Loose gas creating tight margins in the power market

Gas has led the way, particularly in the balance of winter contracts. These falls have come partly due to the very high levels of storage but also because of all the spare capacity that could be called upon if required. As a result, power prices have fallen due to the lower fuel cost.

LNG has been the main game changer with the deluge of tankers flooding in to Europe over the last year. Increased export capacity in the US and Russia has led to the increase in extra imports to Europe. It is also a symptom of the global oversupply in the worldwide market place. The liquid commodity markets and high import capacity make the UK an ideal location to offload any excess supply. LNG terminals are currently operating at 75% of their capacity, with all the extra gas being sold into the NBP pushing prices lower.

 

LNG imports graph

LNG imports graph

European imports have been virtually non-existent throughout the winter but more gas could be attracted through these pipes. There is a potential capacity of 94 MCM/d to come over the BBL and the Interconnector. To start attracting this gas the premium over TTF would firstly have to rise above the NBP entry charge of 1.56p/th and then cover the cost of using the pipelines. This means that if prices increase their premium over the continent to more than 2p/th additional gas will start coming to Britain.

 

IUK flows with Belgium
IUK flows with Belgium

 

Given the competition between supply sources, storage just cannot make it onto the grid, even on higher demand days, and this capacity overhang is weighing on prices.

 

Gas spare capacity graph

Gas spare capacity graph

However, the falls in prices for power have been less substantial and purely driven by the falling cost of fuel. Fundamentally the UK grid is seeing some of its tightest conditions in years. With nearly 3GW of coal capacity having retired in the last 12 months. The remaining coal units are now running as baseload and all flexibility is coming from gas. There remains spare capacity but this is the least efficient or most costly plant.

On windless, cold days we are seeing some stress on the system. Currently Monday, 18 November, has a negative margin with 300MW still required to meet anticipated demand. This has pushed power prices to their highest since February at £54.50MWh.

 

Power capacity graph
Power capacity graph

 

On Wednesday evening we saw the highest demand of the winter so far, of 45.2 GW. The above chart shows where generation was coming from at the peak on the left, with remaining output available for Monday on the right. While this shows the potential generation that could come on at the current price levels, it isn’t expected to on Monday, hence the negative margin.

So far Monday’s price reaction has been relatively muted, but it has occurred at a time when the gas systems oversupply is weighing heavily on the whole energy market. If it was happening amidst different market conditions the price outlook would be very different.

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Our Market Intelligence team keep a close eye on the energy markets and industry updates. For the timeliest updates you can find us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

How the clock change impacts UK energy demand

The clocks are scheduled to go back one hour this Sunday 27th October. The change will cause an obvious shift in usage of the electricity system as evenings draw in earlier in the day.

It also accelerates the seasonal trend towards higher demand during the colder, darker winter months, placing increased pressure on power margins. This can lead to spikes in electricity prices, should supplies struggle to meet the higher demand.

 

Jump in demand decreases as overall downward trend continues

As forecasts currently stand, the average peak demand for the week following the clock change will be 4.4% higher than the week before. Consumption is expected to rise by almost 2GW as lighting usage increases during the traditionally higher post-work demand period.

 

Average Weekday Peak Demand Weekly average before Clock Change (GW) Weekly average after Clock Change (GW) Difference (GW) Increase (%)
October 2019 (Forecast) 38.9 40.6 1.7 4.4%
October 2018 40.0 43.6 3.6 9.0%
October 2017 40.7 43.7 3 7.4%
October 2016 42.2 44.8 2.6 6.2%
October 2015 43.9 45.2 1.3 3.0%
October 2014 43.0 44.0 1 2.3%

 

However, the forecasted rise in average peak demand in 2019 is lower than in recent years. Notably 2018 which saw the highest percentage change, as consumption rose by almost 4GW week-on-week.

Overall peak power demand has been dampened marginally this year, with consumption after the clock change peaking at 40.6GW on average, 3GW lower than last year. This reduction can be attributed partly to half-term school holidays, which fall on the week either side of the clock change depending on school catchments. Higher renewable levels have also contributed to reductions in demand.

The ongoing trend in reduced energy consumption year-on-year continues, meaning that demand is rising from a far lower base. Improvements in energy efficiency have been helping to reduce electricity use over the last ten years. A large part of the reduction in peak demand has been the use of new technology, resulting in smart and more efficient appliances, able to do more with less.

Expected demand before this month’s clock change is 5GW lower than the highest peak in 2015. Furthermore, the forecasted post-clock change peak is the lowest on record.

 

Graph displaying electricity demand during the clock change

The role of renewables

The increase in wind and solar capacity in recent years has contributed to the overall demand reductions. Higher volumes of on-site renewable capacity allow more generation to be provided off-grid as homes and businesses generate their own electricity supply during windy or sunny spells. This reduces demand on the national transmission system. The high levels of solar availability during the summer season were a particularly strong influence on demand levels this year as on-site solar panels increased embedded generation. This reduced demand requirements for the transmission network.

Wind power continues to deliver a growing percentage of the UK electricity mix. By the end of September 2019, the UK’s fleet consists of over 10,000 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of over 21.5GW. Overall wind generation in the UK has so far been 33% higher through 2019 than over the same time period last year.

 

Graph showing monthly wind generation

What happens when there’s no wind?

While high winds have the capability of cutting power demand, one of the biggest dangers to the National Grid electricity network is a high demand scenario, at a time when wind output is very low.

Lighting has a bigger impact on electricity demand than heating, as the majority of home heating is gas-fired. However, during severe cold snaps, electricity demand does spike as additional heating is needed to cope with the very low temperatures. This scenario occurred during the Beast from the East cold snap in February last year. However, robust winds provided high levels of low cost electricity to the grid.

A lack of wind would see supply margins placed under significantly more stress during a similar cold snap this winter. This would require additional supply being provided by gas and coal plant or imports to make up for the increased demand. Such a scenario is likely to require significant price rises in the Within-day and Day-ahead markets.

The National Grid’s Winter Outlook for 2019/20 expects that there will be a sufficient supply margin to accommodate a wide range of security of supply scenarios. However, the organisation’s statistical 1-in-20 peak demand forecast predicts a demand of 499mcm/d, greater than the highest recorded gas demand. This is an unlikely scenario, but demonstrates how a period of high demand and low renewable availability could coincide to increase short-term prices.

An end to the clock change?

There have been proposals dating back to 2015, from members of the European Parliament, to end summer time observance. In September 2018 the European Commission proposed an end to seasonal clock changes, asking that member countries decide by March 2019 which time they would observe year round. The proposal was approved in March 2019, by 23 votes to 11. However, the start date has been postponed until 2021 to allow a smooth transition.

The United Kingdom is due to leave the EU before the reform becomes effective, meaning that it would be left to the government to make their own decision on observing summer/winter time. If continued, Northern Ireland would have a one-hour time difference for half the year with either the Republic of Ireland or the rest of the UK. The House of Lords launched an inquiry in July 2019 to consider the implications of this, with a call for evidence ongoing.

STAY INFORMED WITH EIC INSIGHTS

Our Market Intelligence team keep a close eye on the energy markets and industry updates. For the timeliest updates you can find us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

6 things to consider negotiating a flexible energy supply contract

In our latest blog we outline some key factors you need to consider when opting for a flexible energy supply contract.

  1. Contract Duration

    The duration of your flexible energy supply contract is often driven by market liquidity. The trading windows cover 4 seasons (24 months) for power and 6 seasons (36 months) for gas but it’s always beneficial to put a longer term contract in place so seasons can be traded as soon as they become liquid. Longer duration flexible energy contracts provide optimum trading opportunities to manage prices over time. It is also worth ensuring a supply contract is in place to cover any duration that requires a budget to be set.

  2. Non-Commodity Charges

    It’s important to think carefully about your non-commodity costs when securing your flexible energy supply contract. There are many options available. These range from fully fixing all or some non-commodity charges, to having all charges fully passed through at cost. Having all, or at least some, of the demand related charges passed through will reduce premiums. As a result you can reduce costs by load shifting or load shedding. This will however increase the complexity of invoices as the non-commodity charges will be transparent on your invoices with some subject to reconciliations. Non-commodity costs will make up around 67% of your overall costs by 2025. So it’s vital to consider your wider energy strategy as fixing non-commodity costs could limit the potential gains from being more proactive.

  3. Trading Flexibility

    Although the commodity element of your costs now makes up a smaller portion of overall spend, this is the element we can influence the most through active trading. Access to supplier trading desks, the ability to refloat volume and the size of tradeable clips are some of the things that should be considered to maximise trading flexibility. Some suppliers will also charge trading transaction fees which can result in additional costs over the duration of the contract so these should be factored into supply contract negotiations. Your preferred trading strategy should also be considered to ensure you’re your contract offers you the required level of flexibility.

  4. Volumes

    When tendering a flexible energy supply contract, including accurate volume forecasts will enable a supplier to provide the most suitable contract offer. Some suppliers will apply a volume tolerance to a supply contract and set limits on reforecasting. So if there are any planned or known volume changes due occur in the future it is important to consider these. Having accurate trading volumes in place from the start also enables effective buying strategies to be implement from a trading and budgeting point of view.

  5. Administration

    When choosing a supplier to renew with it is important to consider your requirements relating to payment terms, invoicing and data access. Some suppliers can be more flexible than others regarding invoicing and payment terms, and certain factors such as credit can impact on the options available. There are also variations in what a supplier can offer in terms of data access. Whether this is access to consumption data or invoices via a dedicated contact or via an online portal.

  6. Negotiation & Analysis

    Suppliers will charge specific fees for managing a contract and offer different premiums for renewable energy for example. Therefore it’s vital to analyse supplier offers on a like-for-like basis to ensure you secure the most competitive contract available. Tender negotiations should consider all aspects of a supply contract to achieve the best contract terms in line with your requirements. The main aim is to procure a competitive contract with a supplier that meets all of your day to day needs whilst offering trading flexibility to suit your strategy.

 

Click here to find out how our Flexible Energy Procurement solutions can transform your electricity and gas buying strategies.

Triads – how low can they go?

The Triad season started on 1 November and is one of the most important areas of demand management for energy users. Triads are used by National Grid to calculate transmission charges as part of the Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) scheme.

What are Triads?

Triads are the three half-hour periods with the highest demand between 1 November and the end of February, identified by National Grid. However, each Triad must be separated by at least 10 clear days, meaning consecutive days of high demand won’t result in multiple Triads.

 

Why should you avoid them?

The knowledge of when Triads will occur enables many companies to manage their demand consumption. If your electricity contract allows for it, reducing your usage during an expected Triad period will result in reduced transmission charges and lower bills.

 

How low can they go?

The 2017/18 season saw the lowest level of Triad demand since records began in the early 1990s.

The maximum Triad level dropped to a record 48GW last year, having fallen more than 10GW in just eight years.

 

How low can Triads go

 

Overall energy consumption has been trending lower for the last decade, and one of the interesting outcomes from this Triad season will be whether a new record low can be achieved.

 

Efficiency is key

A large part of the reduction in peak demand has been due to major developments in energy efficiency. The use of new technology and appliances, as well as a switch from incandescent lighting, are all contributing to lower energy consumption.

The act of Triad avoidance has developed to the extent that it’s influencing when Triads occur, as more and more businesses across the UK look to demand side management as a means to cut their costs. National Grid highlighted last year that businesses reacting to warning signals – such as our Triad Alerts – had the potential to cut the country’s peak demand by as much as 2GW. This then makes it more difficult to predict Triads, as peaks for the winter get lower and flatter with each passing year, forcing us to adapt our model to ensure continued success.

 

Our successful track record

Forecasting Triads is dependent on a wide range of different factors. Our Triad Alert service monitors different influencers to predict the likelihood of any particular day being a Triad and automatically sends that information promptly to our clients. These businesses can then take informed action to avoid high energy usage during these more costly half-hour periods, while minimising disruption to their everyday activity. Our daily report can help you plan ahead with an overview of the next 14 days, alongside a long-term winter outlook.

Of course, calling an alert every weekday would generate a 100% success rate, but we recognise the negative impact this would have on businesses. Organisations could incur major damage to revenues if required to turn down their production each day for four months ‘just in case’, so we aim to provide as few alerts as possible.

In the previous Triad season we only called 9 Red Alerts and successfully predicted all three Triads with fewer alerts than any other tracked TPI or supplier. In fact, the total number of alerts called by Utilitywise has fallen 36% in the last three years. We successfully predicted all three half hour periods with our lowest ever number of alerts. Our in-house model is based on a traffic light system, with Red Alerts indicating we believe a Triad is highly likely and our clients should take immediate action.

For those that took action last year, based on our advice, demand was cut by an average of 14% compared to standard winter peak-period half-hour consumption. This resulted in significant average cost savings of over £30,000, and in some cases, rewards closer to £700,000 were observed.

 

Intelligent buildings, smarter business

By forecasting when Triads will occur, we empower our clients to take control of their consumption to reduce their energy use and lower their bills. Businesses can react to our Alerts simply by cutting demand during suspected Triad times or by load-shifting.

Load-shifting involves moving the most energy-intensive tasks of the day to a time when it’s less likely that a Triad will occur, for example early in the morning. This enables you to avoid Triads without reducing your overall daily energy use. Building controls make this easier. With our IoT-enabled Building Energy Management solution, we’re introducing the next generation of smart building controls. Our innovative solution brings together the required technologies to integrate your critical energy systems with a single, remotely-managed platform. This means you can manage your buildings in real-time.

A new era for energy and building management

The building management industry is on a path to converge with IT and, with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), a world of opportunities has opened up.

How many of us used Uber to order a taxi, or Air BnB to book accommodation five years ago? New technology isn’t only disrupting the way we live, but also the way we work. In fact, 76% of businesses believe that IoT is critical to their future success.

At EIC the aim is to help businesses reduce their utilities consumption and energy-related costs. And, as IoT connects ever more devices, we’re using cutting-edge solutions to revolutionise how you run your business. In short, thanks to IoT, traditional building management systems (BMS) as we know them are a thing of the past. There’s never been a better time to upgrade your energy management strategy – but how?

We want to transform the way you control, monitor, meter, and manage your energy and water usage, as well as your sites’ critical business systems. To do this, we’ve teamed up with leading tech giants O2 and Intel to launch our IoT-enabled Building Energy Management solution. The partnership unites the technologies needed to integrate a businesses’ critical energy systems with a single, remotely-managed platform. With instant access to actionable data insights, buildings can be managed in real-time.

Through our smart controls solution, you’ll have the power to implement, amend, and manage control strategies on a wide portfolio of sites from the single touch of a button.

 

Together, through IoT controls, we can provide you with; 

  • Full integration. View, manage, and control your energy consumption and your buildings’ critical business systems in one place with a cohesive, joined-up strategy that includes energy, water, security, heating, lighting, access control systems, and point of sale.
  • Real-time data. Access your building’s data 24/7/365, anytime and anywhere, from desktop to smartphone.
  • Actionable insights. Transform your utilities data into useable information, helping reduce your energy consumption, improve energy efficiency, and better control your costs.
  • Simple and quick implementation with minimal disruption. We can set up our equipment in minutes and there’s no need to re-wire. In fact, once we’re set up you can turn off your old systems. 
  • Valuable savings. Cut your operating costs by up to 20%, even on your most efficient buildings. ROI for our solution is typically under 12 months, in an industry where up to five-year paybacks are commonplace.
  • A truly bespoke solution. We can design a platform to connect, configure, and control what you need, specific to your business strategy and requirements.

 

By giving business owners and building managers unprecedented insight into how their buildings are using energy, they can make truly informed decisions about how to reduce their utility bills. Our IoT controls solution will leave you with intelligent buildings and a smarter business, giving you the potential to unlock huge savings, freeing up cash to be invested elsewhere.

For a taster of what our Building Energy Management solution can do for you, download our brochure and start your journey to a better-connected future.