Today, we know Swale, or SWALEC, as an SSE brand, and one of the largest providers of clean energy within Wales and the wider United Kingdom, but that’s not where the brand begun. Known as SWALEB (South Wales Electricity Board), it was at one time a publicly owned Electricity Supply and Distribution Company formed from the merger of local authority and private electricity companies in 1990. In 1996, however, it was bought out for the princely sum of £872 million, following the re-regulation of the electricity supply industry in the UK.
The buyer was Welsh Water, which then rebranded itself as Hyder once SWALEC was on board. In February 2000, the retail end of their electricity and gas business was sold to British Energy for just £105m, which included the retail Swalec brand. By August that same year though, British Energy were ready to diverge themselves from the Swalec business and sold it on to Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) for £210m, exactly twice as much as they had paid 7 months earlier.
With Swalec, SSE have a foothold in each of the UK’s nations; Airtricity in Northern and the Republic of Ireland, Swalec in Wales and SSE in England and Scottish Hydro in Scotland. In total, they supply over 9.5 million homes with energy, and pride themselves on offering being the UK’s largest company to offer all their employees the living wage, guaranteeing all of their 19,000+ employees at least £7.65 an hour. That corporate responsibility expands further into the brand, with SSE considering themselves a responsible company, as the first company to be accredited with the Fair Tax Mark, ensuring that the company pay their fair share of tax and publishing open reports on how they do that. Since 2011, the company have invested over £1 billion in the UK’s energy infrastructure and paid the same amount in taxes, helping to fund vital parts of the economy and build a better future for everyone.
SSE as a company have put significant efforts into producing a large amount of their energy from renewable sources, but Swalec stand as an outlier in that respect. Whilst Airtricity produces 79% of its energy from renewable sources, Swalec produces a lowly 15% from its fuel mix. The rest comes from coal (54%), natural gas (28%), nuclear (1%) and other (2%). That represents a rather poor effort on the part of SSE Swalec, but with plans for new wind farms as well as hydro power plants in the UK, we can expect those numbers to increase over the forthcoming years.
One area where Swalec stand head and shoulders above their Welsh competition, however, is in their excellent customer service. Which rates it at four stars, with customers praising the contact number for Swalec for helpful service, English speaking operators and quick resolution of problems should they arise with your gas or electricity.
Overall, they’re rated 51%, which is a respectable score but there’s obviously work yet to do with both the cost of their energy and with helping their customers save money.