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Energy giant highlights Scottish Government planning delay on key project

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Chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies told journalists that other great projects SSE is working on include plans for the Berwick Bank windfarm in the outer Firth of Forth, which he noted could become the world’s biggest.

The windfarm would require £15bn investment and the development process could support more than 4,500 jobs.

However, the project was not awarded the required Scottish Government planning consent in time for SSE to apply for UK Government support in the latest funding round.

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The company noted: “In December 2023, East Lothian Council granted planning permission in principle for the project’s onshore transmission infrastructure and grid connection at Branxton. However, the project continues to await consent for the offshore array from the Scottish Government, which is now expected during 2024.”

The delay raises questions about the Scottish Government’s ability to take the practical steps needed to deliver the Just Transition to a low carbon energy system it has promised.

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the launch of a £500m Just Transition fund in 2021. MSPs expressed concern about the effectiveness of the initiative in March after the budget allocation for 2024-25 was cut to £12m, from £50m in the preceding year.

But SSE has come under fire for its treatment of the Scottish supply chain.

In 2020, the group awarded the contract to manufacture the 114 turbines for Seagreen to Vestas of Denmark, which decided to make the vast bulk of them on the Isle of Wight.

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In December 2021 SSE said it would commit £15m to a £110m project to develop the Nigg Offshore Wind turbine tower manufacturing plant, in a move which was hailed by Ms Sturgeon.

The company said then: “SSE Renewables expects to announce a first order contract with NOW in the near future.”

Six months later it was reported that the Spanish tower manufacturer that planned to be a partner in the project, Haizea, was no longer involved.

A spokesperson for SSE said the group remains supportive of Global Energy Group’s plan to deliver a tower facility at Port of Nigg. SSE has welcomed Sumitomo’s plans to develop a cable production plant at Nigg.

The spokesperson noted: “In the last financial year, SSE made a major contribution to communities by adding £1.57bn to Scotland’s GDP and by supporting more than 13,000 Scottish jobs, many of which are highly skilled roles, focused on transforming our energy system.”

SSE said it made an economic contribution to the UK worth £6bn in the latest year, in line with last time.

The company reckons it supported 53,230 UK jobs in the latest year, up 30% from 39,940 in 2022-23.

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