By Mark Williamson Group Business Correspondent
SCOTTISH Hydroelectric owner SSE lost another 70,000 household customers in
the latest quarter and saw renewable energy output fall well below
expectations amid unhelpful weather conditions.
The Perth-based energy giant said the total number of energy customer
accounts in the British domestic market fell to 5.71 million during the
three months to June 30 from 5.78m at the end of the preceding quarter.
SSE has been hit by an exodus of customers amid competition from new
entrants in a market long dominated by big players.
The group lost 570,000 customers in the year to March and recorded a sharp
fall in profits at its British household energy supply business.
In an update on trading in the first quarter, SSE said yesterday it still
hopes to have quit the retail market by the second half of next year.
Stores sector veteran Katie Bikerstaffe became head of the retail business
in June with a brief to deliver a new future for the business outside of
the SSE Group.
SSE said it It expects Ms Bickerstaffe to “continue progress towards a
listing or new ownership by the second half of calendar year 2020” without
The company could face challenges in its attempt to offload the retail
division amid the complications caused by the introduction of a cap on
variable tariffs by Ofgem in January.
A controversial plan to merge the retail business with npower fell apart in
December. The groups scrapped the planned deals citing the likely impact of
challenging market conditions.
Yesterday SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “The early
months of our financial year have brought some short-term challenges and
some encouraging longer-term developments.”
He said SSE’s decision to focus on the renewable energy generation and
networks businesses had been vindicated by the emerging political consensus
about the need to tackle climate change.
“The fact the UK has become the first major economy to legislate for net
zero emissions by 2050 is a key development in the fight against climate
change and reinforces SSE’s strategic focus on regulated electricity
networks and renewable energy,” said Mr Phillips-Davies.
However, SSE noted that the weather across the UK and Ireland meant
renewable output in the three months to June 30 was around 20% lower than
expected in a typical year.
The amount of rainfall and the strength of the winds experienced were both
SSE’ s experience highlights how dependent renewable energy generators are
on weather conditions that they can not influence.
This puts the onus on them to deploy a range of technologies across the
markets they serve to generate, store and transmit renewable energy.
In June SSE said it would need to invest more than £2bn in the power
transmission network in northern Scotland in coming years to support the
drive to tackle climate change
It said a significant proportion of the investment will be in the North
East, with a particular focus on accommodating the growth in offshore wind.
The group noted yesterday that it will be seeking support for three
renewable energy projects under the official Contracts for Difference scheme.
Directors underlined their confidence in the renewables-focused strategy
last month by approving plans to close SSE’s last remaining coal-fired
plant, at Fiddlers Ferry in Cheshire by March 31 2020.
The group remains confident its strategy will allow it to deliver on the
five-year dividend plan set out in May last year.
The overall outlook for the financial year is unchanged.
The company’s remuneration report was approved by 99.85 per cent of votes
cast at the AGM signalling shareholders are supportive of management.
SSE shares closed up 11p at £11.64 yesterday.



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