SSE plans to spend more than £7bn over the next five years to help power the UK’s green economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, including a major onshore windfarm on Shetland.
The energy firm said it gave the greenlight for the £580m Viking windfarm project as part of its plan to spend almost £4m a day for the next five years.
SSE will also move ahead as a minority partner in the £3bn Seagreen offshore windfarm spearheaded by the French oil company Total. Seagreen will be the largest offshore windfarm in Scotland, and together with Viking will generate enough electricity to power around 1m British homes.
Alistair Phillips-Davies, SSE’s chief executive, said: “It’s easy to talk about a green recovery, but we’re putting our money where our mouth is with £7bn of low-carbon infrastructure projects that can deliver a win-win for climate and economy.”
SSE also toughened its own climate targets, pledging to reduce the carbon share of its electricity generation by 60% from 2018 levels by 2030. Previously it pledged a 50% reduction.
Phillips-Davies said: “The world is facing twin crises with the economic impact of coronavirus and the climate emergency and the only route forward is to unlock investment.”
The FTSE 100 company expects the Covid-19 lockdown to cost its business up to £250m in the current financial year.
Pre-tax profits for the last financial year fell by 55% to £587.6m after lower demand for electricity over the first 11 months was followed by a steep drop in demand in March as businesses shut down because of the coronavirus.
SSE, which also runs energy networks across the country, reported more than £33m in unpaid debts from its business customers. It warned that the size of debt from companies unable to pay their energy bills was likely to increase in the year ahead.
SSE sold off its home energy supply business last year to Ovo Energy, which announced plans to cut 2,600 jobs and close offices last month in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Industry experts predict that the energy suppliers are likely to be hard hit by the coronavirus as companies are forced into administration and the number of job losses rises.
Richard Gillingwater, SSE’s chairman, said that although it was too soon to predict the full impact of coronavirus, the company had in place a plan to maintain SSE’s dividend payouts. The dividend, he added, “provides vital income for people’s pensions and savings – income which is now more important than ever”.