ScottishPower has said electricity usage dipped last year in its retail section, as the Covid-19 pandemic changed habits across the country.
Electricity use was down 6%, while gas use dropped 3%.
While many people worked from home during the period, increasing their domestic consumption, factories and offices were empty for significant periods, so they used less energy.
Business electricity use fell by 13%.
But changes to domestic energy consumption did not make people more likely to leave the energy supplier. It had 4.7 million retail customers at the end of December, unchanged on a year earlier.
Many customers have also struggled to pay their bills, as those on furlough only took home 80% of their previous salaries while many others lost their jobs.
Chief executive Keith Anderson said: “As we have all spent much more time at home, energy has become even more important. At ScottishPower we’ve had to pull together and work together with our employees, customers and suppliers to support the communities we serve.
“Throughout the pandemic we supported over 300,000 of our customers by offering help with their bills and options on how to pay.”
He told the PA news agency that by keeping the retail business, which is currently facing challenges, it will complement renewable generation and the networks business, which are growing.
“We are still absolutely convinced that the retail sector will turn into a sector based around services, linked to the transition to a hydrogen economy, electric transport and electrification of heat,” he said.
Earnings before income, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) increased by 46% at ScottishPower’s renewables business to £674.6 million.
The same measure rose 2.7% at the energy networks division to £889.8 million and 130% in the retail business division to £220 million.
However, the Ebitda figure does not account for many costs, including the cost of customers who cannot pay their bills. The business will unveil further figures in April.
ScottishPower announced it will start adding solar panels to one of its Cornwall wind farms, creating the first site where the two technologies are paired with battery storage.
Engineers will install up to 10 megawatts (MW) of panels at the Carland Cross site, which houses 20MW of wind turbines and 1MW of batteries.
Mr Anderson said: “It’s really innovative stuff that we’re doing here and we think it is a big bit of unlocking the road to net-zero by using multiple bits of technology on sites to get the absolute maximum out of our renewable energy.”
Keeping all three elements on the same land optimises the use of grid cables leading to the wind farm, rather than requiring miles of extra wires to connect three different sites.
The land itself can still be used for other purposes – in Cornwall it houses a broccoli farm.
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