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.

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.

Further information on how to recruit EIC’s expertise into your negotiations can be found at the EIC solutions page.

 

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 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

 

Private 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 percent 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 technological 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 sieze 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 has saved businesses up to 40% on energy costs. EIC can also provide a  carbon management team able to deliver a comprehensive net zero strategy. Full details of these services, as well as others, are on the EIC website.

 

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.

T-3 Capacity Market auction clears at new lows

The T-3 Capacity Market (CM) auction has cleared at £6.44 per kilowatt per year, marking the lowest outturn for a T-3 auction to date. The result will guarantee capacity for delivery over winter 2022/23.

A required capacity of 44.2GW was made available to bidders representing a total 59GW of derated capacity. The final result saw National Grid ESO procure 45.1GW of capacity.

The T-3 auction is the first since the reinstatement of the CM in October 2019. Two further auctions are scheduled for this year; a T-1 auction commencing 6 February and a T-4 auction to start 5 March.

The Market was originally suspended in November 2018, following a ruling from the European Court of Justice that the design of the scheme was biased against small-scale, clean energy units and therefore should not be eligible for State Aid approval. However, the ensuing investigation carried out by the European Commission reconfirmed its eligibility, enabling the Market to be restored.

Capacity Market consultation launched

Following the recent reinstatement of the Capacity Market the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has launched a consultation on proposed changes to the scheme. The government hope to implement improvements to the CM’s design to reflect recent market and regulatory developments.

In summary, the government proposes to:

  • Allow all types of capacities to apply to prequalify to bid for all the agreement lengths available in the Market, provided they can demonstrate they meet relevant capital expenditure thresholds.
  • Reduce the minimum capacity to participate from 2MW to 1MW.
  • Legislate the government’s commitment to procuring at least 50% of the capacity set-aside for the T-1 auction.
  • Incorporate any new capacity type into the CM that can demonstrably contribute to the generation adequacy problem.
  • Establish a reporting and verification mechanism for the carbon emission limits to be applied to the Market.
  • Remove the exclusion of plants with Long-term STOR (Short-term operating reserve) contracts from the CM.

The consultation will conclude on 2 March 2020.

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 – 20 January

Gas

Gas prices fell heavily again last week with contracts across the curve falling to new lows. Price drivers for the market are unchanged with the extent of oversupply and strength of fundamentals continuing to weaken prices. Balance of Winter and Summer 20 prices fell 7% across the week, with losses continuing today. The Summer 20 contract has dropped nearly 40% in the last three months. The oversupply is being driven by record storage stocks in the UK and Europe. Unseasonably mild temperatures so far this month, coupled with very high wind levels have depressed demand.

Meanwhile record LNG imports have balanced the gas system with minimal use of storage withdrawals or Interconnector imports from Europe. Price falls this winter have been strongest for the Summer 20 contract, which anticipates very limited injection demand and an inability to absorb excess supply during the milder months. The strength of losses in short-term contracts have now brought down the rest of the curve with seasonal 2021 contracts down 5% across the week, breaking below their previous December lows.

Gas demand has risen sharply today with consumption rising around 80mcm from last week, as temperatures briefly drop to below seasonal-normal levels. Lower wind output of under 5GW this week is also increasing gas for power generation. However, the demand is being comfortably met by supply, notably from LNG, which has risen to more than 130mcm to match the higher demand. This underlines the strength of flexibility within the gas supply system. Milder, windier conditions are returning at the end of the week.

Power

In the power market, contracts on the curve are following the gas market lower, reflecting the declining costs of gas for generation. Very high winds pushed Day-ahead power prices to new lows of £32/MWh but the prompt has risen across the week in anticipation of higher demand from lower winds and colder temperatures this week.

Wind generation across the week was consistent at over 8GW, reaching highs of 14GW as Storm Brendan swept across the UK. Power demand is expected to rise this week as temperatures have dropped to below seasonal-normal levels with wind output as low as 2GW. However, the extensive gas supply flexibility offered by record storage stocks, LNG and Interconnector imports is weighing heavily on prices.

Prices across the curve are down 3% week-on-week. However, the losses in the power market are more gradual than the corresponding gas contracts. This is the result of price support from rising carbon prices, protecting the power curve from further losses. Carbon costs pushed above €25/tCO2e last week, to new highs for the year.

 

Weekly Energy Market Update – 13 January

Gas

Gas prices on the curve moved lower week-on-week, with the market close to the record contract lows seen at the end of December. However, price movement was more volatile after gains of as much as 10% in the aftermath of the US air strike in Iran. Those gains had been fully reversed by the middle of last week. Concerns over supply disruption in the region, and possible LNG exports from Qatar eased, with the strength of fundamentals within the market returning to focus as the biggest price driver.

Declines across the gas market seen since October have accelerated in recent weeks as the extent of oversupply in the system became more apparent. After reaching eight-year highs in December, LNG imports continued to flood into the UK in the first half of January. Gas demand levels have been unseasonably low amid above average temperatures and very strong wind levels. The record low levels attracted some buying interest, while reduced LNG sendout and Norwegian imports via Langeled left the system undersupplied on some occasions. This provided some price support with the market bouncing off those lows late last week, with a continued modest recovery today. However, prices remain close to historical lows, with the fundamental outlook for the gas market remaining highly bearish. Losses were strongest on the front of the curve with the February market and Summer 20 prices down 7% week-on-week.

Prolonged above average temperatures are forecast in January while the UK and Europe is set to end winter with record levels of gas in storage which will affect injection demand during the milder summer months. Storage withdrawals and Interconnector imports have been largely untouched throughout winter, but can provide substantial supply flexibility and spare capacity as required.

Power

Power prices have mirrored movements in the gas market. A bounce across the energy mix in the aftermath of the US air strike in Iran has been reversed with contracts pushing back towards the lows seen at the end of December. The very low cost of gas-fired generation, particularly this summer, is weakening electricity contracts.

The February power market fell 5% across the week with seasonal power contracts for 2020 down 4%. Elevated carbon prices, which remain above €24/tCO2e are underpinning the power market, slowing the extent of declines relative to gas. However, the downward pressure on electricity prices continues, with very high renewable availability providing further bearish signals.

Day-ahead power prices rose across the week as demand increased from their holiday lows. However, at £36/MWh, the prompt market remains highly depressed, below the trading range seen during most of the summer season. Furthermore, while electricity consumption rebounded to 45GW last week the outlook for consumption remains very weak because of the near-record levels of wind generation.

Forecasts of up to 14GW of wind generation throughout the coming week is driving down demand. The high levels of on-site embedded generation from wind is reducing demand on the transmission network. Peak power demand this week is forecast at just 43.0GW, a drop of 4GW compared to the same week last year. The high winds are expected to continue until Friday as Storm Brendan sweeps across the UK. Weather conditions are set to shift next week as winds drop and temperatures cool from current above average levels.

 

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 – 6 January

Gas

Gas prices on the curve rebounded last week, bouncing off contract lows reached between Christmas and New Year.

Prices across Europe pushed to new lows after a new transit supply agreement between Russia and Ukraine was agreed, avoiding supply disruption.

The Summer 20 market dipped below 30p/th, down 10% since Christmas. However, contracts across the curve have rebounded since Friday, following supply risks linked to escalating tensions in the Middle East. A US air strike has killed a top Iranian military general. Tehran has vowed “severe revenge” with the risk of disruption to the region’s vast oil supply providing some price support.

LNG may also be affected by a possible new conflict with the US and Iran previously rowing over access to the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial supply route for tankers. Strong gains in the oil market – which is testing highs of $70/bbl – provided support to longer-dated gas prices, delivering in 2021. While there may be further volatility as the situation develops, fundamentals remain bearish, with oversupply capping prices around their pre-Christmas lows.

LNG imports were at their highest since April 2011 in December, while thirteen tankers are already confirmed for January arrival. Interconnector imports remain untouched and a storage overhang is inevitable as lower demand during the holiday period meant 3TWh of gas was injected into storage.

UK gas reserves are over 95% full and at record highs for the time of year. Demand forecasts for January are also price depressive with above average temperatures expected for at least the next two weeks while wind generation dominated the fuel
mix, providing a third of UK power in the last week after averaging over 10GW a day. With energy demand in the short-term expected to be low the risk of oversupply and an inevitable storage overhang is still weighing on gas markets.

Power

Power prices pushed lower during December led by Day-ahead and balance of winter contracts that reflect the oversupply in the gas market and lower cost of gas-fired generation. Electricity demand fell heavily over the Christmas holiday period, driving Day-ahead power prices to lows of £32/MWh, not seen since early October.

While consumption has picked up as schools and businesses return to full operation, power demand maintains a significant reduction to previous years. Very high wind generation over the last week has reduced the use of fossil fuels, while the gas burn being utilised is at a low cost level.

Wind has provided a third of UK electricity so far this month, leading the fuel mix with average output of 10GW a day. The strong renewable availability is forecast to continue this week as the UK benefits from windy, mild weather conditions, which are providing downward pressure to prices. This is the reverse of the cold, low wind scenarios that risk higher prices
during the winter season.

Across the curve, power prices followed the gas market lower over the holiday period, hitting new lows at the end of December. The market has rebound marginally since Friday following the escalating tensions in the Middle East. However, the scale of movement in power, both lower and in the rebound have been more gradual than in gas. The continued elevation in carbon prices, which are holding above €24/tCO2e are helping to underpin the power market. Week-on-week electricity contracts remain down with the Summer 20 contract under £40/MWh.

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.

Targeted Charging Review decision

Ofgem has published its decision on the Targeted Charging Review.

Background

Ofgem has two main projects that serve as a review of transmission, distribution and balancing charges to facilitate a transition to a more effective network. These are:

  • The Access and Forward-looking charges review is looking at the ‘forward-looking charges’. This sends signals to users about the effect of their behaviour and encourages them to use the networks in a particular way; and
  • The Targeted Charging Review (TCR). This examines the ‘residual charges’ which recover the fixed costs of providing existing pylons and cables, and the differences in charges faced by smaller distributed generators and larger generators (known as Embedded Benefits).

Specifically, the TCR has evaluated two elements of network charges within the Significant Code Review (SCR) process. These are reforms to how residual charges are set and the non-locational Embedded benefits.

Decision on Residual Charges

Ofgem has decided to implement a fixed residual charge for final demand consumers. These will be levied for transmission charges in 2021 and distribution charges in 2022. These are characterised as a series of fixed bands, including a single fixed charging band for domestic consumers and a range of fixed charging bands for non-domestic customers.

For transmission charges, charges for non-domestic consumers will use a series of fixed charging bands set for all of the country.

Changes to distribution charges will see domestic consumers pay a single residual charge set for each licensed area. Non-domestic consumers will be charged on the basis of a set of fixed charging bands also set for each distribution area.

Bands for non-domestic customers will be determined by a consumer’s voltage level. Where further segmentation is required, further boundaries can be defined based on agreed capacity for larger consumers with readily available data, and net consumption volume for smaller consumers.

The series of fixed charging bands will be published at a national level and will then be set for each Distribution Network Area. Ofgem will review and revise these charging bands and their boundaries as appropriate so that the outcome of such reviews can be implemented alongside of new electricity price controls.

Ofgem believes this to be the strongest option of those considered, as it is the least avoidable leading to minimised harmful distortions. The regulator received feedback from stakeholders supporting its view that the option would help achieve a positive balance across the charging segments.

Decision on ‘non-locational’ Embedded Benefits

The key purpose of the review of Embedded Benefits was to reduce harmful distortions which impact competition and the efficiency of the electricity market. In order to meet this objective, Ofgem has outlined a three-step process to achieve a full reform:

  1. The implementation of partial reform in 2021, to deliver the benefits to consumers by removing the two Embedded Benefits (the Transmission Generation Residual which will be set to zero and the offsetting of suppliers’ balancing services charges by reducing the Suppliers net imports at the Grid Supply Point) which cause harmful distortions.
  2. The launch of a second taskforce to consider the application of the TCR principles to balancing services charges.
  3. The second taskforce’s work and resulting modifications should deliver reforms to balancing services charges.

Implications for Triad

Ofgem has decided that the reform to transmission residual charges should be implemented in 2021 and distribution residual charges in 2022. The regulator believes that this is an appropriate compromise between addressing the largest distortions within the market to deliver consumer benefits, while reducing the distributional impacts on consumers.

A preferred implementation option of April 2021 for transmission residual charge reforms will eliminate the incentive for Triad avoidance in the following winter periods. This leaves one final Triad season to take place over Winter 20/21.

How this may affect consumers

Through the TCR residual charging reforms, Ofgem aims to reduce the distortions caused by the current system. This encourages network users to take measures to lower their contributions to residual charges.

Where residual charges incentivise behaviour – such as load reduction which reduces the share of charges paid for by that user – this results in an increase in the share to be paid by other network users. This in turn increases the incentive for other users – who then pay an increased proportion of the residual charge – to take action to reduce their charges.

It is Ofgem’s view that all final demand users who benefit from the electricity network should pay towards its upkeep in a fair manner.

Under the final TCR decision, Ofgem expects the cost of maintaining the electricity grid to be spread more fairly. As a result, the regulator says that consumers will save £300m yearly, from 2021, with £4bn-£5bn in cumulative consumer savings up to 2040.

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Market shrugs off highest energy demand of the season

The UK has recently experienced three straight weeks of below seasonal-normal temperatures. The colder than normal weather combined with low wind generation and ever darker evenings have driven up energy demand.

Last week saw UK gas and power demand rise to their highest levels for the winter so far. This was driven by a significant increase in domestic consumption as households ramped up their heating to combat the cold.

Minimum temperatures in London dropped to minus 2 degrees, the lowest since early February. In parts of Scotland, temperatures overnight reached lows of minus 10 with another cold spell forecast for next week.

Temperatures

Year-on-year gas demand

Overall gas demand reached 350mcm. This is the highest since early February, with domestic gas consumption rising to over 240mcm as households increased heating use. Year-on-year gas demand was 100mcm higher as November 2018 saw the UK enjoying a late heatwave with a prolonged spell of above average temperatures. This kept gas demand under 250mcm.

LDZ Gas Demand

The increase is even more prevalent in LDZ gas demand. This has averaged 190mcm/d so far in November, the highest in more than five years. Domestic gas demand in November is so far 45% higher month-on-month. It’s 20% higher than the same period in November 2018.

LDZ gas demand graph

October gas demand was also the highest in over five years with consumption up 20% since 2017. As a share of overall gas demand, LDZ has also climbed strongly in recent months. Domestic use accounts for over 70% of the country’s overall gas consumption.

Gas is also playing an increased role in the electricity sector, which adds another element to this winter’s higher gas demand. Demand from power stations reached 78mcm last week, the highest since January. Electricity generated by gas power plants has averaged 14.9GW per day in November. This is the highest since January and an increase of 2GW on November 2018. This is despite a continued trend of reduced electricity demand from 2018 to 2019. Lower wind output, which is on average 1.5GW lower year-on-year is contributing to the increased gas use for electricity generation.

Monthly generation graph

The last time domestic gas demand was close to this high was in 2016. Front-month gas prices climbed nearly 30% as temperatures dropped in early November. In November 2018, front-month gas prices averaged 50p/th – 25% higher than the current Dec 19 contract.

However, so far this winter, gas prices across the curve have moved lower, breaking below a long-standing trading range. The December 19 gas contract has fallen 20% since the start of October, while the Summer 20 prices are at their lowest level in over 18 months.

Gas months graph

 

High demand no match for supply flexibility

If demand is higher then why has the price reaction been muted or even bearish? Increased gas demand from home heating and the electricity sector during the last three weeks of cold temperatures have seen very little price support. This is because the impact of the increased consumption has been entirely offset by the levels of spare and flexible gas supplies available to the market. This is notably from an influx of LNG tankers and record high levels of gas in storage. Supply levels are persistently matching fluctuations in demand with flexibility from Norway, LNG and storage helping to manage the higher demand levels seen recently.

LNG Imports

The UK has enjoyed an influx of LNG arrivals this winter, with Britain an attractive destination for tankers amid an oversupplied global market for the fuel. Fifteen tankers arrived in October, eighteen tankers are booked for November and seven arrivals are confirmed for December. LNG imports for Q4 2019 have already surpassed levels from Q4 2018.

lng imports graph

The influx of LNG and flexibility from Norwegian and UK gas flows have left storage withdrawals and Interconnector imports struggling to get gas onto the grid. Both sources offer around 150mcm of combined gas supplies which can be attracted to market when required. It is this extent of spare capacity available to the gas system which has kept prices so depressed, in spite of rising demand levels.

Gas Storage Withdrawals

Storage withdrawals had averaged 8mcm/d for the winter and colder temperatures last week lifted that withdrawal rate to around 40mcm/d. The potential for sendout is over 90mcm/d across the country’s seven facilities.

However, even with last week’s increased withdrawals – which have seen reserves declining at 0.4TWh per day – stocks are still at record highs for the time of year. European storage stocks are also at all-time highs, after surpassing 1,000TWh in September, with zero net withdrawals recorded so far this winter.

gas storage graph

European imports via the Interconnector have been untouched, with gas prices unwilling to increase to a sufficient premium over the European market to encourage deliveries. If the price response was sufficient, however, an additional 60-70mcm per day of gas could be available. This is further strengthening the health of the current gas system and its flexibility in responding to spells of higher demand.

With the extent of spare capacity available, the gas system is able to manage prolonged spells of below seasonal-normal temperatures. It will likely take a severe cold snap, alongside a breakdown in supply or a slowdown in LNG imports to warrant a significant rebound in prices across the energy market.

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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.