SSE loses 50,000 customers to rival power suppliers

SSE has seen 50,000 customers desert it in favour of rival energy suppliers as the Perth-based group flagged a 'volatile' energy market.

SSE said it faced 'challenges' as it revealed a fresh drop in customer numbers. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

The big six player announced in November that it will be freezing household energy prices until at least April, but a third-quarter trading update showed that it continued losing customers in the three months to 31 December, leaving it with a total of 8.08 million.

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SSE is under pressure after posting a 13 per cent drop in half-year profits late last year when it admitted to losing another 70,000 accounts, but the firm has said it is halting the number of customers quitting the group.

It also said today that output at its renewable energy plants fell 20 per cent as a result of “dry and still weather”.

Chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “In a changing and challenging energy sector we continue to focus on operational efficiency, disciplined investment and maintaining a balanced range of energy businesses.

“The operating environment presents some challenges. The period since our interim results has featured volatile wholesale energy market conditions and, during November and December in particular, a period of relatively dry and still weather leading to low output of renewable energy.”

Despite the pledge to freeze prices, experts believe it is only a matter of time before customers will be asked to stomach rises.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “There could be pain ahead for retail customers as well. Price pressures are mounting, both as a result of higher energy prices and Government policies, and SSE has only promised to cap prices until April 2017.

“The group is targeting cost savings, but we still wouldn’t be surprised to see prices rise.”