Hochtief wins $160m legal battle over Scottish hydro scheme

Energy firm Scottish and Southern Energy has lost its court battle with German contractor Hochtief over the collapse of a tunnel at its 100MW Glendoe hydroelectric power scheme.

The utility had been claiming £130m ($160m) in damages following internal rock falls near the head of the tunnel in August 2009. However, the Court of Session in Edinburgh yesterday ruled that the main part of SSE’s claim had failed.

Lord Woolman said: "I am satisfied that Hochtief did exercise reasonable skill and care. I reject SSE’s case as it depends on the accumulation and interpretation of all the data that has been obtained since the collapse. Put short, it is founded on hindsight.

"The collapse was not due to a defect that existed at take over. Accordingly, it was an employer’s risk event."

The judge did award SSE £1m on the grounds that Hochtief breached its obligations by not returning to repair the tunnel. This work was carried out by BAM Nuttall.

An SSE statement, issued in response to the ruling, said: "SSE is disappointed with the ruling by the Court of Session We will review the decision in more detail and assess our options."

Hochtief had been the design-and-build contractor for the $172m scheme, which is located near Fort Augustus, on the eastern end of Loch Ness. The rock fall in the 8.6km tunnel that brought water from the reservoir to the power station’s turbines caused the plant to close three months after it opened.

The repairs, which took three years to complete, involved the construction of a bypass tunnel and a downstream access tunnel. Energy generation restarted in August 2012.

Image: Glendoe was billed as generating enough energy to "power every home in Glasgow" (Sarah McGuire/Creative Commons)

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