SSE powers up spending on offshore wind project

It has been a difficult year for offshore wind power. Picture: Getty
It has been a difficult year for offshore wind power. Picture: Getty
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THE only Scottish offshore wind project with a guaranteed contract in place received more than £10 million in investment last year as owner SSE seeks to get it up and running.

The Beatrice scheme, in the Moray Firth, was one of only five offshore wind projects selected by the UK government under a scheme to ease access to the new subsidy regime for renewable energy technologies.

Industry body Scottish Renewables said the figure shows the huge potential of Scotland’s emerging offshore wind sector and called for contractual certainty to be extended to more projects.

Plans for the 140-turbine Beatrice array represent just 16 per cent of the current consented capacity off the Scottish coast.

Lindsay Leask, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Last year was a difficult one for offshore wind, despite all commercial schemes finally receiving planning consent from the Scottish Government.

“Beatrice is the only offshore wind project in Scotland which currently has the certainty of a contract with the Department of Energy and Climate Change which guarantees a price for the energy it will produce, but even that scheme has not yet reached a financial investment decision.

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“These challenges make SSE’s investment figure for 2014 all the more positive, and show what could be achieved if all the projects in Scottish waters had the same certainty over their financial future.”

In November, Perth-based SSE agreed to sell 25 per cent of its shareholding in the wind farm to fund management company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. The £10m investment in 2014 includes money spent on offshore monitoring work and post-consent work instructed by licensing authority Marine Scotland.

SSE Renewables and Repsol, which owns the remaining 25 per cent of Beatrice, aim to submit a detailed application on the onshore cable route for the 664-megawatt project early this year. It is expected that construction on the project will begin in 2016.

Details of its investment in Beatrice came as SSE became the latest “Big Six” energy provider to announce a cut in gas tariffs. However, it said the move would not take effect until 30 April, much later than those announced by rivals.

Its trading update yesterday also revealed that the firm had shed nearly 400,000 customer accounts, to 8.71 million, in the nine months to the end of December.

Meanwhile, it noted that the mostly mild winter means average gas consumption per household fell by 15.8 per cent over the period, while electricity usage was off by 5.6 per cent.

But the group confirmed that its full-year dividend would continue to rise by at least the RPI inflation rate.