Snowy-booted visitors from northern America today descended once again on the snowy-booted electricity engineers of north Britain, as a big Canadian public-sector pension fund bought 25% of SSE’s transmission business.
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board announced a £1.465 billion maple-syruped sweetener in exchange for a quarter of the cables, wires and switches which shift ample quantities of amps and coulombs anywhere above Scotland’s Central Belt.
Once the deal is completed in coming weeks, SSE’s renewables businesses looks to benefit heavily from the cash.
The teachers’ detention today of a stake in the ancestral homeland of many Canadians follows SSE’s announcement twelve months ago that it would repeat across its core power transmission activities the success of its partnering strategy which has bolstered SSE Renewables.
Sales of minority interests in SSE’s business units were presented in the group’s fully funded, £12.5 Billion, Net Zero Acceleration Programme (NZAP).
SSE’s distribution businesses will be next under the hammer. An auction is expected to begin early in the new year.
Today’s sales price – on the day after Scotland’s own teachers struck for higher pay – is based on a valuation from the start of the current tax year. Funds transfer and sale completion are expected in coming weeks.
Net debt of £2.488 billion on the transmission unit’s balance sheet includes £780m of shareholder loans from the parent SSE group. They remain after today’s announcement, and will be replaced with external debt as they mature.
“Hockey puck, the Canadians are coming!“
Both parties view SSEN Transmission as among Europe’s fastest growing networks, essential to unlocking the Highlands’ vast potential in transporting output from tartan-tinged homegrown renewables to demand centres further south.
The NZAP foresees SSE building a network capable by 2030 of delivering around 20% of the offshore wind generation and electricity networks needed in the UK, alongside investments in flexible generation technology and the export of SSE’s renewable energy capabilities internationally.
In the UK alone, SSE’s investment could exceed £24 billion this decade.
Selling a quarter, minority stake to the Canadians will allow SSE to retain control of operating and managing the transmission business. The Ontario Teachers Plan will be proportionately represented on the transmission unit’s board.
Canadian public sector pensions have an increasing appetite for British green energy assets. RCP, an offshoot of the nation’s biggest fund manager CPP, earlier this week announced its joint venture with Eelpower in quest of 1 GW of European grid-scale batteries. The same investment manager a year ago injected an untrivial $300 million into privately held Octopus.
For Ontario Teachers, EMEA head of infrastructure Charles Thomazi said of today’s announcement: “SSEN Transmission is one of Europe’s fastest growing transmission networks. Its network stretches across some of the most challenging terrain in Scotland – from the North Sea and across the Highlands.
“We’re delighted to partner again with SSE”.
Chieftain o’ SSE’s finances Gregor Alexander reciprocated: “In Ontario Teachers, we have a strong long-term partner who we have worked with successfully over the past 18 years. While we will retain operational control, they will be critical to SSEN Transmission’s ongoing future success.”