Positive Winter Outlook from National Grid

National grid has published its yearly Winter Outlook report for the 2018/19 season. The report forecasts an electricity margin of 7.1GW, which is 0.9GW more than last year.

Transmission system demand is predicted to peak at 48.2GW, 2.5GW less than last winter, during the week commencing 10 December 2018. This includes the sum of national demand (48.85GW), alongside the demand from power stations (600MW) and the base case interconnector export value (750MW).

The Winter Outlook expects this season to operate differently to last year. Over the last two winters, gas was the cheaper fuel type for electricity generation. However, as global gas prices have risen, it’s more likely that coal will replace gas generation to some degree over the season.

 

Interconnectors

In 2014, the interconnectors were not eligible to participate in the Capacity Market’s (CM) T-4 auction. As a result, they hold no CM obligations for winter 2018/19, including interconnector capacity, as some contracts were secured by interconnectors in the Early Auction.

The Winter Outlook expects an average import flow of 2,130MW, out of a total 3,000MW (2,000MW from the French IFA interconnector and 1,000MW from the Netherlands BritNed interconnector), and an export flow to Ireland of 750MW.

National Grid anticipates that forward prices in Continental European markets will be lower than in Britain. As a result, we will likely see a net flow of power from the Continent to the UK during peak power demand periods. However, outages within the Belgium nuclear fleet, which have extended to November and beyond, could result in increases to Continental prices, causing uncertainty on interconnector flow direction.

Nemo Link, a new interconnector, is under construction and may come into commercial service at the end of January 2019. Once commissioned, it will provide a 1GW capability between Belgium and the UK.

 

Gas

The gas demand forecast for winter 2018/19 is 46.6 billion cubic meters (bcm), lower than the winter 2017/18 outturn. Peak demand for the coldest weather conditions (or a 1-in-20 winter, meaning exceptional demand on a winter day which statistically occurs once every 20 years) is forecast at 483mcm/day, with a margin of available supply of 92 million cubic meters (mcm).

The report estimates that for an average cold day this winter, the demand forecast is expected to be 407mcm/day. The non-storage supply forecast is 360mcm/day, to which 92mcm of storage can be added, providing National Grid a cold day supply forecast in excess of the forecast demand.

Average gas exports through the IUK to Continental Europe are expected to be lower than winter 2017/18 due to the expiry of long-term contracts. As a result, National Grid predicts that deliveries through from the Balgzand Bacton Line (BBL) may be price-sensitive through the season.

Following a decision by the Dutch government to cut Groningen production, output from the site will be reduced from 21bcm/year in winter 2017/18 to 12bcm/year by winter 2022/23. Production from Groningen this year will not be dictated by a cap, but instead will be weather dependent, producing no more than necessary to meet security of supply.

 

Liquefied natural gas (LNG)

During seven of the last eight months, supply of LNG to the network has been lower than in the same period in the previous year. Demand for LNG is comparatively high in Asian markets, especially in China where gas is expected to continue to grow, as it replaces coal in the Chinese heating sector. High demand, and the associated high prices have drawn LNG away from European markets.

The Winter Outlook does not expect LNG supply to the country to be high on many days this winter. However, if demand and prices rise substantially within the UK, LNG imports will increase, just as they did at the end of February 2018.

 

Stay informed with EIC

Our Market Intelligence team keep a close eye on the energy markets and industry updates, keeping our clients informed at a frequency to suit them.

Visit our website to find out more about EIC Market Intelligence.

Gas and power prices surge – take action

The Winter 18 gas and power contracts are up by 52% and 50% respectively in the last year. The following seasons have also risen, however not by as much. Winter 19 gas and power contracts are 34% and 38% higher year-on-year.

If you’re on a fixed contract, all is not yet lost, though we’re urging you to act quickly.

 

A clear impact of the price rises is that gas and power for next year are much more expensive than a year ago. However, next year’s prices, and the year after that, for gas and power are still at a discount.

The market remains in a heavy period of backwardation. This is when contracts for a commodity are cheaper in the future than they are for periods closer to delivery. This isn’t because the market expects prices to be lower in the future, but largely due to the market pricing for current supply shortage levels.

Gas remains in high demand, partly because of the cold winter and the earlier effects of the ‘Beast from the East’ depleting storage reserves. Injections this year have been strong but may not be enough to reach the highs from last year.

Another factor at play is that gas prices elsewhere in the world are much higher. This is encouraging those with the ability to move gas to higher price destinations. The recent market rises have been substantial, but have only returned prices back to where they were trading four years ago.

 

Furthermore, it’s only the front seasonal contracts that have risen to this elevated range. The front Winter gas contract is holding between 65p/th and 75p/th, with the Summer market range between 56p/th and 66p/th. If you haven’t fixed your October 18 start contracts yet, don’t delay any further.

 

What’s the risk to your energy bills?

Even if the market only moves to the middle of the above stated ranges the wholesale element could still increase significantly.

If the above curve flattens in line with the longer-dated contracts moving up to the range that prices were at just four years ago, you could be hit with a further 20% price increase. The below table outlines how your annual electricity spend would increase if your business were hit by this rise:

 

 

Current annual electricity spend

Contract start date

£10,000

£100,000

£1,000,000

1 April 2018

£10,057£100,573£1,005,725
30 August 2018

£11,412

£114,122

£1,141,219

Further 20% rise

£12,483£124,826

£1,248,258

 

The shortage now is partly due to the low storage levels seen at the end of winter, which has prompted substantial injections. However, structural problems remain, particularly in regard to a lack of UK storage capacity. Dutch gas production will continue to decline, as will supply from the North Sea. The ongoing worldwide transition from coal to gas will also support demand. As a result competition for gas is here to stay, encouraging higher gas prices for the UK to attract sufficient supply.

Wholesale costs for suppliers have risen significantly in the last two years. Many gas and power contracts are at record highs, after prices accelerated their move higher earlier this year, and again during August. These increased costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher bills, with suppliers paying more for their energy at a wholesale level.

 

It’s time to take action

EIC can help you manage these price rises. Back in April, our energy experts advised businesses to fix their October 2018 contract starts immediately for 24 months. Those that followed our advice at the time saved themselves 42% on their wholesale gas cost and 34% on their wholesale electricity cost, compared to what they’d be paying now.

 

How we can help you with energy procurement

Here at EIC, we pride ourselves on our market knowledge and giving timely advice to our clients. We can help businesses of all sizes to find the right energy contracts for their needs.

If you’re a larger energy user, we can help you with fixed price energy procurement to help you secure prices and provide budget certainty. We’re also on hand to help you with flexible energy procurement, should you find fixed contracts too restrictive; we can help you take advantage of a volatile energy market and make sure you capitalise on market rises and falls. Our aim is to maximise contract flexibility whilst minimising your costs.

We can also help you budget effectively for your energy costs by providing year-on-year price projections for the next five years with our Long-Term Price Forecast Report.

To find out more about our energy procurement services, and how we can help you find the right contract for your business needs, call us on 01527 511 757 or email info@eic.co.uk.

Domestic energy price cap proposal announced by Ofgem

The proposal follows the passing of the Government’s Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Act, which became law on 19 July. This legislation was passed by Parliament to provide a temporary price cap for domestic customers on Standard Variable Tariffs (SVTs) and default tariffs, assigning Ofgem with the duty to ensure a fair price.

Ofgem has currently opened a statutory consultation on the announcements, allowing suppliers and stakeholders to comment on the proposals before 6 October. The regulator is working towards having the cap in place by the end of 2018.

 

The impact on customers

The introduction of the price cap will see a requirement for suppliers to cut their prices to the level of, or below, the cap. This is proposed to be £1,136 per year for a typical dual fuel customer paying by direct debit and £1,219 per year for a customer paying by standard credit.

Exact savings for each household will be dependent on the cost of their current deal, how much energy they use, and whether they use both gas and electricity. On average it’s been estimated that the typical customer, on a dual fuel deal of gas and electricity, will save around £75 a year. Ofgem believes the price cap would save consumers a total of around £1 billion.

 

The price cap moving forwards

Ofgem plan to update the level of the cap in April and October every year in order to account for the latest costs of supplying gas and electricity.

The price cap is a temporary measure, to be in place until 2023 at the latest. This is designed to allow Ofgem time to implement further reforms to make the energy market more competitive, enabling it to work more effectively for all consumers.

 

Stay informed with EIC

Our Market Intelligence team keep a close eye on the energy markets and industry updates. Visit our website to find out more about EIC Market Intelligence.

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.