Big six firm to focus exclusively on renewables, adding solar power to its windfarms
Scottish Power, one of Britain’s biggest energy companies, has said it will invest in solar power for the first time as part of its move away from fossil fuels.
The big six firm sold off its last gas-fired power stations to Drax Group this week to focus exclusively on renewables, which today consists of onshore and offshore windfarms.
But Keith Anderson, the company’s chief executive, told the Guardian he had decided to move into solar, too.
“The solar market has had difficulties over the last wee while. But you look at where the technology cost is getting to, and the possibilities of integrating it with wind … how it balances from season to season wind and solar output, and we see a good opportunity there for further investment.”
Solar farms around the UK have historically been built by smaller energy firms and community groups, so the entrance of such a big player would mark a major shake-up. It could also inject life into a sector that has stalled in the face of subsidy cuts.
Researchers have argued that the comparatively low wind output across Europe this summer because of hot, still weather was a reminder of why energy companies should be investing in solar as well as wind.
Anderson said that Scottish Power had moved to 100% renewables because it was cheaper than other sources.
“We need to invest in the cheapest forms of energy – that’s onshore wind, offshore wind, it’s going to be solar – and that will help drive down the cost of energy,” he said.
The world’s need to tackle climate change also made it clear that companies needed to embrace green energy wholeheartedly, he said.
“Look at the IPCC report last week. My absolute belief is that organisations need to be at the forefront of that change. We can’t be part of the problem, we have to be part of the solution.”
Scottish Power would be competing in an auction next summer for a slice of £557m in government subsidies for offshore windfarms, Anderson confirmed.
The firm hopes to secure a contract for its planned 1,200MW East Anglia Three project, which would be capable of powering nearly 900,000 homes and dwarf the world’s current biggest, a 659MW scheme off the Cumbrian coast.
Anderson also expressed confidence that ministers were nearing a rethink on their block on subsidies for onshore windfarms, which the Conservatives barred when they came to power in 2015. “We’re closer than we’ve ever been before,” he said.
A poll this week found that two thirds of people living in rural Scottish communities, which are considered to have some of the best sites for prospective sites, support onshore windfarms.
But the prospect for new gas power stations – which companies including Drax and Germany’s RWE want to build – were bleak, Anderson said.
“Right now the commercial signals don’t exist to build a new gas plant in the UK. That might change in the future, but it’s not something we’ll get involved in.”