A record year for low-carbon generation

Those of us who keep an eye on the energy press will have seen Carbon Brief’s analysis which states low-carbon sources generated more UK electricity than fossil fuels in 2017.

While this was pleasing to read, it wasn’t a surprise for many. The GB energy market is seen as one of the most progressive in the world when it comes to low-carbon energy. As a country we have invested heavily in low-carbon technologies and SSE has played a pivotal role over the last decade or so.

As a group, since 2010, we’ve invested around £11bn in the GB and Irish energy markets, and the vast majority of that has been in creating renewable generation or the associated networks upgrades to allow renewable electricity to flow to the main population hubs.

In the seven years since 2010 we’ve increased our renewable generation capacity to 3.7GW from 2.3GW by building projects like Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm off the coast of Suffolk and Strathy North onshore wind farm on the northern tip of the mainland.

Getting renewable generation to the main population hubs is just as important as producing it, so our Networks business has also undoubtedly played a crucial role in this week’s Carbon Brief findings. Putting the correct infrastructure in place to transport the renewable energy of all generators, not just SSE, from the north of Scotland to the main population hubs has been a major part of SSE’s investment in the last decade.

Beauly-Denny was a landmark project for our business and at 220km, it spans Scotland from the Highlands to the Central Belt. It was the first and the most critical piece of a jigsaw which is still coming together across the north of Scotland today. By the end of 2015, almost 1,500MW of additional renewable generation development had already been enabled. Today, the total generation figure has more than doubled from its pre Beauly-Denny level with over 4,000MW now connected. By the end of 2018, helped by further major projects like the £1.1bn Caithness-Moray, that figure is expected to rise beyond 5,500MW.

We are now into a programme of investing around £6bn in the years 2016 to 2020, again, mainly in electricity networks and renewable energy. In addition to upgrading our transmission and distribution systems, the 588MW Beatrice offshore wind farm, in itself a £2.6bn investment (SSE share 40%), and the 227MW Stronelairg onshore wind farm should increase in the amount of renewable capacity in our portfolio to around 4.3GW.

As a responsible company SSE shares the country’s aim to deliver secure, affordable power, in line with domestic and international climate targets. The breadth, scale and scope of our operations; our commitment to our stakeholders; and our desire to be a responsible business means SSE has a significant role to play in continuing to set records for low carbon generation in the years ahead.

About the author

Alistair Phillips-Davies Chief Executive

Alistair became Chief Executive of SSE on 1 July 2013. He has a degree in Natural Sciences and is a qualified Chartered Accountant. He has worked in the energy industry since 1997, when he joined Southern Electric. He was appointed to the Board of SSE as Energy Supply Director in 2002 and was appointed Deputy Chief Executive in 2012. As Chief Executive, he leads the Executive Committee and the rest of the SSE team in the day-to-day running and operations of SSE and is responsible for implementing the strategy and policy set by the Board.

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