Scotland Plans Publicly Owned Utility in Threat to the `Big Six'

(Bloomberg) -- Scotland plans to set up a publicly-owned energy company by May 2021, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in a challenge to Britain’s utilities, which already face a price cap ordered by the central government.

The new utility would provide gas and power to households “as close to cost price as possible,” Sturgeon said on Tuesday in a speech to her Scottish National Party’s annual conference in Glasgow. It would be operational by the end of the current five-year parliamentary term, delivering on a pledge she made at the last vote, she said.

“It would give people, particularly those on low incomes, more choice and the
option of a supplier whose only job is to secure the lowest price for consumers,” Sturgeon said. “Energy would be bought wholesale or generated here in Scotland -- renewable, of course.”

Sturgeon’s plan means more competition for Britain’s so-called Big Six utilities, which were the target of a price cap announced last week by Prime Minister Theresa May at her Conservative Party’s conference.

The announcement sent Centrica Plc shares tumbling to a 14-year low. The government on Thursday is due to publish a draft law to give the energy regulator, Ofgem, the powers to bring in the measure.

Sturgeon said more detail on the new not-for-profit energy company will be set out when the Scottish administration publishes a new energy strategy. She didn’t give any further details.