The energy crisis: how did we get here?

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

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

European storage inventories are well below average

Graph showing European storage levels
European storage

 

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

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

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

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

Reduced gas supplies this summer

UK LNG imports
UK LNG imports

 

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

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

 

Weak renewable generation this summer

Wind & gas output comparison table
Power output comparison table

 

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

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

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

Day ahead forecast
UK day-ahead power price forecast

Increased cost of substitute sources of power generation

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

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

Carbon
Carbon allowances

Russian gas supply

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

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

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

 

What’s next?

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

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

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

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

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

This article was written by the Market Intelligence Team

Targeted Charging Review (TCR) Guide

The Targeted Charging Review (TCR) changes will soon come into effect, starting with distribution charges in April 2022 and followed by transmission charges in April 2023.

We look at how these changes will impact consumers and how we can help businesses to prepare.

What does the review include?

Changes to DUoS and TNUoS

Distribution Use of System (DUoS) and Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) charges cover the costs of maintaining the electricity networks that supply your energy. Ofgem is implementing changes to these charges to ensure that costs are distributed fairly across all consumers.

Subject to Ofgem consultation, from April 2022 for DUoS and April 2023 for TNUoS a proportion of your DUoS and TNUoS charges will be based on a series of fixed charging bands.

The band you are placed into will depend on your average annual consumption for non-half hourly (NHH) sites or average capacity for half-hourly (HH) sites, calculated over the two year period from October 2018 to September 2020.

TNUoS charges for non-domestic consumers will be based on a series of fixed charging bands set for the whole country, as seen in the table below.

For DUoS charges, domestic consumers will pay a single residual charge set for each distribution area. Non-domestic consumers will be charged based on the same set of fixed bands as TNUoS but with charges varying for each distribution area. Ofgem will review and may revise these charging bands and their boundaries so that they can be implemented alongside new electricity price controls, with the next (RIIO-3) starting in April 2026.

TCR Fixed Charging Bands with latest TNUoS forecast
Table 1. TCR Fixed Charging Bands with latest TNUoS forecast (National Grid, May 2021)

Changes to Triads

The largest component of Triad charges is called the Transmission Demand Residual (TDR), and this is the charge that will change from April 2023, becoming a fixed charge rather than being determined through Triads. Triad charges will continue to apply to the forward-looking components of TNUoS charges, which are known as the Transmission Demand Locational charges, although these represent less than 10% of the total TNUoS charge.

Triad periods are the three highest winter peak periods. They are retrospectively calculated in March each year and form the basis of the transmission network component (TNUoS) of large companies’ energy bills. By reducing consumption or switching to onsite generation during forecast Triad periods, some firms can save large amounts of money on their bills.

The removal of the TDR leaves two full Triad seasons to take place over Winter 2021/22 and 2022/23. Beyond that, the incentive for Triad avoidance will be greatly reduced. And companies that are taking action to reduce costs during Triad periods could see an increase in their electricity bills.

What impact will this have on consumers?

The TCR changes are set to benefit larger consumers with half-hourly (HH) meters, whilst domestic and NHH sites will see a small rise in costs. Consumers outside of London are expected to experience a rise in DUoS fixed costs. This will be partially offset by a decrease in DUoS unit costs. Most HH sites will also benefit from a drop in TNUoS costs. Whereas domestic and NHH sites face a potential rise in TNUoS costs.

Average TCR change for a HH customer

The graph below shows that southern areas are more likely to see a larger decrease in costs than northern areas. HH sites in London, for example, will see TNUoS and DUoS costs decrease by an average of 36%. Whereas HH sites in Scotland will only see an average decrease of 7%. Incidentally, London is also the only area where domestic and NHH sites will see a net benefit from the TCR changes.

Consumers currently taking Triad avoidance action will not see the cost reductions shown below, as that benefit ends in April 2023. Similarly, sites that have a capacity level which is set too high are likely to face an increase in costs, as they could be placed into a higher charging band. Extra-high voltage sites are not included in the graph below, as they are subject to site-specific tariffs and need more detailed analysis.

Average % change in costs due to TCR

How EIC can help

The figures calculated above are based on an average consumer in each charging band. The analysis covers a wide range of consumers with varying demand profiles and cannot easily be applied to individual consumer costs.

The best way to determine exactly how the TCR will affect your business is with our Long Term Forecast Report. This provides your business with a specific breakdown of electricity costs over a 5, 10, 15 or 20 year period. This valuable report will allow you to confidently plan your long-term budget and avoid any nasty surprises.

To learn more read about our Long Term Forecast Report service or contact us today.

The EII Exemption Scheme: everything you need to know

What is the energy-intensive industries (EII) exemption scheme?

The EII exemption scheme aims to help big energy users stay competitive in a global market. Qualifying businesses can claim an exemption of up to 85% of their Contract for Differences (CfD), Renewables Obligation (RO), and Feed-in Tariff (FiT) costs. Providing firm financial footing in a post-Covid economy.

Why was the EII exemption scheme launched?

The UK has pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, which will require a transformative shift towards clean energy across the economy. This has resulted in a variety of government schemes which encourage the rise of electricity generated from renewable and low carbon sources.

This initiative has seen success, with renewables accounting for 47% of the UK’s generation in the first quarter of 2020. And even as consumption dropped in Q2, wind power generated electricity continued to rise due to increased capacity. This upwards trajectory is only expected to accelerate, with promising new renewable energy projects on the horizon.

The levies and obligations funding this growth are initially covered by energy suppliers. But, these costs are passed down to domestic and non-domestic consumers in the form of higher energy bills.

This puts energy-intensive businesses at a disadvantage. Especially when competing against their EU counterparts with lower energy costs. The launch of the EII exemption scheme is a solution to this problem and aims to maintain the UK’s position in the global market.

When was the scheme rolled out?

The original solution to the issue of higher costs for EIIs was a compensation scheme launched in 2016. This allowed big energy users to apply for relief from the energy costs they had already paid.

This was then replaced by the EII exemption scheme, rolled out between autumn 2017 and spring 2018. This change of approach is meant to offer energy-intensive businesses more long time certainty and stability as well as higher cost savings.

eii

Who can apply?

To be eligible for an EII exemption, a business must meet five key requirements.

  • The business must manufacture a product in the UK within an eligible sector – the “sector level test”.
  • The business must pass a 20% electricity intensity test – the “business level test”.
  • The business must not be an Undertaking in Difficulty (UID) – the UID guidelines explain that “an undertaking is considered to be in difficulty when, without intervention by the State, it will almost certainly be condemned to going out of business in the short or medium term.”
  • The business must have at least two quarters of financial data.
  • The application must contain evidence of the proportion of electricity used to manufacture the product for a period of at least three months.

Learn more about applying for an exemption certificate.

Big energy users who do not qualify for the EII exemption scheme should still be aware of rising energy costs. They should explore schemes such as Carbon Footprinting, Energy Audits, Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) and Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS). These can provide invaluable insight into your environmental impact and routes to improve energy efficiency within your company.

Has Covid-19 had an impact on the scheme?

Covid-19 has thrown various sectors of the UK economy into a state of uncertainty and decline. The energy sector was especially impacted by the fall in energy consumption in the first six months of 2020. And resulted in a subsequent drop in electricity prices. This could make it more difficult to calculate a business’ energy intensity and whether it is “in difficulty”. Because of this, the government will be excluding the period from 31 December 2019 to 30 June 2020 from its assessment of whether a business is in financial difficulty or not.

How can EIC help?

Here at EIC, we support big energy users with the management of their energy, buildings, carbon and compliance. As a result, we’re able to uncover actionable insights that allow you to manage and control all elements of your energy bill on both sides of the meter.

Armed with a comprehensive understanding of government schemes and legislation, we can help turn your frustrating admin into rewarding opportunities. We can navigate complex applications such as that for the EII exemption certificate – saving you valuable time and resources.

Contact us to learn more about how EIC can help your business.

Zonal transmission losses hit electricity bills

In April 2018, major changes were made to how National Grid charged for transmission losses from the electricity system. As these changes are now being reflected in electricity bills, consumers need to make sure these costs are being passed on correctly.

The net impact of the changes in transmission losses is that consumers in the north of the country are going to see notable benefits, while the south will see an increase.

 

What are transmission losses?

Transmission losses refer to the electricity lost in the main high-voltage transmission network, as it travels from generators to where it is needed. The losses are a normal and an unavoidable result of the physics of transmitting energy over any distance. However, these losses still need to be accounted for and, as a result, generators are required to provide more energy than is actually used to ensure the system is balanced.

In electricity bills, transmission losses reflect the cost to consumers for providing this extra energy. Though they are not a huge part of an energy bill, amounting to less than 1%, the modifications regarding how these losses are calculated could result in a large change in this small element of overall costs.

 

How have these charges changed?

Following the Energy Market Investigation conducted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in June 2016, it was decided that regional variations in transmission losses charges would be introduced. The CMA concluded that losses didn’t reflect the actual costs for operating the system, due to the fact that all consumers paid the same level of losses, regardless of their location, or proximity to generators.

In theory, those regions closer to where the electricity is generated will see lower levels of energy network losses compared to those who are located more remotely from generators. Therefore, the CMA’s solution was Zonal Transmission Losses. Each region would face different levels of losses, reflecting the actual costs of delivery to their location.

Previously, all consumers faced a cost based on the same calculation; all metered consumption was uplifted by the same amount – around 1% or multiplied by 1.01. The cost of the losses reflected the difference between the metered cost of energy and the cost for suppling the uplifted volume of electricity.

As of April 2018, each of the 14 transmission supply zones – which correlate to the 14 main electricity distribution networks –have a different multiplier for the extra energy to be supplied – the Transmission Loss Multiplier (TLM). These are also seasonal, as the level of energy lost on the network is impacted by weather and temperature conditions.

 

What is the impact of these changes?

For the largest businesses, which have bills that pass-on transmission costs directly, losses can change on a half-hourly (HH) basis, reflecting the changing level of energy requirements on the system throughout the day. Average monthly TLMs since April 2018 show how the multiplier has changed significantly in the last few months. This can be seen in the graphs below.

 

northern monthly TLMs

southern and eastern monthly TLMs

wales and western monthly TLMs

 

As shown, the zonal TLMs vary significantly around the average TLM for all regions, estimated to be remaining at the 1.01 level.

Of particular note is that both Scottish zones have a TLM below one. As the multiplier is less than one, this in practice means that those exposed directly to these half-hourly TLMs in Scotland could see negative transmission losses costs. This is to reflect that the majority of the UK’s generation is in the north, with consumers closer to sources of generation, while the bulk of demand is in the south, much further away from the majority of generation.

This wide variation in TLMs means there is also the potential for large swings in transmission costs based on location. The actual annual costs for transmission losses will also vary based on consumption over the year, particularly given that the changes will be seasonal too.

Based on the data on TLMs seen so far, it is estimated that transmission costs will be around 110% more than they might have been in the Midlands supply zone, while northern Scotland will see these costs drop by nearly 200%. Though this sounds significant, we must highlight that the scale of costs relative to the other parts of the energy bill are small, so in many cases consumers may not notice a huge difference in their overall annual bill as a result.

 

TLM variation

 

 

We can help ensure your bills are correct

Whatever the impact on your final bill, you should be aware of the variations that came into force in April. With such a wide variation in Transmission Loss Multipliers, it’s important that bills are checked for accuracy, particularly if a contract allows for full pass-through of the costs. Even a small error could – over time – lead to notable costs to businesses.

Here at EIC, we have an in-depth understanding of all the charges that can appear on your energy bills, and how you can control them to lower their impact.

To find out more about our energy bill checking service visit our website.