Airtricity not part of SSE retail sale plans

International energy provider SSE has no plans to exit the consumer/retail market in Ireland amid rising speculation that it is ramping up attempts to sell its retail arm in the UK.

The company trades here as SSE Airtricity and has around 740,000 Irish customers.

Reports over the weekend, in the British media, suggested SSE has sounded out a number of companies - including telecom and broadband firm TakTalk - about a deal for its household energy supply division in Britain.

Late last year SSE said it was continuing to consider all options surrounding the separation of its UK energy services business from its main group operations following the failure of a proposed merger between its retail operations in Britain and rival energy provider NPower.

“Any developments associated with SSE’s energy services business in Great Britain will not affect the SSE Airtricity business or its customers in Ireland," a company spokesman said.

SSE values its UK retail arm at £1bn (€1.15bn) and plans to formally update investors on the division's future next month.

SSE Airtricity has seen is Irish customer base decline by around 5% in the past two years. The company closed 2018 with 740,000 customers across the island of Ireland, down from 750,000 at the end of 2017 and 790,000 at the end of 2016.

On the back of rising wholesale energy prices, the company raised its consumer prices twice last year - in line with competitors. It most recent hike, in December, pushed up customers' average annual electricity bill by over €60 and gas bills by over €52.

SSE is looking to be a significant player in the Irish wind energy market, recently saying it hopes to complete the expansion of Ireland's only operational offshore wind farm, the seven-turbine Arklow Bank project off the Wicklow coast, and have it working at full capacity as a meaningful energy provider by the early 2020s.

SSE has consent for up to 200 turbines at the site, but has said advances in technology over the past 15 years mean an installation of only 80-100 turbines would be needed to provide enough clean energy to power 420,000 homes and offset 640,000 tonnes of harmful carbon emissions per year.

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