ScottishPower has said it will invest a record £2 billion in clean energy in the UK this year as it plans to build more windfarms and to install electric vehicle charging points across Scotland.
The Glasgow-based energy giant said it wants to play a key role in the push to reduce carbon emissions by helping electrify the economy where it matters most: in transport and heating.
The company and ‘big six’ rivals came under fire last week for announcing price rises after Ofgem said it would lift the cap on charges.
ScottishPower’s programme will involve the Spanish-owned group investing in generating more renewable energy and in the facilities required to help ensure consumers make the most of its potential.
The company said it will start installing fast chargers across the UK at strategic commercial locations from winter 2019 in a move it reckons will unlock the market for electric vehicle ownership.
It is understood this will involve installing kit in places that would allow drivers to make charging their cars part of their routine, such as out of town shopping centres.
“Onshore wind remains the lowest cost technology for new electricity generation in the UK and ScottishPower sees substantial opportunities for the continued development of onshore wind projects across Scotland and other areas of the UK,” said the company.
ScottishPower also announced plans to develop a pioneering battery storage project at the giant Whitelee onshore windfarm on Eaglesham Moor south of Glasgow, which is the biggest in the UK. This could be used to ensure power is available to meet variations in demand.
The company said the large-scale battery project will be the first of a series of storage schemes in the UK, which will be mainly located at windfarms and at strategic points on the network.
It reckons the combination of renewable energy and flexible storage provides the most cost-effective low carbon solution for consumers.
ScottishPower’s offshore wind development effort is focused on the waters off eastern England.
The 2019 investment plan is expected to result in the company creating around 300 jobs, a significant number of which will be in Scotland.
Chief executive Keith Anderson said the plan was a historic milestone for ScottishPower and provided a vote of confidence in the UK’s commitment to decarbonising the economy. ScottishPower invested £1.6bn in clean energy in 2018.
“Consumers want and need access to reliable, clean and affordable energy,” he said. “That is what ScottishPower is focused on delivering and as long as Government climate change commitments stay firm, with sensible policies to support them, this investment will continue.”
The company expects to spend £6bn in the UK between 2018 and 2022.
It unveiled the investment plan days after posting a 27 per cent increase in profits, to £1.54bn, for 2018. Mr Anderson said the year had been pivotal for the company.
The firm completed the “landmark” journey from coal and gas to 100% green power by selling its conventional generation business to Drax for £702m in October.
The unit includes a giant reservoir-based power generator in Argyll, the Lanark and Galloway hydro-electric facilities on rivers in South West Scotland and a biomass fuel plant near Glasgow, along with four gas-fired power stations in England.
Drax said yesterday the assets were highly complementary to its strategy and would form a very important part of its portfolio. The company expects the assets to provide high quality earnings.
It aims to support the move to renewables by investing in generating and storage facilities that will complement wind and solar output.
Drax has adapted the giant coal-fired power station in Yorkshire from which it takes its name to run partially on wood pellets.
The head of its power generation business, Andy Koss, said the company was very pleased with the assets acquired from ScottishPower. It could invest significant amounts in developing them with the right official support.
Mr Koss highlighted the role the Cruachan pumped storage facility in Argyll played in ensuring supplies are made available to the national grid when needed.
Cruachan generates power based on the movement of water between a reservoir in the hills and Loch Awe, which lies around 400 metres below.
Mr Koss said Drax is considering development options for Cruachan that could include hollowing out the mountain to build a new turbine hall or constructing a new dam.
Drax grew underlying profits by 9% to £250m last year.
Last week ScottishPower said it was raising its prices for customers on standard variable tariffs (SVTs) by 10 per cent – £117 a year . The increase will mean its standard plan for duel fuel customers will cost on average £1,254.
Other members of the ‘big six’ have increased prices for customers on SVTs recently since Ofgem decided to raise the typical limit for UK default and standard variable gas and electricity tariffs by £117 to £1,254 a year from April 1.
ScottishPower’s parent group, Iberdrola, said yesterday it would invest €34bn (£26bn) by 2022 to speed growth. It reckons the plan will provide a major boost to the irreversible transition to a low carbon-energy model.