SCOTTISH Hydroelectric owner SSE lost another 70,000 household customers in the latest quarter and saw renewable energy output fall well below expectations amid unhelpful weather conditions.

The Perth-based energy giant said the total number of energy customer accounts in the British domestic market fell to 5.71 million during the three months to June 30 from 5.78m at the end of the preceding quarter.

SSE has been hit by an exodus of customers amid competition from new entrants in a market long dominated by big players.

The group lost 570,000 customers in the year to March and recorded a sharp fall in profits at its British household energy supply business.

Read more: Profits plunge at SSE amid customer exodus

In an update on trading in the first quarter, SSE said yesterday it still hopes to have quit the retail market by the second half of next year.

Stores sector veteran Katie Bikerstaffe became head of the retail business in June with a brief to deliver a new future for the business outside of the SSE Group.

SSE said it It expects Ms Bickerstaffe to “continue progress towards a listing or new ownership by the second half of calendar year 2020” without elaborating.

The company could face challenges in its attempt to offload the retail division amid the complications caused by the introduction of a cap on variable tariffs by Ofgem in January.

A controversial plan to merge the retail business with npower fell apart in December. The groups scrapped the planned deals citing the likely impact of challenging market conditions.

Read more: SSE boss sees total pay fall 40% after profits setback

Yesterday SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “The early months of our financial year have brought some short-term challenges and some encouraging longer-term developments.”

He said SSE’s decision to focus on the renewable energy generation and networks businesses had been vindicated by the emerging political consensus about the need to tackle climate change.

“The fact the UK has become the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050 is a key development in the fight against climate change and reinforces SSE’s strategic focus on regulated electricity networks and renewable energy,” said Mr Phillips-Davies.

However, SSE noted that the weather across the UK and Ireland meant renewable output in the three months to June 30 was around 20% lower than expected in a typical year.

The amount of rainfall and the strength of the winds experienced were both factors.

Read more: SSE to invest billions in Scottish transmission networks as focus shifts to renewables 

SSE’ s experience highlights how dependent renewable energy generators are on weather conditions that they can not influence.

This puts the onus on them to deploy a range of technologies across the markets they serve to generate, store and transmit renewable energy.

In June SSE said it would need to invest more than £2bn in the power transmission network in northern Scotland in coming years to support the drive to tackle climate change

It said a significant proportion of the investment will be in the North East, with a particular focus on accommodating the growth in offshore wind.

The group noted yesterday that it will be seeking support for three renewable energy projects under the official Contracts for Difference scheme.

Directors underlined their confidence in the renewables-focused strategy last month by approving plans to close SSE’s last remaining coal-fired plant, at Fiddlers Ferry in Cheshire by March 31 2020.

Read more: Profits surge at ScottishPower

The group remains confident its strategy will allow it to deliver on the five-year dividend plan set out in May last year.

The overall outlook for the financial year is unchanged.

The company’s remuneration report was approved by 99.85 per cent of votes cast at the AGM signalling shareholders are supportive of management.

SSE shares closed up 11p at £11.64 yesterday.