SSE pledges to halve emissions as it brings in record profits

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The Independent Online

Scottish & Southern Energy, the owner of two of the nation's largest coal-fired power plants, pledged yesterday to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2020 as it sought to deflect criticism of its record profits.

The nation's second largest energy provider unveiled the ambitious greening scheme after revealing that its annual profits hit £1.23bn last year, up 14 per cent on the year before.

The company, the last of the "Big Six" power companies to pass sharp gas and electricity price increases on to customers this year, also set the stage for further tariff increases, warning that it was now losing money on its supply business on account of stubbornly high prices for oil, wholesale gas and coal.

Analysts have predicted that the energy companies, which inspired widespread public ire earlier this year after raising tariffs, will be likely push through another round of hikes before autumn because wholesale prices for electricity and gas have not come down.

"Further large increases in tariffs look inevitable and the attendant political concerns are likely to persist," said Fraser McLaren, an analyst at Merrill Lynch.

SSE's chief executive, Ian Marchant, meanwhile, gave the clearest indication yet of its plans to cope with the low-carbon future. He said that it was not participating in the auction for the nuclear operator British Energy, preferring instead to concentrate on renewable energy to hit its CO2 reduction goals.

SSE unveiled a new goal to reduce its annual CO2 emissions by 50 per cent (12 million tonnes) by 2020, a step up from the 20 per cent target originally set for 2015. It plans to invest £3bn over the next five years, much of which will be ploughed into wind projects such as the Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm in the outer Thames Estuary.

Mr Marchant said: "We have set ourselves a stretching target. It is the right response to a world which will become increasingly carbon-constrained.

"With a £3bn programme of investment in renewables, we're putting our money where our mouth is."

The company owns two of the UK's dirtiest power plants, at Fiddler's Ferry and Ferrybridge. It plans to fit both with sulphur and nitrogen oxide-reducing equipment.