In public the UK’s big six energy suppliers speak with one voice about their enthusiasm for wind energy. But their achievements are highly varied, and in most cases their investment in wind turbines has been relatively low.
Npower, owned by RWE of Germany, is the UK’s largest operator of wind turbines, with 460 megawatts of wind farms in operation. These are mostly onshore, such as the 48MW, 21-turbine Causeymire operation 30km south-west of John O’Groats, which started generating electricity in 2004. Npower says that it is working on wind projects that will bring its total wind energy portfolio up to 600MW.
But Npower could be knocked off its top spot by Scottish and Southern Energy through its takeover of Airtricity, the Irish wind farm operator. SSE has only 160MW of wind turbines in the UK, placing it fifth out of the big six, but Ian Marchant, chief executive, says that his group’s €1.45bn (£1.1bn) bid for Airtricity will place it third this year and first place in two to three years.
The second largest wind turbine operator last year was Scottish Power, now part of Iberdrola of Spain, a leader in renewable energy worldwide. Scottish Power has 372MW of wind capacity up and running, mostly in central Scotland, and has a further 1,500MW of wind farms either in construction or awaiting planning permission. The group says that it has invested £350m to £400m in wind power so far.
In third place is Eon UK, owned by Eon of Germany, with 215MW of onshore and offshore wind farms at 21 sites around the UK. It says it has invested £250m in wind in the UK so far, with plans to spend a total of £1.5bn on new wind farms, including offshore projects such as Robin Rigg in the Solway Firth and Humber Gateway near Hull.
Centrica, the owner of British Gas, owns 188MW of operational wind farms in the UK, including the 26MW Glens of Foudland onshore wind farm in Aberdeenshire. Centrica says it plans to build 1,250MW of new wind farms, with a bias towards offshore projects such as the 500MW Race Bank project in the Greater Wash off the coast of Lincolnshire.
Languishing in sixth place is EDF Energy, owned by state-controlled Électricité de France, with two wind farms totalling 4.2MW. Sister company EDF Energies Nouvelles has 79MW of wind farms operating in the UK, however, and the group has “several hundred megawatts” of wind farms in development, including a 90MW offshore project near Redcar, Teesside.
All six companies declined to say how profitable their wind power activities were, saying the information was “commercially sensitive”. Scottish Power said its projects were profitable, “otherwise we would not be investing in this sector”.
By Rebecca Bream, Utilities Correspondent
4 February 2008
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