Renewable energy: a journey to the source with O2 and SSE Business Energy

An SSE Green customer sees how hydroelectricity plays its part in our power supply, with National Account Manager Gordon Murray

Net Hero Podcast

On a cold but crisp winter’s day, a group from telecoms provider O2 and its energy broker SMS took a trip to Scotland. The day started at SSE’s headquarters in Perth and ended with a tour of Pitlochry hydro dam and power station.

After being greeted at the SSE Perth office by me, their Account Manager, the O2 team spoke to their Contract Administrator, Kelly Campbell and Billing Account Manager, Jackie Kennedy. We’ve formed a strong relationship over the years, built on excellent service, hard work and a shared commitment to a net zero future, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

O2 is committed to reducing carbon emissions from its entire business and network by 2025, whilst working with supply chain partners to reduce emissions by 30% in the next five years. We supply our 100% renewable electricity product, SSE Green to O2. Its suppliers and business partners can also sign up to SSE Green at a preferential rate.

At SSE’s trading desk, David Small – who manages the Energy Management Centre – gave an in-depth overview of what they do and all the different areas and demands they deal with, sharing detail on what happens once energy has been traded and if it’s hedged out (bought or sold to mitigate future price risk). The discussion also covered how National Grid demands and the weather can affect prices and how we trade, as well as how our power generation fits in.

Following this came a rare opportunity to visit SSE Renewables’ ops desk. The room is off-grid with its own electricity supply and telecoms network. SSE’s Renewable Operations Centre Manager, Richard Hearnden explained that other than National Grid, SSE manages the largest usage of any operational centre in the UK. The conversation covered electricity demand and how SSE handles the provision of grid services.

Interestingly, SSE is one of only a few generators to have hydropower stations, with 64 across Scotland. SSE also has 59 onshore and offshore wind farms, with a further 8GW of wind power in the pipeline. All this contributed to SSE generating 9,779GWh renewable electricity in 2018/2019.

In the afternoon, there was an opportunity to see renewable energy in action at Pitlochry hydropower station. Our Chief Sustainability Officer, Rachel McEwen, welcomed the O2 team and talked about the dam’s history; construction began in 1947 and the plant started generating electricity in 1950.

Finally, it was time to get right inside the plant, with a tour by Hydro Operations Manager, Andy Hay, taking in every corner! Someone asked about the speed at which the power station can be put to service. Quickly, answered Andy; it takes just half an hour from pressing the button to electricity being generated, so Pitlochry is an important asset to help meet National Grid demand.

In the open air on top of the dam, a freezing wind was blasting across. Despite that, the sun shone, revealing a beautiful view of the rolling hills. Back at ground level, the group took a good look at Pitlochry’s salmon ladder and learned how it helps the fish to breed. Damming the River Tummel created a barrier to salmon swimming upstream, but 34 connected pools allow them to reach their spawning grounds.

It was a fascinating finale to a day sharing with O2 our end-to-end process – from generation and operations to trading and supply – behind SSE’s green power.

You can find out more about SSE Green and our other net zero focused solutions for large organisations and small businesses at