SSE Renewables – Sustainable Development Fund

overall rating:



Matthew Ball
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SSE Renewables is a subsidiary of SSE plc, a multinational energy company which operates in the United Kingdom and Ireland. SSE Renewables specifically label themselves as being a leading developer and operator of renewable energy across the UK and Ireland. Holding a portfolio of around 4 Gigawatts of onshore wind, offshore wind, and hydro-electric energy infrastructure. 


Overall, there is generally a limited scope of the fund, both locationally and more directly with a limited focus on the sustainable development goals and the range of sustainably focused projects that are funded.


This being said, the projects are screened and fit rigorous criteria to ensure that they are well suited to funding and will create a meaningful impact on local scales. The main contention that remains is how ‘sustainably focused’ the fund itself is, which seems to fall more in line with a general community development fund rather than anything that is specifically centred on sustainability and ensuring sustainable solutions for energy – as the name and focus of the company may first suggest. 


SSE Renewables has demonstrated that it is environmentally and sustainably focused, yet there remains much scope to improve, because of this I would rate it 1.2 / 3 overall.

What it's made of:


The Sustainable Development Fund aims to support projects where SSE is operating. It aims to deliver the benefits of renewable energy development across a greater area – and thus, is directed towards projects that can achieve a significant impact in local communities. 


There is an expectation for the fund to be worth over £50 million across the next 25 years. In 2020/2021 SSE renewables invested £10.2 million in 1,023 community projects.


Looking through past awards, of specific note for the 2020-2021 period was an overall investment of £2 million in pandemic response related projects – from food delivery to safeguarding programmes - which is a refreshing angle for a development fund to take, with a focus on social relief. As is potentially expected due to the scale of the country, in 2020/2021 a total of £8.97 million was granted to the UK across 472 projects, £445k was awarded to 139 projects in Northern Ireland and 1.1 million was awarded to 412 projects across the Republic of Ireland. 


Given this data, it’s clear that there is a general focus on projects across Great Britain, with there also being a greater investment rate per projects in this area as well. While the greater number of projects funded is potentially explained by the greater scale of the area, the vast inequality in relation to capital granted relative to projects funded is less clear - with this uncertainty being a limitation on the “what it’s made of” section’s score being just 1 / 3.


Furthermore, while the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are promoted at the beginning of the funding report, just £2.2 million was pledged to projects that fit the 6 goals that are specifically noted in the report. This beckons the question as to whether marketing this as a specifically ‘sustainable investment fund’ is applicable, when there is around £8 million – or 4/5th of the investments from 2020-2021 that failed to meet the already limited scope of the fund – with just 5 SDGs being focused upon.

How it's made:


Projects must fit an eligibility criterion, notably either creating opportunities, empowering communities, or building sustainable places – with there being an overall focus on the local scale for each. 


Beyond this, the projects must be based in one of the following areas: Beyond this, the projects must be based in one of the following areas: Dumfries and Galloway, Highlands, North Lincolnshire, Perth and Kinross, Scottish Borders, and South Lanarkshire.

There is a published ‘fund timetable’ which outlines statuses of the individual project areas and contact information – yet at present all but the North Lincolnshire area are closed to application. 


There are further considerations surrounding the value for money, community involvement, contribution to local economy and financial sustainability of projects as well. Notably requiring projects to have an established track record of these criteria and to uphold them following grand funding. 


Beyond the requirements and criteria however, there is little to no insight of how individual projects score or were selected – seemingly solely up to the discretion of the fund panel. This again continues the trend of a lack of transparency, with scepticism growing as a result and resultantly the “How it’s made” section receiving a 1.5 / 3.  

Who makes it:


The fund panel is made up of 5 individuals. There is a 3:2 ratio of men to women and there is a range of career backgrounds reflected through the panel, both being positive conscious moves for inclusion in this field which is often dominated by male presence. Notably, a previous First Minister of Scotland, two current Professors and an internal manager from SSE renewables. 


Beyond this, SSE Energy - as a whole - offers numerous unique benefits and incentives surrounding quality of life and leisure. Of specific note are, guaranteed maternity and paternity leave and pay, 24/7 free counselling, pension contributions, 34 days annual leave and most notably in the context of sustainability, an interest free salary advance to cover public transport schemes. The company itself offers employees a wealth of benefits which are a welcomed and valued aspect of the company's values and operations.


The background of SSE Renewables is primarily surrounding wind and hydropower development across the UK and Northern Ireland, alongside providing energy products and services for businesses. 


In contrast, SSE Energy as a whole uses all range of energy sources in their production of electricity, and also supplies gas – all through SSE Energy Services, which was taken over by OVO energy in January of 2020. There are plans for SSE to make a significant transition towards renewable energy, notably having plans to triple renewable energy production by 2030 – yet at present, the company as a whole isn’t overly renewables based.