The energy crisis: how did we get here?

If you are concerned about the rising prices, you are not alone.

As the world reels from the biggest price rise in electricity and gas in over a decade, our expert analysts take a look at some of the reasons behind the sudden surge and what the future could hold in store.

European storage inventories are well below average

Graph showing European storage levels
European storage

 

There were strong withdrawals in Q1 2021, as colder temperatures settled over Europe. At the same time, Asia was experiencing similar conditions. Japan had a very cold January along with several outages, which led to an immediate need for LNG to boost gas power generation.

As a result, LNG deliveries to Europe slowed down and the region had to rely on more stored gas. The early part of Q2 2021 saw persistent colder temperatures, low wind and maintenance, leaving little surplus to make its way into storage.

By the time injections started there was already a shortfall and the pace of injections has not been enough to shut down this deficit.

European storage is vital to ensure some security of supply over winter, especially if there are supply issues from other sources. Storage is also needed to top-up supply, when demand is high.

Reduced gas supplies this summer

UK LNG imports
UK LNG imports

 

Part of the reason for the lacklustre injections is the heavy maintenance in many gas-producing regions during this summer. Covid restrictions hampered maintenance schedules last summer and many sites were running strong through the colder winter that followed.

In addition to the shortfall in supply, LNG deliveries to the UK and Europe were drastically reduced, particularly during this quarter. This fall in import volume is due to a marked increase in demand for LNG in Asia this year. This demand growth is largely due to China ramping up its economy post-Covid, as well as other regions replenishing their depleted stock levels.

 

Weak renewable generation this summer

Wind & gas output comparison table
Power output comparison table

 

In recent years, the UK has increased its wind capacity to about 25% of the generation capacity. This summer has seen some of the lowest wind speeds, with the likes of Orsted – who have invested heavily in wind generation – reporting lacklustre returns this summer.

The graph above highlights the drop in wind output, especially in Q3 2021, and the increased need for gas generation. As a result, the need for gas to generate power has been elevated at a time of tighter gas supply.

Supply margins in the UK were extremely tight last week, and as a result, we saw some unprecedented price levels – as shown below in the UK day-ahead power price. System prices were as high as £4,000/MWh at peak times.

Day ahead forecast
UK day-ahead power price forecast

Increased cost of substitute sources of power generation

In parts of Europe, there has been an increased reliance on coal and lignite power generation. On the back of various policy moves, the price of carbon allowances in Europe has also surged. This year alone, prices have doubled. As a consequence, it has become increasingly expensive for fossil-fuelled power generation. Gas prices have risen so strongly that it has become more profitable for coal and lignite power generation in Europe (which are more polluting) instead of gas.

The UK and European governments manage the supply of carbon allowances. With a current policy of zero carbon, it is difficult to see governments increasing the availability of allowances.

Carbon
Carbon allowances

Russian gas supply

Despite the surge in gas prices across Europe, Russian supply volumes have not responded to demand. In July and August, there was maintenance on both Nordstream 1 and Yamal pipelines that saw substantial declines in Russian volumes, exacerbating the tight gas market.

The domestic Russian gas market is also under relatively tight conditions. Russian domestic storage was heavily drawn last winter and there has been some delay in replenishing them, due to heavy summer maintenance.

There has also been a reluctance to increase flows across the Ukrainian and Polish routes. In the meantime, with the completion of Nordstream 2, a preferred alternative route is ready. But there are some legal hurdles that need to be overcome, denting market hopes for the start of the fourth quarter.

 

What’s next?

There is a substantial risk premium priced into this winter, given all these factors so far. There is also an underlying uncertainty of how and when these will resolve, in the face of an unknown winter demand.

A mild and windy winter will allow for more wind generation and reduce some of the demand for heating. However, periods of cold and still conditions will see supply margins drop and system prices record high prices once more.

Gas could start to flow through Nordstream 2 this winter. But will this merely displace gas that is currently moving through one of the other routes to Europe? Or will supply increase significantly, once domestic reserves are met?

It is likely that this winter will see an increase in price volatility, with price swings in either direction.

For advice on how your business can respond to changing energy prices, contact EIC today.

This article was written by the Market Intelligence Team

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) explained

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) came into effect on 1st January 2020, replacing the Feed-in Tariff (FiT). These schemes offered payments to businesses with installed onsite generation, a vital part of the UK’s journey to net zero.

Onsite generation can offer businesses various benefits, including self-sufficiency and environmental sustainability – and as the technology becomes less expensive and more efficient, the advantages will only increase. While these green solutions are not suitable for every business, they are becoming more prevalent in this time of economic recovery.

Here are some FAQs regarding the new scheme and how it works:

What is the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG)?

The SEG offers payment to small-scale renewable energy generators for excess electricity that is exported to the National Grid. To do this, suppliers with at least 150,000 domestic customers will be required to provide a minimum of one tariff offer to small-scale low-carbon generators.

Do I need to apply for the Smart Export Guarantee?

If you are a small-scale energy generator with either solar PV, wind, CHP, Hydro, or Anaerobic digestion, installed in England, Scotland or Wales with a capacity up to 5MW (or up to 50kW for micro-CHP), you may fit the criteria for the SEG.

For next steps and more info download our SEG Guide

What if I already get the Feed-in Tariff (FiT)?

If you signed up for FiT before the 31 March 2019 deadline, your payments will continue until your contract runs out. The SEG is mostly for companies or households with new renewable energy installations, or for those who missed the FiT deadline.

There is no FiT subsidy for newly installed renewable energy technologies after this date. Backdated applications will also not be accepted.

What is the difference between SEG and FiT?

Whilst the SEG is replacing the Feed-in Tariff, there are differences between the two schemes. The Feed-in Tariff included both export and generation tariffs, but the SEG only provides the former. In other words, with the SEG you will only receive tariffs for the renewable energy you don’t use. This means that customers may not see the same financial benefit for the renewable energy they are generating as solar panel owners initially did with FiT. (Tariffs will vary across regions depending on network requirements.)

There is also a scheme for renewable heat technologies for both domestic and non-domestic purposes, known as the RHI and non-domestic RHI. This government scheme provides financial incentives for the installation of renewable heat technologies. Eligible technologies include biomass heat, solar thermal and heat pumps.

How do I know if on-site generation is right for my business?

On-site generation can often provide energy security: a worthwhile commodity in a volatile market. It can also help businesses avoid non-commodity costs, which can make up almost 60% of your energy bills.

At EIC, we already support our clients with initiatives that incentivise clean energy use, assisting clients with navigating the transition to a net zero landscape. We can help guide you towards the most efficient and cost-effective energy management plan. This can mean exploring on-site generation options, as well as other sustainable solutions that can reduce your carbon emissions and energy costs.

For businesses that have set or plan on committing to a net zero target, EIC would be happy to engage with you. Our carbon team works with businesses to put together an adaptable and bespoke roadmap, outlining the sustainable steps required to reduce your carbon footprint. Along the way, we will ensure you stay compliant with changing legislation, allowing you to make the most of schemes such as the SEG.

To understand more about our energy and carbon services contact us at EIC.

REGO prices rise amidst post-Brexit uncertainty

The Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO) scheme was designed to provide consumers with transparency about the portion of electricity their suppliers source from renewable generation.

How do REGOs work?

Renewable energy generators are issued with one REGO certificate for every megawatt hour (MWh) of renewable output. This certificate is then sold with an energy contract to prove to the final customer that a share of their energy was produced from renewable sources.

Why are REGO prices rising?

In recent weeks the cost of REGO certificates has increased dramatically, leading to rising renewable electricity contract renewal prices. There are a number of factors driving the increases, including:

  • Lower levels of renewable generation than expected in the UK in the 2020–21 period, reducing the number of REGOs available on the market
  • Higher levels of demand for renewable electricity
  • End-of-year purchasing by suppliers to meet their obligations
  • Uncertainty surrounding the acceptance of European Guarantees of Origin certificates (GoOs) in future
  • Increase in wholesale electricity prices that continue to recover to pre-pandemic levels

These factors mean that customers securing renewable electricity contract renewals are likely to see their prices increase.

Are REGOs used for greenwashing?

REGOs have faced criticism for allowing greenwashing. This is because some suppliers buy power on the wholesale market, which is a mix of all sources including fossil fuels and nuclear. They then separately acquire REGOs to label this power ‘green’. Scottish Power and Good Energy have recently called for regulatory reforms to close these “loopholes” in the market.

Despite these calls for reform, a recent Cornwall Insight’s survey found that 74% of participants felt there had been no improvement in REGOs regulations.

How can EIC help?

The sharpest insights are crucial in today’s volatile markets. We work to ensure that our clients are aware of key market movements and are ready to capitalise on every opportunity.

The EIC Market Intelligence team has extensive knowledge of the electricity and carbon markets and the fundamentals driving them. Interpreting this information is a key component of a successful energy management strategy.

EIC can help your business stay ahead of the curve with market insights and smart procurement so you can make energy management decisions with confidence. To learn more, contact us at EIC today.

UK ETS: what you need to know about reporting

The UK was a founding member of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme when it first launched in 2005. As the world’s first major carbon market, it was designed to incentivise the reduction of carbon emissions in a cost-effective way. Following Brexit, the UK established its own Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) to further drive down emissions and maintain the UK’s competitiveness in a green global market.

How does the UK ETS work?

The UK was influential in the design of the EU ETS. So, it came as no great shock that when the UK ETS launched in May 2021, it looked very similar to its predecessor.

The system still works on the ‘cap and trade’ system. This means that a cap is set on the total amount of certain greenhouse gases that can be emitted by installations covered by the system. The cap is reduced over time so that total emissions fall in line with the UK’s net zero target.

This cap is converted into tradable emission allowances. For each allowance, the holder has the right to emit one tonne of CO2 (or its greenhouse gas equivalent). After each year, large energy users must give up enough allowances to cover all their emissions or face a fine.

What does it mean for companies that apply?

Facilities with installed combustion equipment above the 20MWth threshold are required to monitor and report their emissions each year. They then must surrender allowances to cover their reported emissions.

A portion of allowances will be issued for free to eligible installations (typically energy intensive industries or aviation). This follows the same approach as the EU ETS. If they are likely to emit more than their allocation, companies can take measures to reduce their emissions or buy additional allowances.

If a company decides to reduce its emissions, it can keep the spare allowances to either use the following year or sell them on. In this way, the ETS helps to monitor emissions from energy intensive industries and incentivises carbon conscious strategies. And it’s been a successful driver of reductions. Between the launch of the EU ETS in 2005 and 2019, emissions from installations covered by the scheme have declined by about 35%.

This is promising progress for the fight against climate change, and the UK ETS is expected to be even more ambitious in readjusting its cap. This will mean tighter restrictions on emission reductions in future carbon reporting, especially for big energy users.

uk ets timeline

How can EIC help?

EIC has a team of dedicated Carbon Consultants and Data Analysts who provide an all-encompassing UK ETS service. We provide you with guidance and support: interpreting complex legislation and keeping you up to date with any policy shifts. You will be assigned a dedicated Carbon Consultant who will help you navigate the reporting and compliance process with ease.

Our in-house carbon team has extensive experience with reducing energy consumption, costs and emissions for our clients. This means we can keep you ahead of the curve and prepare your business for future reporting requirements.

To learn more about how EIC can help you with reporting for UK ETS, contact us today.

Controlling your energy bills: A guide to non-commodity costs

The cost of electricity has been fluctuating considerably in the last few years. From the highpoint in September 2018 wholesale prices had fallen by roughly 60% by 2020. During the lockdown they started to rise again. Despite the temporary drop energy bills have consistently gone up. The reason for this is a rise in non-commodity, or ‘third-party’, costs.

What are non-commodity costs?

Essentially the amount we pay for energy includes three different expenses. The first is the wholesale price of the actual amount of power we use (the commodity). Secondly, we have the cost of transmission and distribution across the network. And finally a variety of government levy and taxes. The energy companies pay these fees and pass the cost onto their customers.

In 2011 non-commodity costs accounted for about 36% of energy prices. In 2021 this has risen to 64% and is predicted to reach 70% to 80% over the next decade.

Here is our guide to the different types of non-commodity costs.

Transmission and distribution costs

Each supplier incurs expenses to run and maintain the power network. These vary from provider to provider and depend largely on the type of power plant. For example, solar and wind generators are less consistent than gas or nuclear power. With a move towards renewable energy, the cost of balancing the system is likely to increase. The main expenses are:

Government levy and taxes

These taxes fund various government initiatives and green energy programs.

Covid-19 and the energy market

Some non-commodity costs are set at the beginning of each year. Others are subject to change throughout the year. In simple terms, the non-commodity charge is equal to the cost of providing energy to the nation divided by how much we use. The more we need to use, the lower the cost of non-commodity and the higher the wholesale price.

During lockdown, our use of electricity dropped significantly across the UK. Following weeks of high winds in January 2020, the network had a surplus of power and a far lower demand. This resulted in costs of nearly £50m to balance the network and sell off spare energy at a loss on the European market. This is one of the rare occasions where it would have been cheaper long term to leave our lights on.

The lockdown also affected the FiT and CfD levy costs. These are reviewed quarterly and significant changes in generation or demand of renewable energy have a knock-on effect on how much we pay in taxes to support the industry. It’s not all bad news though, lower emissions mean we will end up paying less towards the climate change tax.

Controlling your expenses

With the increases in non-commodity costs set to continue it is important to keep an eye on your bills. Proper monitoring and tracking monthly changes will ensure you aren’t overpaying. In our experience, nearly 20% of all utility bills include a mistake.

With such turbulence in the market, there is less control over the wholesale cost of electricity. What can be controlled is how we use energy.  At EIC we can help you plan your usage around annual Triad periods. This can make a significant difference to your energy bills. Our daily traffic light warnings will help you avoid any unnecessary fluctuations and keep costs low. Our clients have saved on average £180,000 on TNUoS charges.

Whether you prefer the stability of a fixed price or the control of a flexible contract we can help. Setting up an energy contract can be a long process, especially if you want a good price. We have the experience to negotiate with your provider to make sure you are not paying more than you should be. Our service is tailored to your needs. To find out what we can do for your business get in touch today.

What nuclear fusion means for big energy users

Big energy users rely on the UK’s power network to provide safe, reliable electricity for their ongoing business stability. While the use of renewable energy is reaching an all-time high, concerns linger about its reliability. Nuclear fission has been supporting the drive to lower emissions but remains controversial and recently, science has been looking to the future. Could nuclear fusion be the solution?

Every business uses electricity but smaller companies and low level energy users can often handle short outages. Unfortunately big energy users are not so lucky. While solar and wind can be powerful contributors to the grid, they can’t meet all our energy needs. To decarbonise energy-intense industries such as industry or aviation, the development of hydrogen and nuclear is essential.

How does fusion work?

Unlike nuclear fission which splits an atom to release the energy and heat we need for electricity, fusion does it by combining two atoms. Under intense heat and pressure, two positively charged hydrogen isotopes are forced together to create a heavier element.  This releases the same heat and energy we see in fission.

While the process is more complicated than fission, the end result is far safer and more sustainable. It produces almost no radioactive waste material and if the system gets overwhelmed it shuts down automatically so there’s no risk of a meltdown. Not to mention, it is 25% of the cost of nuclear and half the cost of wind energy.

Fission power is fuelled by uranium which is mined, refined and remains dangerous for thousands of years after use. The fuel for fusion power is deuterium. This is found in seawater and the earth has a near limitless supply.

Fusion power promises clean, reliable energy and a consistent output day or night whatever the weather. Renewable power will certainly remain a key part of the plan but with the help of fusion power, we could completely eliminate the use of coal, oil and natural gas.

What is the problem?

Currently, efficiency is the big issue. Existing reactor designs have struggled to produce more electricity than they require for operation. This is mostly due to the scale of the designs and the fuel used for testing. Scientists have been working on the project for decades but lately, a lot of progress has been made. Current research aims to have a functioning, economically viable fusion reactor online by 2030.

The progress of this technology is often compared to the advancements made in microchip design. The processing power of a microchip doubles every year, (following a principle called Moore’s Law). Fusion research has followed a very similar trend.

If progress continues at the current pace, scientists hope to meet their targets and bring fusion into the fight against fossil fuels.

What do we do until then?

The main problem with nuclear fission reactors is the cost. Taking an average of 6 years to build and costing billions of pounds they represent a big commitment. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until 2030 for the next advancement in energy technology. Small modular reactors and hydrogen fuel are getting ready to bridge the gap.

Small reactor, big energy

A popular option amongst energy researchers today is the Small Modular Reactor (SMR). These portable, self-contained reactor buildings are designed to be mass produced so they can be plugged into a power facility to generate electricity. Once used up, they would be returned to the manufacturer or moved into deep storage. SMR technology has made great progress in the last year and researchers hope to have a working model online in the next 5 years.

Hydrogen fuel

Nuclear power stations can also generate the temperatures required for the production of hydrogen fuel. The market for hydrogen has been growing steadily and is likely to maintain this trajectory in years to come. While not as energy dense as most fuels, hydrogen is more efficient than current battery technology and could greatly benefit the growing electric car market.

Where does EIC come in?

EIC are passionate about cutting edge technology. We regularly explore all the latest advancements and choose the best options for our clients. While fusion power may not be an immediate solution, the future for clean energy looks bright.

At EIC, we can help you manage your energy needs and ensure you meet your emissions targets. Our bespoke services can transform your energy strategy and integrate sustainability into the foundation of your organisation.

From procurement to onsite generation, we can help you find the most efficient and cost effective green energy solutions for your business. To learn more about working towards a clean, efficient energy future, contact us at EIC.

Challenging Winter Ahead for Triad Season

Winter is fast approaching and the Triad season will soon begin. This is an important time for many large UK consumers as they seek to lower transmission costs by reducing demand during potential Triad periods. Triads are three half-hour periods with the highest electricity demand between the start of November and the end of February and each Triad must be separated by at least 10 clear days. This means consecutive days of high demand won’t result in multiple Triads.

If your electricity contract allows it then reducing your demand at these specific points will result in lower transmission charges. However, knowing when Triads occur is a complex business so, to help our clients, EIC provides a Triad Alert service. We have successfully forecast each of the three Triad periods for the last 8 years, saving customers millions of pounds in transmission charges.

Pandemic continues to suppress demand

Winter peak demand is at its lowest point since 1992/93 and is now 14 GW (~24%) lower than the peak of 2010/11. There are a number of factors that have contributed to the fall in peak demand over the past decade. These include improvements to the energy efficiency of appliances, an increase in LED lighting and a rise in embedded generation.

However, in 2020 we can add another significant contributor to demand reduction. The coronavirus pandemic has led to a dramatic fall in peak demand since mid-March. Demand has increased since lockdown ended but is still lower than previous years.

National Grid are currently forecasting peak demand over the Triad period to be around 43-44 GW, slightly lower than last winter’s peak of 45 GW. The winter demand forecast looks to be flatter than previous years, making predicting when Triads will fall far more challenging. It is therefore important to receive Triad alerts from a trusted and reliable source such as EIC.

EIC’s record of Triad season success

EIC has an in-house model which has successfully forecast every triad period for the last eight years. We issue clients with comprehensive alerts advising them when a Triad is forecast, so they can reduce consumption accordingly.

Our Triad Alert Service forecasts the likelihood of any particular day being a Triad and sends alerts before 10am. Businesses can then take action to avoid high usage during these periods, while minimising disruption to everyday activity. We also monitor the market throughout the day and send out an afternoon alert in the event of significant change. The daily report can also help you plan ahead with an overview of the next 14 days alongside a long-term winter outlook.

Calling daily alerts would generate a 100% success rate, however this could have a negative impact on our clients. Organisations would incur major damage to revenues if required to turn down their production each day for 4 months ‘just in case’ and at EIC our aim is to provide as few alerts as possible. Over the 2019/20 Triad period we called just 13 alerts while the average supplier issued over 20.

Triads granted extra year

In December 2019, Ofgem published their final decision on the Targeted Charging Review (TCR). The main outcome of this decision is that, from April 2021, the residual part of transmission charges will be levied in the form of fixed charges for all households and businesses. However, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic Ofgem has decided to delay this by a year. This provides an extra opportunity for consumers to benefit from Triad avoidance before TCR changes arrive in April 2022.

With the TCR, Ofgem aims to introduce a charge it considers fair to all consumers, not just those able to reduce during peak periods. For the majority of consumers these changes will lead to a reduction in transmission costs. However, for those who are currently taking Triad avoidance action it is likely that their future costs will rise.

How we can help with Triad season

We have helped hundreds of clients avoid these transmission costs by providing them with the tools needed, giving EIC an enviable track record in Triad prediction.

Last year, our customers cut demand by an average of 41% compared to standard winter peak-period half-hour consumption – resulting in significant cost savings. Clients who responded to our Triad Alerts, saved on average £180,000. Our best result last winter saw a client saving nearly £1 million in TNUoS charges.

The Triad season starts on 1 November. Find out more about our Triad Alert service.

The end of fixed term energy contracts?

EIC expands on recent comments from industry professionals concerning the viability of fixed-term energy contracts in an uncertain future.

The floodgates open

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt at all levels of commerce, whether it be the radical transition to remote working or exposing the fragility of the fossil fuel sector.

Many organisations have recognised the opportunity that remote communications technology like Zoom and Skype have presented. Building costs account for a huge portion of the average firms outgoings and by reducing the need for space, these costs can shrink as well.

‘The new normal’ it seems could be a boon for all businesses in terms of operation costs, not to mention time saved for their employees. However, as with any paradigm shift, this transition has a great deal of uncertainty attached to it.

A major challenge facing energy suppliers will be in predicting consumption patterns as more people start to work from home. Unpredictable fluctuation will make it more difficult for suppliers to mitigate risk on fixed term contracts. As a result, they will become greatly exposed to imbalance charges and ‘Take-or-pay’ penalties embedded in most standard fixed contracts.

Fixed vs flexible contracts

As a means to protect against these volatile shifts in the country’s energy demand, energy suppliers will increase the price of fixed energy contracts. Doing so will protect against uncertain consumption patterns. Suppliers may also begin to leverage the terms within those contracts to the cost of the firms they are supplying.

Chris Hurcombe, CEO of Catalyst Commercial Services, believes fixed-price contracts may ultimately disappear as suppliers struggle to predict consumption patterns and attempt to insulate themselves from risk.

Post-Covid, there are too many unknowns for suppliers to price them accurately, so they are doing everything possible to de-risk contracts. Credit requirements are going up and some suppliers are not pricing for certain industries without an upfront deposit or a significant price premium…”

Chris Hurcombe, CEO of Catalyst Commercial Services

Currently, fixed-price contracts levy a 10% price premium compared to their flexible counterparts. Additionally, Hurcombe has predicted a 15-17% rise in 2021,  continuing to 20% the following year.

Non-commodity costs, expected to climb in the near future, now represent the lion’s share of energy bills. As such, they represent the largest risk factor for end-users/client procurement budgets. These ‘fixed’ contracts, which allow suppliers to pass through additional energy charges, may hold a costly surprise for the firms taking part.

ballerina lying on grass doing the splits

Help on the inside

Fortunately, flexible contracts, which EIC specialises in procuring, offer means to reduce or avoid some of these charges. They also afford adaptability in a changing commercial landscape. As volume consumption forecast becomes difficult and budget certainty key for the survival of companies, flexibility will become crucial.

The UK commercial and industrial sectors consume 185TWh annually, approximately £27bn worth, so the potential savings here are gargantuan. Savings of such magnitude can’t be ignored in an economy approaching its deepest recession since 2008’s financial crisis.

EIC can secure you a flexible energy contract to take advantage of these savings. The key markers that EIC looks for when engaging suppliers include contract features and functionality, transparency around price-fixing mechanism and competitiveness of the supplier’s account management fee.

Using these criteria means EIC can effectively guide your market position despite the fluctuations that a post-COVID future promises.

Existing EIC clients were collectively under budget to the tune of £65.7m between 2014 and 2018 for electricity and gas. One pharmaceutical client enjoyed 78% in annual savings over a 36 month period.

Find out more about how to recruit EIC’s expertise into your negotiations.

 

The Hydrogen Age

EIC explores the potential of Hydrogen fuel to decarbonise the UK, its domestic supporters and success it has already enjoyed in the EU.

Hydrogen showing carbon the door

In the wake of COVID-19, economic recovery is now a top priority for the UK government. However, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have both staked their flag in making sure it is a ‘green’ economic recovery. As such, industry leaders – particularly within the energy sector – have reopened the conversation on the role of hydrogen in reaching net zero.

The CCC (Committee on Climate Change) published a report in 2018 summarising its recommendations for a UK hydrogen strategy. The hope is to utilise Hydrogen in the UK’s heating systems, specifically by blending it with natural gas, to reduce its carbon footprint.

UK buildings account for 40% of its energy consumption and 70% of industrial building energy is used on space heating and cooling. With these figures in mind, hydrogen’s value is clear to see provided it can get off the ground.

Unfortunately, there are several roadblocks to hydrogen use on a mass scale. The biggest of these is that it would require an infrastructural overall of current heating systems. Blended gas requires plastic pipes while the vast majority of those in the UK are iron.

In addition, the production of hydrogen fuel is highly carbon-intensive. Fortunately, this embedded carbon can be offset by CCS (carbon capture and storage) technology into its production.

However, these are costly caveats to making hydrogen a viable fuel replacement. Naturally, there are concerns that the government may opt for cheaper, quicker progress that, ironically, may prove unsustainable.

 “On the one hand, we need to put money where it has an immediate economic impact and in the most affected sectors. On the other, we need to keep in mind the long-term benefits of making our economy more resilient.”

Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for energy

Forest and low cloudsPrivate sector rescue

The EU Commission announced in June that it would provide €750 billion for its green recovery plan, reserving €1 billion for R&D into green hydrogen. Simson has stated that hydrogen has the potential to capture 10-16% of the EU’s energy market by 2050.

Following the EU’s lead, industry leaders in the UK approached the government and questioned the absence of hydrogen in both the spring budget COVID recovery plan.

Last month, a letter from the chiefs of four major unions implored the government to move forward on hydrogen development. The leaders of GMB, Prospect, Unison and Unite cited, in the letter, the massive reductions this could offer in the heat, transport and heavy industry sectors. Of course, the development of any new technology sector would also create thousands of jobs.

However, the letter was only one component of the “Hydrogen Strategy Now” campaign led by firms like EDF and Siemens. These companies, along with others supporting the campaign, have stated intentions to invest £1.5bn into hydrogen development.

The government must now seize the initiative and provide the necessary funding and support to make hydrogen happen. Firms that desire to adopt a long-term view of their energy and heat use might benefit from EICs services.

EIC’s combined heat and power solution have saved businesses up to 40% on energy costs. EIC can also provide a  carbon management team able to deliver a comprehensive net-zero strategy. Find out more about the services we offer.

 

Alone, together: Mental health during lockdown

EIC looks back on the recent Mental Health Awareness Week UK, this year’s theme of kindness and some of the stories of kindness that have emerged from the energy sector since lockdown began.

Kindness to all

The theme of kindness could not have been more appropriate for this year’s Mental Health Week UK, with so many struggling under the emotional, financial and medical burdens of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown.

Indeed, kindness, solidarity and generosity are things that have been in great demand as a result of the widespread concerns wrought by coronavirus. Despite the added pressure felt simultaneously by the commercial energy sector, it’s proponents have responded with a magnanimity seldom anticipated by their customers.

Orsted

Danish renewables supplier, Orsted, has promised more than £165,000 to various health and charity organisations across the UK to help support them through the crisis, beneficiaries include Guy and St. Thomas’ Hospital and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Duncan Clark, the supplier’s UK region head, impressed the importance of solidarity between companies and their customers:

“Across the UK, the current situation is having a profound effect on families and communities.. It is at times like these that we must come together to do what we can to support each other.”

Duncan Clark, Orsted

British gas  

Big six supplier British Gas stated their allegiance to customer welfare early on in the lockdown by announcing that vulnerable customers would be issued with 2 weeks of discretionary credit for electricity. The support will be pre-loaded onto keys or cards while gas customers will receive £5 credit, British Gas is also offering a remote version of the same service for those customers with smart meters.

Emergency measures 

Emergency credit limit for gas and electricity has been extended across the board by many major suppliers in the UK,  with E.ON raising the limit tenfold from £5 to £50 and nPower raising emergency credit limits from £7 to £45. 

Hands across the oceans

The trend of solidarity hasn’t stopped in the UK, energy companies across Europe are taking up the cause of customer support during the challenges of COVID-19. Italy was infamous for being one of the worst affected European countries and taken as an omen to be heeded by other EU states, domestic energy giant ENEL has answered with vigour. The supplier has donated €23m to support Italian healthcare professionals by funding hospitals, beds and machinery and president Patrizia Grieco framed this move as an act of duty from ENEL.  

“We are an Italian multinational with strong ties with the territory. It’s natural but also a duty to aid the territories where we operate and the communities we work with every day.”

Meanwhile in France, multinational ENGIE, has also contributed to Italy’s fight against the virus by providing free electricity and technical assistance on the construction of new medical units. 

 

 

A kinder world

The primary beneficiary of the lockdown measures however, might be an unexpected one, with the slowing of economic activity and the subsequent drop in emissions, the planet is receiving a long overdue dose of kindness from our entire species.

COVID-19 may have given us an opportunity to reflect on our current practices as well as a vision of what the world could look like with better, greener behaviour from us. 

EIC are champions of sustainable business practices through an end-to-end approach that can support you from initial procurement of your utilities, through to maximising their efficiency with IoT in order to faster deliver a sustainable commercial culture.

The strides EIC is taking to help the UK build a green commercial sector and reach climate targets are myriad and you can find out how to engage with them on our website.

Stay ahead of changes as the clocks spring forward

This weekend will see the official start of British Summer Time (BST), as clocks will spring forward one hour on Sunday 29 March 2020. How can IoT controls help you adapt to the clock change?

The clock change accelerates the seasonal trends towards lower demand during the warmer, lighter summer months.

Historically, the scale of peak power reduction following the clock change has been around 10%. However, early forecasts show an expected 5% drop in average demand for the week following the change. An unseasonably mild winter has kept demand levels depressed in general this year.

The advent of demand management and significant developments in energy efficiency and IoT controls have made the UK consumer more proactive when it comes to when and how they use electricity. It can be seen in the graph that overall demand, before and after the clock change, is trending downwards.

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, reducing demand requirements for the transmission network.

Renewables continue to deliver a growing percentage of the UK electricity mix. The 2019 share for wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy electricity sources was 31.8%, up from 27.5% in 2018.

How clock change impacts behaviour

The graph above shows how the peak demand changes before and after the clock change. The earlier evenings cause an increase in electricity demand as consumers use more sources of light and heat. Post-change, a longer day-time means that less lighting is used through the day and also has the effect of pushing daily peak demand to later in the evening.

The graph shows that over the last five years before the clock change, peak demand occurs at around 6.30pm in the weeks leading up. However, once the hour is gained peak demand occurs later in the day, at around 8.00pm on average.

The impact of coronavirus

As the COVID-19 situation has developed it has become increasingly clear that there will be an impact to demand levels. The graph below shows the effect of the temporary closure of schools and some businesses, with peak demand forecast to fall around 1GW on average week-on-week. The combination of the further closure of offices and the clock change will likely see demand drop heavily over the coming week.

React to changes in real-time

How can you best react to changing demand patterns and sources of generation? How can you ensure time-consuming but critical processes affected by the clock change are carried out efficiently?

With IoT-enabled controls, your business can access all the key information about your sites usage on a single platform. This allows you to make instantaneous changes to multiple sites at the touch of a button.

One of our multi-site clients previously spent three weeks making adjustments ahead of the clock changes. This involved engineers attending each site and changing multiple systems. With our system we could make the same changes in a matter of seconds.

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.

Weekly Energy Market Update – 10 February

Gas

Short-term gas contracts, notably the Day-ahead and front-month markets, fell heavily again last week, with losses of around 9%. The driving force in the gas market remains the very healthy fundamentals, lower than expected demand and risk of oversupply. A brief spell of below average temperatures and low winds had no price impact, while declines accelerated again when temperatures climbed at the end of the week and wind output surged to more than 13GW as Storm Ciara arrived in the UK.

Flexibility within the gas supply network is minimising the impact of higher demand across the winter, particularly from LNG sendout, which rose above 100mcm again last week. Nineteen tankers are now booked for February arrival. Record low LNG prices across the global market are contributing to a substantial oversupply. Asian LNG prices have more than halved year-on-year as Chinese demand tumbles amid fears over the spread of the Coronavirus.

Higher heating demand this week is likely to be offset by continued high winds, reducing the use of gas for power generation. March and April gas prices are down to 22p/th while the Summer 20 contract has halved in value since the start of winter, falling from 46p/th to 23p/th. Longer-dated gas contracts moved higher, with gains of 3-4% across the week. This was in line with a rebound in the crude oil market, which bounced off one-year lows amid ongoing speculation over the spread of the Coronavirus. Fears over lower demand from the virus has weighed on commodity prices for the last few weeks.

Power

Day-ahead power prices ended the week below £30/MWh for only the third time in ten years as the UK experienced very high wind levels at times last week. Day-ahead prices started the week higher, rising to £37/MWh as weather conditions were cooler with wind output dropping below 2GW. However, as Storm Ciara reached the UK at the end of the week, wind generation jumped to peaks of more than 13GW. On Saturday wind generation averaged 12GW across the day. The strong renewable availability reduced the share of gas in the fuel mix, with CCGT burn halving from 16GW to 8GW in one day.

Higher levels of embedded generation from the strong winds also affected electricity demand. After peaking at 45GW early in the week, peak demand fell to 42GW by Friday. Wind output is forecast to remain consistent around 12-13GW for the first few days of this week. Power prices for Tuesday have dropped to £28/MWh, testing 13-year lows for the prompt market. The
continued declines in the gas market is reducing the cost of gas-fired generation, and driving the front of the power curve to new lows. March 20 prices fell 5% week-on-week with the Summer 20 market hitting new lows at £33/MWh. The rest of the electricity curve saw little change, drawing some support from gains in longer-dated gas contracts and the oil market.