Scotland business

Energy firm Aggreko shifting towards solar and battery power

battery park Image copyright Aggreko’
Image caption An aerial view of an Aggreko battery park

Energy firm Aggreko is shifting towards solar and battery power in its supply of temporary generation to foreign markets and major sporting events.

The company has built up a world-leading role in supply of diesel generators to power developing countries.

It is also involved in heavy mining and the oil industry in remote areas, the Olympic games, and music festivals.

It is now responding to pressure from customers to cut carbon emissions.

The chief executive, Chris Weston, is shifting the company's emphasis to a hybrid technology including solar or wind power, backed up by a gas generator and battery units to deal with intermittent renewable energy supply.

Use of data

The units, the size of a shipping container, are transported around the world from its assembly plant in Dumbarton.

Aggreko relies increasingly on use of data as its operations become more complex, with 100 staff employed at a data handling centre in Glasgow.

The headquarters office is also in Glasgow, having spun out of the Christian Salvesen food processing business.

Aggreko's financial results for 2019 were published on Tuesday, with revenue falling 8%, and pre-tax profit rising by 9% to £199m.

Image copyright Aggreko
Image caption The battery units are transported around the world from Aggreko's assembly plant in Dumbarton

The figures look better when the peak of activity around the Winter Olympic Games in 2018 is taken into account - with revenue falling 1% to £1.6bn, and pre-tax profit up 13%.

The share price rose 5% on the London Stock Exchange in the hours after the financial results were published.

Aggreko has the contract to supply temporary power to the Olympics in Japan later this year.

Most of the equipment has been delivered, and Chris Weston said the project is on track. However, there are doubts about the Games going ahead on schedule, due to the spread of Covid-19 virus.

Looking ahead, Mr Weston told BBC Scotland there is an exciting prospect in the next five to 10 years of transition. "We're going to see a transition from fossil fuel to low-carbon forms of generation. We can play a major role in helping our customers through that process.

"This is a huge opportunity for Aggreko. It plays to our strengths. There are few competitors out there with this ability to integrate the various methods of generation."

Hurricane damage

The best prospects are seen as mining and power utilities across Latin America and Africa in particular.

North America provides opportunities for strong growth, up 5% last year, and by more if the reduced need to compensate for hurricane damage in 2018 is taken into account.

Support for utilities, including those disabled by Californian forest fires, was up 16% last year, building and construction was up 16%, oil and gas continued to rise, with power supply on remote fracking sites.

If the current "pipeline" of orders builds up, Mr Weston said there could be opportunities to increase the number of power units being assembled at the Dumbarton plant.