Tuesday June 4, 2019

Following a consultation in March on additional measures to keep the Capacity Market (CM) running smoothly during the current standstill period, the government has published a decision detailing planned legislative changes.

The government maintains that the CM scheme is still the right mechanism to provide security to electricity supplies at the least cost. In order to continue this, the government intends to:

  • Replace the planned T-4 auction with a T-3 auction for delivery in 2022/23.
  • Allow certain renewable technologies to participate.
  • Remove the historical floor from the interconnector de-rating methodology.
  • Make minor corrections and additions to the CM Rules to ensure they are clear and operate as intended.

When implemented, these rules will see renewable technologies allowed to bid for contracts for the first time under the Capacity Market, having previously failed to qualify due to funding through subsidies. Renewable generators that do not receive support via the Contract for Difference, Renewables Obligation or Feed-in Tariff schemes will be allowed to participate.

The rearranged date for the delayed 2018 T-1 Capacity Market Auction is scheduled to go ahead on 11-12 June 2019 for delivery in the 2019/20 year.

The current state of the Capacity Market

The CM scheme is currently under suspension, following a ruling on 15 November 2018 by the European Court of Justice that its design was biased against small, clean energy and therefore shouldn’t be eligible for State Aid approval. Under EU State Aid rules, it is required that member states need to consider alternative options to meeting power demand, before subsidising fossil fuel generation.

The Court’s decision means that payments made under the CM scheme will be frozen until the UK Government can obtain permission from the European Commission to continue in an official capacity.

The European Commission has to undertake a formal investigation of the CM to clear it. If successful, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have said that auction results to date will still stand and that payments are legal.

In the meantime, BEIS has asked the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) to keep the Capacity Market scheme running, short of making payments. BEIS has said that if those with contracts deliver their obligations, they may then be eligible for deferred payments if the market is reinstated.

BEIS expects a decision by the Commission to be made by early next year.

How the closure may affect you

In the short-term the Capacity Market charge will still be levied on customer’s bills, currently accounting for 0.3p/kWh, approximately 2.5% of a bill. This means that consumers will likely see little immediate change.

However, the ongoing suspension could mean a halt to the charge. An unsuccessful investigation by the European Commission could potentially see UK consumers receive a refund for previous CM charges paid through their electricity bills. This could be partially offset by a resultant hike in wholesale energy prices as guarantees of supply from larger operators are no longer certain.

Smaller operators in the scheme may be faced with a dilemma as missed capacity payments could result in cash flow issues. However, a closure to the Capacity Market could see the early shutdown of some coal plants, raising market power prices, and providing opportunity to these smaller operators.

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