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.

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.

 

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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.

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UK Energy Policy in 2020

Following the results of the UK General Election, it will be the Conservative Party responsible for delivering the net zero target and a green economy. The Conservatives made positive pledges to invest in green jobs, low carbon infrastructure and investment in energy efficiency.

Their Manifesto promised that the first Budget in 2020 will prioritise the environment and contain investment in research & development, decarbonisation schemes, new flood defences, electric vehicle infrastructure and clean energy. The Budget date is to be confirmed, but will likely take place in early Spring.

White Paper

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) intend to release an Energy White Paper, which is expected in Q1 2020. It will detail the country’s strategy to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Energy Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, has said that BEIS are currently evaluating a number of different approaches. This will include decisions on renewables, nuclear levels and the role of carbon capture, usage and storage.

The White Paper is expected to yield further policy indications on a range of energy and environmental issues that are currently unclear.

COP26

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is scheduled to take place 9-19 November 2020 in Glasgow.

The UK will host the main COP summit, which will enable world leaders to discuss actions to tackle climate change and serve as a spotlight on how far the government’s climate policy decisions have come. Claire Perry, the previous Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, will preside as the UK nominated president for the event.

Second Balancing Services Charges Taskforce

Ofgem formed the first Balancing Services Charges Taskforce, in collaboration with the Electricity System Operator, back in November 2018. The main goal of the Taskforce was to investigate the future direction of Balancing Services Use of System (BSUoS) charges.

The Taskforce found that the BSUoS charge does not currently provide any useful forward-looking signal. This makes the charges hard to forecast, reducing the influence of the charge on user behaviour.

With this information, the Taskforce assessed whether individual elements of BSUoS have the potential for being charged more cost-effectively and hence could provide a forward-looking signal. However, whilst it was concluded there were theoretical advantages to options suggested, it remained that the implementation would not or could not provide a cost-reflective and forward-looking signal that would drive efficient and effective market behaviour.

The first Taskforce concluded that it was not feasible to charge any of the BSUoS components in a more cost-reflective and forward-looking manner that would effectively influence behaviour to help the system and/or lower costs to customers. The group recommended that all costs included with BSUoS should be treated on a cost-recover basis.

Taskforce key deliverables

The new Taskforce will aim to assess who should pay BSUoS charges, how these charges should be recovered and how principles from the Targeted Charging Review can be applied. In order to achieve this the Taskforce has compiled five deliverables:

  1. Consideration and assessment based recommendation as to who should pay balancing services charges
  2. Investigation and recommendation for recovering balancing services charges, including collection methodology and frequency
  3. Produce interim report providing detailed reasoning and any relevant analysis behind the initial conclusions
  4. Consult on the interim report providing opportunity for stakeholder comment
  5. Issue a final report including consideration of stakeholder consultation responses providing a final recommendation on who should pay, the design of balancing services charges and potential timescales for implementation

The final report, containing the recommendations to Ofgem, is scheduled to be published in June 2020.

Electric Vehicle Smart Charging consultation response

On 15 July 2019 the Government published a consultation on Electric Vehicle Smart Charging. This was to seek views on the outline of the current approach and objectives for the implementation of smart charging systems for electric vehicles (EVs).

The Government believes that the encouragement of consumer uptake and innovation is necessary to meet future targets. To this effect, Government’s overall aim is to maximise the use of smart charging technologies to benefit both consumers and the electricity system, whilst supporting the transition to EVs.

The consultation states that without government intervention, it is unlikely that smart charging will be taken up at the rate required to achieve the full potential benefits. This could lead to the risk of varying standards and inadequate protections for the grid and consumers.

The long and short-term plans for smart charging

The Government provided detail on both short and long-term plans for smart charging. The approach for Phase One of the project would see new non-public charge points required to have smart functionality, compliant with the British Standards Institution.

Phase Two is a work in progress, as the Government seeks views on what the long-term approach for operational requirements should be, with some potential options. The consultation proposes that a decision should be made between 2020 and 2022.

A potential response to the consultation is expected in 2020 and would dictate the rate and method of rollout of new EV infrastructure across the country in the future.

Review of Default Tariff Cap

The initial default tariff cap came in effect on 1 January 2019. It was designed as a temporary cap on standard variable tariffs and fixed term default tariffs. In accordance with the licence requirements, Ofgem run an update progress twice a year. This is so the default tariff cap reflects changes in the cost of supplying energy.

On 7 August 2019, Ofgem updated the cap levels to come into effect for the third charge restriction from 1 October 2019 to 31 March 2020. A fall in wholesale costs saw the level of the cap reduce from £1,254 to £1,179 for this period.

The default tariff cap is intended to be a temporary measure, with an upcoming review next year on whether it is still fit for purpose. The cap will remain in place until at least the end of 2020. The government will be able to choose whether to extend the cap beyond this, up to a maximum of 2023.

Dermot Nolan, Chief Executive of Ofgem, said, “The price cap requires suppliers to pass on any savings to customers when their cost to supply electricity and gas falls.

He added, “This means the energy bills of around 15 million customers on default deals or pre-payment meters will fall this winter to reflect the reduction in cost of the wholesale energy. Households can cut their bills further in time for winter, and we would encourage all customers to shop around to get themselves the best deal possible for their energy.”

CCC to publish Sixth Carbon Budget

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is scheduled to publish its recommendation on the level of the Sixth Carbon Budget in September 2020.

The Sixth Carbon Budget, required under the Climate Change Act, will provide ministers with advice on the volume of greenhouse gases the UK can emit during the period 2033-2037. The Budget will set the path to the UK’s net-zero emissions target in 2050, as the first carbon budget to be set into law following that commitment.

CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, advised the Government of the Committee’s intention in a letter to the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke MP.

The letter sets out the Committee’s expectations for the Treasury’s planned review of how the costs of the transition to a net-zero economy by 2050 can be funded and distributed fairly.

The Committee called on the Treasury to conduct the review in its May 2019 advice to Government on setting a net-zero target for the UK. The Committee sees the review as crucial in ensuring a successful transition and recommend that the review is a key input to next year’s spending review and budget, and longer-term policy direction.

Lord Deben’s letter also recommends that the Treasury review develops a plan for funding decarbonisation and examines the distribution of costs for businesses, households and the Exchequer.

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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.