ScottishPower has become the UK’s first integrated electricity and gas provider to switch totally to renewable sources.
The company, which has 5.1 million UK customers, made the change by selling its remaining gas-fired power stations to Drax, the Yorkshire-based electricity generation group.
All ScottishPower’s electricity is now produced by wind power, much of it from the Whitelee wind farm on moorland outside Glasgow, which has 215 turbines generating up to 539 megawatts, making it the UK’s largest onshore site.
The company has another large wind farm under construction in East Anglia and is investing about £5.2bn ($6.7bn, €5.9bn) in renewables and smart grids during the next four years to make electricity cleaner and more affordable.
To minimise energy costs ScottishPower is using solar power at the same time. Industry observers think the entry of a large business into the arena could shake up the market as smaller companies and community groups have been the main operators until now.
Keith Anderson, chief executive of ScottishPower, told the press: “The solar market has had difficulties over the last week. 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.”
ScottishPower, which has its headquarters in Glasgow but serves the whole of the UK, is not alone in its green ambitions.
A league table drawn up by Sust-it, an energy efficiency assessment agency in Gloucestershire, lists four smaller providers that draw all their electricity from renewable sources – Bulb, Ecotricity, Good Energy and LoCO2. Close behind them, a 99.8 per cent figure was given for Green Star Energy.
Some larger providers had poorer rankings. Southern Electric and SSE were said to obtain 37 per cent of their electricity from renewable sources, British Gas 33 per cent, and E.ON 29 per cent.
ScottishPower appears to match the best offered elsewhere in Europe.
Ørsted, the large Danish group, has reduced coal consumption by 73 per cent in ten years and will phase out coal during the next five years. Last year it divested its entire upstream oil and gas business.
As a result, Ørsted has more than halved its carbon dioxide emissions in a decade and intends to reduce them by 96 per cent by 2023. “This makes our target more ambitious than those agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement,” said the company.
Ørsted sees this policy as good economics. At present it supplies power to 9.5 million people and its ambition is to raise the figure to 30 million by 2025.
It describes its policy with the clichéd but commendable sentiment: “Together we can make a difference.”