Energy spotlight: SSE

How businesses in the energy ecosystem could help accelerate the UK’s progress towards net zero.

At a glance

  • SSE’s strategy is focused on supporting the transition to net zero electricity – through deploying renewables, building and growing networks infrastructure, and developing low-carbon flexible power solutions.
  • With this strategy, SSE has positioned itself well across key parts of the value chain, providing it with a good balance of risk/returns, and options to grow beyond.
  • SSE is benefitting from its Just Transition Strategy [to protect workers and communities as the UK moves towards net zero] with a third of new recruits joining from high carbon industries.
  • Working with policy makers continues to be crucial to develop solutions such as carbon capture and storage on gas plants, and hydrogen fuelled plants.
  • The company advocates for accelerated deployment of net zero technologies, helping markets meet their climate change commitments and accelerating the decarbonisation of the wider economy.

How is SSE adapting to meet net zero targets?

Our strategy is focused on deploying more renewable electricity generation, building out the electricity networks to transport clean energy, and pioneering flexible power generation technologies that will keep the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine.

Our primary goal and purpose is to support the decarbonisation of electricity, and wider energy vectors, as efficiently as possible.

How is SSE supporting UK businesses and communities with the net zero transition?

We’re building renewable electricity generation (offshore wind, onshore wind and solar) to harness natural resources, focusing on the UK and Ireland but with initial projects in Southern Europe. We’re deploying solutions that will help store that renewable electricity or transport it to storage and demand centres through our networks.

Our networks have a particularly important part to play – from connecting and transporting the high-voltage electricity across the country to facilitating communities to make the shift to lower-carbon options such as electric vehicles.

Decarbonising electricity must be done in a way that ensures we meet our security of supply obligations. This can only be done by ensuring we have sufficient generation capacity that can be switched on when it’s needed. We’ve seen the importance of this in 2023, where our gas power plants were utilised when there wasn’t enough generation from wind.

We will continue to need this type of capacity to meet our security of supply needs – which is why developing low-carbon versions of these plants is crucial.

We’re also helping communities, businesses, and customers directly to make the transition – in the UK, we offer solutions for businesses to decarbonise, including energy efficiency, green energy and infrastructure solutions.

How is SSE coordinating within the UK energy ecosystem to transition to net zero?

Working with organisations from across the value chain will be crucial, as will ensuring the UK continues to attract investment as it competes with other markets. This is a core part of what we do across all parts of our projects from working with academia on research projects to find new solutions to challenges, to bringing in partners to recycle capital once our projects reach Final Investment Decision in development.

We also work closely with community groups, to ensure our solutions are deployed in a way that supports communities and causes minimum disruption, while continuing to build the infrastructure needed for net zero.

What else could accelerate the shift to low carbon energy solutions?

We are currently building the world’s largest offshore wind farm at Dogger Bank, off the coast of Yorkshire. When complete it will be able to power the equivalent of six million homes and displace millions of tonnes of emissions.

We are investing heavily in upgrading electricity networks, particularly in the north of Scotland, to help unlock the region’s massive renewables potential. This includes recently laying a 260km subsea high voltage cable from Shetland to the UK mainland, which will connect one of the UK’s windiest regions with the grid for the first time.

In flexibility, we are building batteries and actively pursuing opportunities to develop the UK’s first carbon capture and hydrogen power plants. 

What are some of the barriers?

The biggest issue we and the wider clean energy industry face is the speed of decision making - whether that is planning and consenting or policy. Dogger Bank, for instance, will have taken 17 years from being awarded seabed rights to final completion.

We are also waiting for government decisions on the way low carbon power stations will be funded in the future. This includes our Coire Glas project in the Highlands that could be the biggest pumped hydro scheme in Great Britain for 40 years with the capacity to more than double the UK’s electricity storage capacity.

The industry remains reliant on policymakers to provide clarity and certainty on investments. While there is cross-party support for the key drivers of power sector decarbonisation – accelerating renewables, investing in grids ahead of demand and building low-carbon flexible generation – the pace of change needs to increase.

Recent UK government support for planning reform will help this but this needs to happen sooner rather than later if the UK is to meet its climate change targets.  

We would like to see faster progress in low-carbon firm flexible power (carbon capture and storage, and Hydrogen power). This type of power is crucial for the electricity system to remain stable, and we need solutions to decarbonise that power – as we can’t run the system without it.

What else could help deliver a decarbonised and resilient energy system?

We are incredibly excited by the advancements being made in renewables. Projects and turbines continue to increase in size and scale. Floating wind may also be a game changer for the offshore industry.

Solutions to store renewables are also important – we’re developing a diverse range of solutions to ensure we create the most efficient and best solution for the future energy system. In this space, batteries will play a key role for short-duration peaks, but green hydrogen [the only type produced in a climate-neutral manner] can be stored for long-durations and used as a fuel for power plants with no emissions. 

What opportunities are you seeing from transforming the energy system?

We have put net zero at the heart of our strategy and this is reflected in the way we allocate capital. We could invest more than £40bn in the next decade across renewables, networks, and flexible power generation. We view this as something that can not only generate value for shareholders but society more broadly.

In the face of recent volatility, we have remained committed to our goals and strategy. We have stayed the course – knowing renewables will be needed, networks infrastructure will have to grow to accommodate these changes, and flexibility solutions will be required to support. This has been our fundamental strategy for years and will continue to be.

We remain committed and focused on delivery – to ensure we’re delivering projects in the most efficient way, for consumers across the UK, Ireland and now internationally, too.

Fundamentally, for SSE, net zero is not only the right thing to do but also a significant growth opportunity for a business with our unique blend of expertise, world-class assets and record of delivery. 

Check our hub for more insight from some of the UK’s most influential energy players.

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