* Says to cap prices for at least a year from March
* May cut 2014/15 investment below 1.5 billion pounds
* To raise dividend 3 pct in 2013/14 financial year
* To review offshore wind business by end of March
By Karolin Schaps
LONDON, Jan 23 British utility SSE said
it planned to cap energy prices for about a year from this
March, going beyond a previous promise to pass on government
price reductions with a commitment to control bills not so far
made by any of its rivals.
The price cap is the group's latest response to a political
dispute in Britain about high energy bills, but came with a
warning that SSE would likely cut investment in energy projects
because of policy uncertainty - another vital issue given
warnings of a looming shortfall in UK energy supplies.
SSE and others in Britain's "big six" utilities have all
said in recent weeks they would cut prices following a
government concession to move green or environmental levies away
from energy bills and on to general taxation.
Such measures, which came after Labour leader Ed Miliband
said in September he would freeze consumer bills for 20 months
if he wins power in an election due in 2015, have been touted as
cutting average bills by around 50 pounds a year.
Yet SSE, one of the biggest investors in Britain's energy
sector, also said it was likely to cut its investments below 1.5
billion pounds ($2.5 billion) in the coming financial year,
having been spending an annual total of between 1.5 billion and
1.7 billion every year since 2010.
It said the reduction was due to uncertainty on future
project returns because of changes in government policy.
SSE will also review its offshore wind business after its
two main offshore projects failed to qualify for
"The prospects for investment in generation assets in Great
Britain are ... not encouraging," the company said in a trading
statement, referring to changes the government has made on how
it hands out subsidies to low-carbon energy projects.
Britain needs to attract around 200 billion pounds in
investments in its energy production facilities and networks by
the end of this decade to guarantee security of supply and
integrate a huge growth in renewable energy capacity.
To help meet emissions reduction targets, the government has
pushed through an electricity market reform that focuses on
guaranteeing minimum power prices to types of energy that are
more environment friendly.
SSE's Galloper and Beatrice offshore wind farms were not
shortlisted by government to receive early guarantees on future
electricity prices, a move which is likely to jeopardise the
"(SSE) will complete a wide-ranging review of its offshore
wind development portfolio by the end of this financial year and
will report on its conclusions then," the company said.
The company is not alone in reassessing offshore wind.
Britain has built the world's biggest offshore wind energy
market a number of companies have been cancelling and selling
projects in the face of steep costs.
SSE and others in the big six utilities - also including
Centrica's British Gas, E.ON, EDF,
RWE npower and Scottish Power (part of Iberdrola
) - came under fire at the end of last year after they
increased energy tariffs.
SSE, the second-largest of the six which supply 97 percent
of the country's homes, pledged to leave its prices unchanged
until next year.
"SSE intends to cap energy prices at their new level until
at least the Spring of 2015," the company said.
The group also said it expects to raise its full-year
dividend 3 percent for the year ending March 31, having the
previous year raised its total payout 5.1 percent to 84.2p.