global energy mix.

In addition to being the majority shareholder in SunPower and a partner in Abu Dhabi’s Shames 1 solar power plant, Total is building a biorefinery in France that could produce up to 500,000 metric tons of biodiesel annually by 2017.

Malaysia’s Petronas is also investing in solar energy. The company’s Solar Independent Power Plant went online in 2012 utilizing photovoltaic technology, which converts solar energy into electricity.

Capable of generating up to 12 gigawatt hours annually, Petronas said energy generated at the plant can run up to 4,500 households and lower emissions by about 8,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually.

But like everything else, the economics of renewable energy production must work for the producers and the consumers. Moreover, regulatory uncertainty can complicate the matter.

Good news is that the renewables are already making an impact in the power generation sector.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the renewable energy share in global power generation could increase from 22% in 2013 to more than 26% by 2020.

“The report says the geography of deployment will increasingly shift to emerging economies and developing countries, which will make up two-thirds of the renewable electricity expansion to 2020,” IEA said. “China alone will account for nearly 40% of total renewable power capacity growth and requires almost one-third of new investment to 2020.”

Technology, better financing and deployment to newer markets with better resources are driving costs down, the IEA said, making the rise possible. However, the agency warned that policy variability poses risk.

Velda Addison can be reached at