General Election 2019 – A focus on energy and climate change

As the date of the General Election nears, there is little doubt that the focus is how the results will affect Brexit. However, as shown by polling carried out by YouGov, electoral concern for the environment is at an all-time high. 25% of voters place it as one of their top three issues facing the country today. This is up from 8% before the 2017 general election. A separate poll by Ipsos found 71% of people believe protecting the environment should be a priority, even if it slows economic growth.

This trend has been reflected in the released manifestos. Each party recognises the climate emergency and is dedicating space to energy and the environment.

Conservatives

The Conservative Manifesto

The Conservative party would maintain their current energy tariff cap policy. It also intends to introduce measures to lower energy bills further. In this effect, there would be a £9.2 billion investment in improving the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals. The party would also support the creation of more environmentally friendly homes.

They state that their first Budget would prioritise the environment with investment in decarbonisation schemes, electric vehicle infrastructure and clean energy. They would also consult on the earliest date they believe appropriate to begin phasing out sales of new petrol and diesel cars.

There are aims to increase the capacity of the offshore wind industry from it’s current 8.5GW to 40GW by 2030. They would also help introduce new floating wind farms. Alongside development of renewables, the Conservatives would also support gas for hydrogen production and nuclear energy.

The moratorium on fracking in England would remain in place. This is unless the Conservatives believe there is scientific evidence that the practice can be carried out safely.

Further investment would include a £1 billion fund to develop “affordable and accessible clean energy”. £800 million to build the first fully-deployed carbon capture storage cluster. There would also be £500 million to help energy-intensive industries transition towards low-carbon technologies.

You can read the full manifesto here

Labour

The Labour Manifesto

The Labour party has committed to a ‘Green New Deal’. The aim is to achieve the majority of required emissions reduction by 2030.

Labour would create a Sustainable Investment Board, involving the oversight of the Chancellor, Business Secretary and Bank of England Governor. They would co-ordinate with trade unions and businesses to deliver investment to necessary areas. The Office of Budget Responsibility would be asked to incorporate climate and environmental impacts into its forecasts so as to properly evaluate decisions made.

They would also seek to bring the energy and water systems into public ownership. They believe this would allow the acceleration and co-ordination needed to upgrade networks at the speed and scale needed to transition to a low-carbon economy.

Labour’s plans would see:

  • A new UK National Energy Agency responsible for the national grid infrastructure and the oversight of the country’s decarbonisation targets.
  • Fourteen new Regional Energy Agencies to replace the existing District Network Operators (DNOs) responsible for decarbonising electricity and heat.
  • The supply arms of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies would be brought into public ownership to continue to supply households while helping consumers reduce their energy demands.

As part of Labour’s ‘National Transformation Fund’ £250 billion would be dedicated to investment in renewable and low-carbon energy and transport, biodiversity and environmental restoration.

Labour aims to deliver nearly 90% of electricity and 50% of heat from renewable and low-carbon sources by 2030. To this effect they would build 7,000 new offshore wind turbines, (this equates to around 52GW) 2,000 new onshore turbines, “enough solar panels to cover 22,000 football pitches” (roughly 157km2) and new nuclear power. Labour would also trial and expand on tidal energy and invest in hydrogen production.

The party will aim to upgrade almost all of the UK’s 27 million homes to the highest energy efficiency standards. They state that this would reduce the average household energy bill by £417 per year by 2030. It also aims to tackle fuel poverty. All new homes would be required to meet a zero-carbon homes standard.

The Labour party would introduce a Climate and Environment Emergency Bill to set out new binding standards for decarbonisation and environmental quality. In addition, they would introduce a new Clean Air Act in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for fine particles and nitrous oxides. The party would aim to end new sales of conventional petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.

You can read the full manifesto here

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat Manifesto

If elected, the Liberal Democrats would immediately implement a ten-year emergency programme designed to cut emissions substantially. They would then phase out emissions from remaining hard-to-treat sectors by 2045 at the latest.

The party has identified that their first priorities upon entering government would be:

  • An emergency programme to insulate all Britain’s homes by 2030, cutting emissions and fuel bills and ending fuel poverty.
  • Investing in renewable power so that at least 80 per cent of UK electricity is generated from renewables by 2030 – and banning fracking for good.
  • Protecting nature and the countryside, tackling biodiversity loss and planting 60 million trees a year to absorb carbon, protect wildlife and improve health.
  • Investing in public transport, electrifying Britain’s railways and ensuring that all new cars are electric by 2030.

Specifically, they would aim to accelerate the deployment of renewable power, providing more funding and removing the current government’s restrictions on solar and wind and building more interconnectors to improve security of supply. The party aims to reach at least 80% renewable electricity in the UK by 2030.

The Liberal Democrats would also seek to cut energy bills and reduce fuel poverty by providing retrofits for low-income homes to improve energy efficiency standards. They would introduce a zero-carbon standard to all new homes and non-domestic buildings by 2021. The party would also increase minimum energy efficiency standards for rented properties.

There would be a focus on investment in carbon capture and storage facilities and support to companies on cutting emissions. The party would also pass a new Clean Air Act, based on WHO guidelines.

You can read the full manifesto here

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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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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.

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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.

Climate Emergencies and Net Zero – what you need to know

Global scientific data supports action

The action follows a highly critical 33 page report publicised in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.

The report focused on the impact of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Limiting warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C significantly reduces the climate change risks according to Professor Jim Skea, who co-chairs the IPCC.

What’s alarming is the scale of the challenge ahead of us to ensure we achieve these targets and do not allow the situation to escalate further.

Five steps to achieving the 1.5°C have been announced:

  1. Global emissions of CO2 need to decline by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030
  2. Renewables are estimated to provide up to 85% of global electricity by 2050
  3. Coal is expected to reduce to close to zero
  4. Up to seven million sq km of land will be needed for energy crops (a bit less than the size of Australia)
  5. Global net zero emissions by 2050.

Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement brings together nations towards a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change. It was originally signed by 196 countries back in 2016.

In line with the IPCC report its core aim is to keep the global temperature increase this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In particular, to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C.

2019 – a watershed year for climate change?

Together with the impact of Greta Thunberg – the 16 year old Swedish activist – there have been a number of key factors driving the climate change movement this year. At Glastonbury festival in June 2019, 2,000 festival goers joined protestors to stage a procession across the site.

At the United Nations Climate Action Summit in late September you may have missed the news that Russia, the world’s fourth largest polluter will finally join the agreement. This announcement was overshadowed by the stirring “You have stolen my dreams” headlines surrounding Greta Thunberg’s appearance. Hailed as “the voice of the planet” she’s already been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite the raised awareness there are real fears that most of the world’s biggest firms are ‘unlikely’ to meet the targets set. Only a fifth of companies remain on track according to fresh analysis by investment data provider Arabesque S-Ray. Of 3,000 listed business only 18% have disclosed their plans.

UK reaction

In reaction to the IPCC report, UN Paris Agreement and other related research findings and movements, the UK public sector is taking positive, proactive steps to mitigate climate change risks.

Councillor Carla Danyer led the charge in Bristol by first declaring a climate emergency and this has sparked a wave of similar responses.

In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass a net zero emissions law. The new target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage. Other countries setting similar targets include Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and France as well as the US state of California.

Many UK councils, NHS Trusts and universities have publically declared their long term targets. Some aiming for speedier action by declaring net zero 2030 targets. These include Ipswich Borough, Vale of Glamorgan and Telford & Wrekin councils.

Unsurprisingly, Bristol University is one of the leading educational facilities leading the way. To date they’ve cut carbon emissions by 27% and are well on their way to achieving their target to become carbon neutral by 2030. The University of Cambridge, along with others, has set a net zero target of 2038 and has announced it is adopting science-based targets. On one website – climateemergency.uk – 228 councils are listed as having signed up to the targets.

In Boris Johnson’s first speech as Prime Minister, he affirmed the UKs commitment to a net zero future. Johnson proclaimed “Our Kingdom in 2050… will no longer make any contribution whatsoever to the destruction of our precious planet brought about by carbon emissions,” he said. “Because we will have led the world in delivering that net zero target.”

Steps towards a better future

According to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CATs) Zero Carbon Britain research a modern, zero emissions society is possible using technology available today.

Below we’ve outlined some key initiatives that can help the UK achieve its net zero ambitions:

  • Businesses implementing science-based targets.
  • Improving built environment efficiencies. Upgrading old buildings and ensuring new buildings must meet higher energy efficiency standards.
  • A shift to electric vehicles and the continued battery storage revolution.
  • Decentralised energy. Home and local energy generation.
  • Shift to renewable energy sources.
  • New policy.

The Aldersgate Group issued a green policy manifesto to Boris Johnson on 1 August 2019. They are a politically impartial, multi-stakeholder alliance championing a competitive and environmentally sustainable economy. Members of the group include Friends of the Earth, BT, M&S, Tesco, National Grid and Sky. Their green manifesto focuses on 4 key areas for the government to take decisive action and provide greater policy detail:

  • Delivering a Clean Growth Strategy Plus (CGS+) that matches the ambition of the net zero target. This should consist of a targeted update to the existing Clean Growth Strategy to increase ambition where required (for example on zero emission vehicle roll-out). Plus it should incorporate concrete policies that accelerate private sector investment to decarbonise priority sectors. These include surface transport, buildings and support the competitiveness of industry during this transition.
  • Passing an ambitious Environment Bill that safeguards environmental protections currently enshrined in EU law. They believe it must set ambitious and legally binding targets for environmental improvements in line with the vision of the 25 Year Environment Plan.
  • Implementing the Resources and Waste Strategy, through the introduction of detailed regulatory measures and fiscal incentives that drive greater resource efficiency and cut waste across the economy.
  • Building on the Green Finance Strategy, to rapidly grow private capital flows into the green infrastructure required to deliver the UK’s net zero target and the objectives set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan.

Our view

At EIC we believe new government policy is one of the most important steps needed to turn sentiment into action. Legislation relating to major energy users such as ESOS and SECR are steps in the right direction but they aren’t enough. Without doubt more effective policy is needed, to not only ensure energy and carbon is measured, but also that carbon reduction strategies are developed and implemented across the UK. Too often business cases for energy and carbon reduction are created and filed, never to be signed off.

The Energy Awards Shortlist Success

Category 1 – Energy Buying Team of the Year

We’re here to simplify the process of buying and managing energy. We match clients with the right contract for their business. The Energy Awards recognised our success in this field and have shortlisted EIC for Energy Buying Team of the Year for our flexible procurement offering.

Flexible Procurement

Our flexible purchasing solutions begin with a strategy development workshop with our clients. We conduct a detailed discussion of the client’s business objectives and appetite for risk, seeking to identify their key priorities for the contract. We also review their current situation and any upcoming projects that could affect their portfolio or consumption.

Public Sector Portfolio

Our Public Sector Portfolio is an OJEU compliant group flexible purchasing solution. It adds value by removing the administrative burden faced by public sector organisations when procuring contracts, and reduces the timeframes when securing their supply agreement. This has proven a real hit with universities, councils and NHS Trusts.

A team effort

There are multiple teams working collaboratively to make the flexible procurement service a success. Our clients are fully supported throughout the procurement process with a dedicated Account Management team. Traders work within the parameters of a client’s strategy making decisions based on insight from our Market Intelligence team.

Trading success

In just one week our flexible procurement traders locked in a massive £343,000 for our flexible procurement clients. In fact in a single month – March 2019 – savings topped £771,000. What’s more, calendar year savings have exceeded a staggering £2.1million for the period January – August.

Category 2 – Energy Data Collection and Analysis

Our shortlist for the Energy Data Collection and Analysis award focuses on our 360 Strategic Energy Review along with our Triad model and alerts.

360 Strategic Review

Our 360 Strategic Review is a powerful data tool created to unearth hidden savings potential for our clients. We take half-hourly data and analyse it on a site-by-site basis. We focus on where reductions in usage can be made and the associated cost savings. It looks at shifting consumption to avoid the peak Distribution Use of System (DUoS) charges, reducing consumption in the winter to mitigate Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) charges, and assessing usage against operational hours to identify out of hours wastage. On average we’ve identified savings of £130,639 per customer so far.

Triad model and alerts

National Grid identifies three Triads each year in order to calculate the Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) charges an organisation will incur. Such transmission costs can be reduced if demand is decreased when a Triad is expected. Our Triad model and alerts help clients plan their electricity usage around these dates in order to lower their energy bills.

Our model used from 1 November to the end of February,  identifies which days and what time periods on those days could be a Triad. We then inform our clients using our alert service whether they need to take action to reduce demand and avoid a Triad. We have issued an alert on all three Triad dates for the past 7 years. Last year we issued 24 alerts compared to suppliers who had similar results issuing on average 29 alerts. It’s vitally important for us to issue as few alerts as possible to avoid any unnecessary client interventions.

Awards Ceremony

Our teams work really hard every day to ensure our clients get the right solutions for their businesses. It’s great to have been recognised for our efforts. We’re looking forward to the awards ceremony which take place on Thursday 21 November at the London Hilton on Park Lane. We’ll keep you posted on our success.

 

Weekly Energy Market Update 23 September 2019

Gas

Gas prices saw high levels of volatility last week as the market digested the three unexpected ‘black swan’ developments of the previous week, which had triggered significant price spikes. An attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia led to a further price rise, as over 5% of global oil supply was shut down. The October gas contract hit highs of 40p/th, with the Winter 19 market at two-month highs of 52p/th. However, some of the uncertainty surrounding supply and demand was tempered, prompting prices to reverse some of those gains. EDF reported just 6 of its nuclear reactors are affected by welding issues, believing power stations do not need to close.

Russian gas flows via the OPAL pipeline, saw little change, despite the tighter restrictions. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia vowed to return its oil output to normal levels by the end of the month, quicker than initially feared. Short-term supply-demand fundamentals are also weighing heavily on the front of the gas curve, with October prices dropping to 32p/th. The Langeled gas pipeline is to return from maintenance tomorrow, boosting Norwegian flows to the UK.

Meanwhile, LNG sendout is expected to remain strong next month as the UK confirms three tankers already booked for October. Above seasonal-normal temperatures are also forecast for the next two weeks, slowing the typical rise in heating demand ahead of the winter season. While winter supply risks have been somewhat tempered, contracts from Winter 19 onwards remain elevated amid uncertainty over French nuclear power, Russian imports and tensions in the Middle East which are supporting oil prices. As a result, seasonal gas contracts are holding in the middle of their summer range, between their July highs and September lows.

Gas Graph

Power

Power prices mirrored movements in the gas market, with short-term contracts falling sharply across the week. The rest of the electricity curve remained elevated. Short-term contracts were highly volatile following three black swan developments. An additional oil attack in Saudi Arabia provided further price support as prices moved to fresh highs early last week.

Seasonal power contracts hit six-week highs. Prices eased after EDF reported only six reactors are affected by welding issues and indicated no power stations need to close. However, the outcome of an investigation by the regulator ASN is still unknown and that body will have the final say on plant closures. Oil prices corrected quickly as Saudi Arabia promised a return to full production by the end of the month.

Short-term power prices fell further, in line with declining gas contracts, which were weakened by the current healthy supply-demand fundamentals. Day-ahead gas prices fell 22% with front-month prices down 13%. The equivalent power contracts also moved lower on the weaker gas costs, but overall declines were more gradual across the week. Longer-dated electricity contracts were marginally higher week-on-week, despite giving back some of their early gains. Prices are still underpinned by elevated carbon costs, with the price of allowances remaining above €25/tCO2e. Seasonal contracts are holding in the middle of their summer range, above the early September lows, and below the peaks from July.

Electricity Graph

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What has caused September price swings?

Concerns over supply, demand and flexibility within energy markets ahead of the highest demand period of the year were highly price supportive.

Black Swans

In less than a week of trading, front-month gas prices climbed 25%, and the corresponding power contract rose 15%.
The Winter 19 power contract spiked £4.55 in just one day, while Winter 19 gas jumped over 6p/th, the largest daily move on a seasonal contract since at least 2008.

gas season prices

The initial price spikes were triggered by the simultaneous discovery of three ‘black swans’, an industry term describing unpredictable events that go beyond normal expectations of the situation.

season power prices

A fourth such event occurred a few days later when rebels attacked Saudi Arabian oil facilities. Brent and WTI crude oil prices saw the highest within-day spikes in 30 years, with both markets gaining more than $8/bbl in one day. The jump in the oil market provided more bullish support to the wider energy mix, with longer-dated gas and power contracts moving to new highs on the back of the increased oil costs.

crude oil prices

As these unpredictable events have developed, energy prices have given back some of the exceptional gains. However, prices remain elevated across the month, above the lows seen in early September. Here we explain what these issues were and how they are impacting on the energy market.

Groningen Gas

The Dutch Government reported that the production cap at its Groningen gas field will be lowered to 11.8bcm for the upcoming gas year from 1 October 2019. The state also confirmed that the site – previously Europe’s largest – would close entirely by 2022, eight years earlier than expected.

groningen gas production

Production at the field has been gradually slowing for seven years after drilling led to a series of earthquakes, forcing legislation to limit output. In 2013 the field was producing 54BCM/y, declining to 11.8BCM for 2019/20. While the reduced supply from Groningen was somewhat expected within the market, supply was expected to be available for another eight years. This curtailment helped to support a sudden price rise across the curve.

dutch gas production

The loss of production has been reflected in the loss of flexibility within Dutch gas supply, and therefore reducing the ability to respond to spikes in demand or other supply issues. Five years ago Dutch gas production was able to ramp up to 277MCM/d in response to high demand on a cold day. However, production last winter peaked at just 164mcm, while output so far in September 2019 has averaged under 50mcm/d.

OPAL Pipeline

The OPAL pipeline in Germany connects the Nord Stream pipeline with connections in central and western Europe. This month the European Commission overturned a ruling in 2016 which had effectively allowed Russian giant Gazprom a near monopoly of the volume of the pipeline, with 90% access. A complaint from neighbouring countries, led by Poland, saw this ruling challenged and the Russian transit through the link must now be cut to 40%.

The OPAL pipeline had allowed Russian gas to reach central Europe via Nord Stream and onwards, without transiting war-torn Ukraine. The EU decision will see Gazprom’s access cut by half, potentially reducing the availability of Russian gas to enter Europe, unless other transit routes are made available.

French nuclear power plants

EDF reported welding issues with at least five of its nuclear reactors, which could force shutdowns of the power stations. This would greatly reduce available power supplies for France, where 80% of its generation is supplied by nuclear and the majority of domestic heating is electric. Demand for imports will increase as will demand for more expensive and less efficient gas and coal plant, which also increases the consumption of carbon.

The UK’s interconnection with France sees imports from France provide the marginal supply to Britain, ensuring the countries’ pricing is closely aligned. Issues with French nuclear manufacturing had previously occurred in autumn 2016 when over 40% of France’s nuclear fleet closed down. This caused record spikes in UK power prices, with the Day-ahead market at over £150/MWh, and the front-month contract doubling from £40/MWh to over £80/MWh.

UK day ahead power prices

The potential loss of nuclear generation adds significant risk to the coming winter, particularly if tighter power supplies coincide with cold, windless weather conditions when gas demand is already at its highest levels for the year.
Since the initial announcement, EDF Energy has confirmed just six nuclear reactors are affected by the welding issues identified. The company believes no immediate action is required, an announcement which triggered a pull back in prices. However, the ultimate decision on whether to close nuclear plants for repairs lies with the French nuclear regulator ASN.

Saudi Arabia oil attack

The last piece of news impacting energy markets in September was a series of rebel drone attacks on major Saudi Arabian oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and oil fields at Khurais. The United States has blamed the attack on Iran, but Tehran claim no involvement. US-Iranian tensions were already heightened after a failed nuclear power agreement last year and attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East.

The rebel attack in Saudi Arabia forced around 7 million barrels per day of production offline, halving the country’s output and impacting on more than 5% of global oil supply.

However, Saudi Arabia confirmed it met customer orders by tapping into substantial storage reserves. Furthermore, the affected facilities would be back to pre-attack volumes by the end of September. Tensions remain heightened in the region but the swift return to operation of the affect facilities prompted oil prices to drop back from the earlier peaks.

Price Outlook

Uncertainty lingers over these issues, despite fresh developments so the potential for further price spikes remains in play. However, within the recent volatility on energy contracts, prices across gas, power, oil, coal and carbon remain within a sideways range. In fact, the majority of contracts range-bound since the start of the summer season.

The threat of a break below this range has been mitigated by the recent price spikes. However, the highs reached in July have yet to be tested. How the energy market breaks out of this range will determine future price action.

Ofgem publish update to Targeted Charging Review proposals

In the meantime, the regulator has released a letter detailing guidelines on residual charging proposals and renewables modelling.

Residual charging proposals

In the ‘minded-to’ consultation, published in November 2018, Ofgem proposed two leading options for reform for residual electricity network charges. The options were; a fixed charge, or an agreed capacity charge. Ofgem indicated that they preferred a fixed residual charge.

Most respondents to the consultation also expressed support for the fixed charge. However, there was some disagreement with the structure of the proposal, predominantly with user segments associated with this pricing option.

Some respondents expressed that the fixed charges should take more account of the diversity of non-domestic users, pointing out that individual bands could contain a wide range of different user sizes. It was also highlighted that Ofgem’s proposed basis for segments could be seen as arbitrary.

In light of this feedback, Ofgem’s refined proposal for non-domestic customer segmentation is that:

  • total allowed residual revenue would first be apportioned between voltage levels, on the basis of net volumes, as set out in the November 2018 minded-to consultation;
  • non-domestic segment boundaries would be set in terms of agreed capacity levels for users at higher voltages where this data is widely available, and net volume levels at Low Voltage (LV). This is in place of segmenting these users on the basis of the line-loss factor classes (as set out in the November minded-to consultation).

Ofgem has identified five national level charging bands for Low Voltage non-domestic users and five each for High Voltage (HV) / Extra High Voltage (EHV) non-domestic users. The banding is the same for HV and EHV customers, but their share of the residual charges is calculated at voltage level resulting in fifteen charges in total.

The refined band thresholds would be applied on a consistent basis across the country. Users would be allocated on a historic basis and updated in line with price controls. Incentives are expected to be reduced in a bid to change behaviour in response to residual changes.

The option for agreed capacity has been left open by Ofgem. The regulator has stated that where more users collect agreed capacity data there could be the opportunity to transition charges to an agreed capacity or more appropriate basis.

The Targeted Charging Review

EIC has a more detailed breakdown of the Targeted Charging Review that can be read here.

Renewable Obligation mutualisation costs added to customer bills

What are mutualisation costs?

To ensure that the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme runs smoothly, Ofgem calculates a buy-out price and mutualisation ceiling. Where suppliers do not present a sufficient number of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) to meet their obligation in the reporting period, they must pay the equivalent buy-out price of the shortfall into a buy-out fund.

This fund is used to cover the administration costs of the scheme. It is distributed proportionally to suppliers based on the number of ROCs they produced towards meeting their individual obligation.

The mutualisation ceiling is set for the yearly obligation period. Mutualisation is triggered in the event of a relevant shortfall, meaning that the remaining costs must be distributed across the industry’s other suppliers apportioned to their market share.

What this means for customers

The 2017-18 period saw a shortfall of £58.6m, leading Ofgem to announce it would tighten rules for new market entrants.

Following this and a spree of market exits again, in the compliance year 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019, not all suppliers met their obligation. This resulted in some of these suppliers also failing to make the subsequent buy-out payments into the required fund.

As of October 2018, Ofgem revealed a combined shortfall of £102,903,066.44 in the England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland buy-out funds.

This means that remaining suppliers will be required to pick up the shortfall, following redistribution of late payments. Suppliers will be required to pay their share of the mutualisation pot, which totals £57.8 million. Therefore customers can expect to see an increase to the RO portion of their energy bill as suppliers apply one-off charges to those with contracts through the 2017-18 period.

EIC Forecast

At EIC, we track the Renewables Obligation and the many other Non-commodity costs, through our forecasts. If you’d like to find out more you can contact us here or call 01527 511 757.

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.