ESTORIL, Portugal (Reuters) - British energy supplier SSE is eyeing the offshore wind power industry for a possible first foreign investment, its chief executive said on Monday.
Unlike most major European utilities, Britain’s second-biggest energy supplier SSE is focused mainly on its domestic market, though it is a highly diversified group involved in nearly every aspect of the UK power and gas business.
In recent years it has invested heavily in offshore wind power and other renewables, but until now it has been uninterested in emulating continental peers that have built on their specializations at home to win market share abroad.
These include France’s EDF operating Britain’s nuclear plants, Norway’s hydropower specialist Statkraft building dams in Asia and Latin America and Denmark’s Dong Energy becoming a top player in offshore wind in Britain and Germany.
SSE operates several large offshore wind farms on British and Irish coasts, often in partnerships with EU utilities such as Dong and Germany’s Innogy, but it has no operations on foreign shores.
“That is a global business where we have to think about whether we need to have more global ambitions. We have a very strong franchise around the UK and Ireland ... should we be looking further afield? That is a good question for us to ask ourselves,” SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies told Reuters at the Eurelectric conference.
He said that SSE last year came reasonably close to an American onshore renewables investment. Though that did not come to fruition, Phillips-Davies said he is continuing to look at opportunities while seeking value for shareholders and remaining consistent with the company’s skill base.
“I would not say we are the world leader (in offshore wind) but we have possibilities there. Dong would clearly be the number one company out there at the moment ... but I think there are lots of things that we can do,” he said, adding that SSE is also strong in networks and thermal generation.
In terms of exporting those skills to other countries, Phillips-Davies said that SSE would look at partnerships or an acquisition rather than dropping its own staff on the ground.
Centrica and SSE are the only two UK-owned utilities among Britain’s big six energy suppliers, with European utilities EDF, E.ON, RWE and Iberdrola all having built up significant shares in the market.
Editing by David Goodman