By Chris Rumbles
One of the UK’s ‘Big Six’ energy groups has countered Coalition Government claims by saying a single energy market would remain in the event of Scottish independence.
SSE, which trades as Southern Electric, Swalec and Scottish Hydro, issued an investor update in which it explained the company believed ‘a single energy market in Great Britain would be the most likely outcome in the event of a Yes vote’.
The update clarified that SSE, who remain ‘strictly neutral’ on the issue of independence, feel some changes to the single energy market may result from the complex negotiations that would follow a ‘Yes’ vote but that ultimately a single market was preferable.
Speaking at the Scottish Renewables Conference last week, the UK Government’s Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, said ‘independence means independence – not a continuation of business as usual’ in the energy market.
Mr Davey went on to say in his speech in Edinburgh that he did not ‘see everything through the lens of independence’ and that Scotland was a ‘world-leading renewables energy hub’ operating within the UK which he described as ‘the best place to do business’.
Though SSE conceded there would be some ‘uncertainty’ from a ‘Yes’ vote, the update to investors was sure the firm ‘had a clear view of the issues that would arise should there be a ‘Yes’ vote’.
Included in SSE’s investor update was a commitment to freeze prices until 2016 which would be met by cutting 500 jobs and postponing four offshore wind farm developments.
Chief Executive of SSE, Alistair Phillips-Davies, said the business was setting a positive, customer-driven agenda that sought to ensure its ‘house was in order’ by ‘streamlining and simplifying’ operations.
In its interim management statement delivered earlier this year, Perth-based SSE announced that it was on course to make £1.5 billion in profit despite falling customer numbers.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing welcomed the statement from SSE, saying a single market was in “everyone’s interests”. However Mr Ewing highlighted concerns over the UK Government’s stance on renewables, calling it a threat to the sector.
He added: “While we welcome SSE’s confirmation that it will proceed with investment in recently consented Beatrice offshore wind development, we are clearly concerned that uncertainty over future investment conditions and returns has led company to place other renewables developments on hold.
“Scotland’s huge offshore renewables resource will have a major role to play in meeting future UK energy needs – but UK Government’s half-hearted and delayed reforms to energy market are a serious threat to the vital investment required.”
Commenting on the SSE update, SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie, who sits on the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, said:
“The fact of the matter is that Scotland’s abundant energy resources are absolutely vital to keeping the lights on in the rest of the UK, which is why continuing to work closely with our friends south of the border after a Yes vote is simple common sense.
“Today’s intervention by the energy experts is another major blow to the anti-independence campaign – whose ridiculous claims are just not being taken seriously by people in Scotland. No wonder Professor John Curtice said in today’s Times: ‘the ‘no’ campaign would appear to be at risk of becoming an irritating background noise to which nobody listens any more’.”
Strathclyde University Professor in Politics John Curtice told The Times the ‘No’ campaign would perhaps benefit from prioritising its own vision for Scotland as part of the UK over negative attacks on independence.