Spanish-based utilities giant Iberdrola signed 25-year contracts to construct, operate and maintain the new plants, which have a combined capacity of nearly 3.5 gigawatts, in 2018. Construction of the plants was completed between 2019 and 2020, and all four are now operational.

In November 2020 Iberdrola’s British subsidiary, ScottishPower, was selected by the UK Government as one of the principal corporate partners of the global climate summit (COP26), which is due to be held in Glasgow in November 2021.

The UN’s annual Conference of the Parties (COP) events bring together political leaders and delegates from across the world to discuss solutions to the climate crisis. At previous COPs, principal partners have been granted privileged access to delegates and policymakers, as well as a platform to promote their businesses as climate-friendly.

Critics said the Mexican plants meant that Iberdrola would continue to produce carbon emissions for the duration of the 25-year contracts, adding that polluters should be “kicked out” of the climate crisis talks in Glasgow.

However ScottishPower stressed that its “credentials as a green energy company are clear for all to see”.

However ScottishPower stressed that its “credentials as a green energy company are clear for all to see”.

A spokesperson noted that ScottishPower was the first energy company in the UK to produce 100 per cent clean energy when it stopped all British fossil fuel generation in 2018.

But the former chief executive of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Professor James Curran, told The Ferret that Iberdrola’s growing natural gas portfolio in Mexico “fits uneasily” with its company policy to move past fossil fuel energy production.

“Iberdrola’s huge investment in these gas-powered electricity stations mean carbon emissions will be pouring out for the lifetime of the 25-year contracts – that’s up to 2045 – by which time Scotland will already be net-zero,” Curran added.

The US President Joe Biden is expected to attend COP26, which is being hosted by the UK Government in Glasgow. Climate experts have described the event as the last chance to finalise the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature rises well below 2°C.

COP26 was postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is unclear whether the format of this year’s event might also be affected by the ongoing risk posed by the virus.

ScottishPower made the news in 2018 after it sold all of its fossil fuel assets in the UK to Drax, in a deal worth £702m. This made it the first major UK energy company whose British portfolio was 100 per cent renewable.

Observers at the time suggested that it was exposure to unstable merchant energy markets, rather than concern about carbon emissions, that motivated the switch to renewable energy in the UK, however.

In total, ScottishPower owns three gigawatts of installed renewable capacity in the UK. This figure is less than is produced by the four new Mexican plants alone, and is dwarfed by the seven gigawatts of natural gas energy produced by Iberdrola in Mexico as a whole.

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