Controlling your energy bills: A guide to non-commodity costs

The cost of electricity has fluctuated considerably in the last few years, for many reasons. During the multiple national lockdowns, prices started to rise considerably and have since reached all-time highs. And due to unforeseen events around the world following Covid-19, the markets have remained incredibly volatile. One of the reasons for this is a rise in non-commodity, or ‘third-party’, costs.

The term ‘non-commodity’ costs has worked itself into many conversations throughout the past few years, within the energy industry. But understanding what non-commodity costs are, and how they could impact you and your business can be difficult to understand.

So, we have broken it down for you. Here is our guide to the different types of non-commodity costs.

What are non-commodity costs?

Essentially, the amount we pay for energy includes three different expenses. The first, is the wholesale price of the actual amount of power we use (the commodity). Secondly, we have the cost of transmission and distribution across the network. And finally, a variety of government levy and taxes. The energy companies pay these fees, and pass the cost onto their customers.

In 2011, non-commodity costs accounted for around 36% of energy prices. In 2022 this has already risen to around 70% and is predicted to reach 80% over the next decade and continue to ascend.

Transmission and distribution costs

Each supplier incurs expenses to run and maintain the power network. These vary from provider to provider, and largely depend on the type of power plant. For example, solar and wind generators are less consistent in output, as compared with gas or nuclear power. With a move towards renewable energy, the cost of balancing the system is likely to increase. The main expenses are:

Government levy and taxes

These taxes fund various government initiatives and green energy programs.

Controlling your expenses

With the increases in non-commodity costs set to continue, it is important to keep an eye on your bills. Proper monitoring, and tracking monthly changes, will ensure you aren’t overpaying.

With such turbulence in the market, there is less control over the wholesale cost of electricity. What can be controlled, however, is how we use energy. At EIC, we can help you plan your usage around annual Triad periods. This can make a significant difference to your energy bills. Our daily traffic light warnings will help you avoid any unnecessary fluctuations, and keep costs low.

Whether you prefer the stability of a fixed price, or the control of a flexible contract, we can help. Setting up an energy contract can be a long process, especially if you want a good price. We have the experience to negotiate with your provider, to make sure you are not paying more than you should be.

Our service is tailored to your needs. To find out what we can do for your business, get in touch today.

In conversation with…John Palmer

You’ve been at EIC for eight years. You must have seen quite a lot of changes in the industry and the company as well?

My role has actually changed quite a bit during those eight years. I started out as a risk management consultant and I was responsible for the trading strategy for all of our clients. I’d support the client-facing teams with meetings. I’d go out and explain what’s happening in the markets and what we were doing with the trading, and make changes to risk management policies.

Then I took over as the manager of the flexible procurement team. I’ve got a team of six flexible account managers and it’s a really good team to manage; they’re really good people. They know what they’re doing and I’m there to support and help out when they need it.

Quite often with customers it’s sitting and working with them to understand what they are looking to get from their flexible energy contract – do they want budget certainty, do they want a market reflective price? So it’s working out what the right strategy is for them.

What do you think has been the impact of the Covid pandemic on the energy sector?

There’s been quite a few changes as a result. The biggest thing in the pandemic was the way that consumption changed, particularly early on with businesses closing down or reducing what they were doing significantly. Because we were pro-active with EIC customers, none of our flex customers were penalised for going outside of their forecast consumptions – as we were able to mitigate that.

For a lot of organisations, people aren’t returning to the office full time. Some businesses are moving entirely to remote working. So that will be a change in the way we use energy. Last winter was a good example. With more people working at home, it changed the profile of energy use over the winter.

“This year we’ve seen the bounce in energy prices, from long-term lows to record highs. This will drive people to look at how efficient they are being with their energy, and how flexible they can be with their demand”

This year we’ve seen the bounce in energy prices, from long-term lows to record highs. This will drive people to look at how efficient they are being with their energy, and how flexible they can be with their demand. There are various schemes to try to make demand flexibility pay off for customers, as well as the opportunity to avoid certain non-commodity charges.

There’s a change in the way we generate our energy in the UK, with the move away from coal generation and closures of some of the nuclear plants. Also the move towards more renewable generation, which typically is wind, wave and solar (which there’s an intermittency to) – could mean our system margins are going to be much tighter in the coming years.

Recently we saw really tight system margins, which meant that day ahead prices went up to over £500 a megawatt hour for electricity. That’s something which is going to become more of an issue for consumers and suppliers to manage; there will be that change in the volatility of market prices.

“The cheapest kilowatt hour is the one you don’t use.”

Procurement will always be important. Buying energy as efficiently and cheaply as possible is always going to be a key part of the puzzle. I think net zero and carbon reduction will become a much bigger consideration for all energy users. It will be about how you can balance your procurement alongside those wider needs of low or zero carbon energy.

What are your predictions for the energy markets over the next year?

That’s a loaded question! At the moment the big thing is obviously wholesale prices and what they might do. I think we are going to be very much driven by weather over the winter, and how much gas becomes available.

I think with Nord Stream 2 coming online, and sending gas from Russia, that might well bring prices down. Certainly if we have a mild winter, prices could come down. But if we have a horrible winter and a shortage of gas, then it will be a case of, when will this stop? Prices can’t stay where they are forever, I think there’s a point where they’re going to come down. It’s just what the drivers are going to be for that.

More generally, it certainly looks like there’s going to be a tightening of what is considered to be a green energy contract. At the moment, a Rego [Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin] backed electricity contract may not be linked to your electricity in any way. Accusations of greenwashing suggest that there might be a tightening of those regulations. There will definitely be a push towards green contracts. Hopefully green gas will become more established or an alternative option – perhaps hydrogen in the longer-term – which is being looked at as a cleaner way of doing things.

“If we have a horrible winter and a shortage of gas, then it will be a case of, when will this stop?”

I know that there’s a project in Humberside, Zero Carbon Humber, that is looking at how they can capture carbon from a number of carbon intensive businesses including Drax power station as well as other ways to make a net zero industrial cluster in the area. That will be a really interesting project to follow, to see if other areas try to replicate it.

Generally, customers are going to be looking at how they can reduce their energy consumption or generate their own. The cheapest kilowatt hour is the one you don’t use.

What are the pros and cons of flexible contracts, and who would you recommend them to?

I think the benefits are that instead of buying all of your energy on one day, which you do with a fixed contract, you can buy over time. You can sell back energy. Whilst with a fixed contract, if you sign one now, those are the prices and you’re stuck with them for the duration.

If the way you’re using your energy onsite changes then you can reforecast, so you don’t have to worry so much about volume tolerances. In a fixed price contract everything is set up at the time that you sign the contact, so it’s more rigid.

The benefits of flex are very good, but you need to be a reasonably large energy user to do it. With a consumption of more than 2 gigawatt hours annually. You can look at baskets and, if you’re a much larger customer, stand-alone flex contracts. Baskets allow smaller energy users (who may not be able to get a standalone flex contract) to be grouped together in a basket that allows their consumption to be traded together with other organisations.

Do clients need an in-house manager to handle flexible contracts day-to-day?

Having a point of contact to discuss things with is useful but you can have as much or as little information as you want. If you’re someone who wants to see information regularly and know exactly what’s going on, then flexible is a good way to do it, because you’ll be getting a lot of information. We’ll be actively talking to you about what the market’s doing, how it’s moving and what that means for your position.

“We’ll be actively talking to you about what the market’s doing, how it’s moving and what that means for your position.”

We have customers who are really used to the energy markets and energy contracts, but we’ve also got some clients who’ve never done flex before. We can do as much or as little as you want. We can deal with all the trading and we can agree a strategy and walk you through how that works.

We’ve got customers where, initially they wanted to be really involved because we were new to them. It’s then got to a point where they know us, they trust us and they get less involved and leave more to us to do.

If you were in your clients’ shoes, what would you be thinking about when considering an energy purchase?

I would definitely go for a flexible contract, if I was big enough for one. If I was signing a fixed contract, I would sign a shorter contract at the moment and be ready to sign another one if the markets went against me. I’d take a short term position.

“Since 2014, we’ve saved £79 million for clients on flex contracts. Ben Sherbrooke and John Dawson have done a fantastic job.”

For a flex contract, I’d be looking to get things set up and look for a strategy that protected me against the market rising but also gives me flexibility to make some savings if prices fall.

What do you think is the biggest misconception or myth in energy?

The myth that’s been exploded this year is that prices always come down in the summer. That’s been a general assumption, and this year has certainly changed that.

From the flexible procurement team’s point of view, we’ve got a really experienced team. We deal with a whole range of queries – new connections, disconnections, changes of tenancy, site additions and volume queries. The team are very focussed on looking after customers and making sure they have a good experience. That is something that I think we do very well. The customer hopefully knows they can come to us with a query or a problem and we’ll work hard to try and solve that problem for them.

In terms of sustainability, what do you think clients should be focusing on?

The first thing any business should be looking at is reducing the amount of energy they use. That is going to deliver the biggest savings. Projects to replace old lighting or upgrade out-of-date equipment will bring savings on energy contracts.

For companies with the opportunity, onsite generation is something to look at. Solar is becoming more financially viable for a lot of clients and payback times are less now than they were three or four years ago. Alongside solar I suggest battery storage too.

If someone is installing solar I would definitely say consider battery storage alongside it. If your solar is generating electricity during the middle of the day, store that and use it during peak times – because that will help you avoid some of these potential price fluctuations and some of the non-commodity costs that are charged based on when you use your energy. From a green point of view, obviously looking at opportunities to buy green electricity and gas – although green gas is incredibly expensive at the moment. So potentially for some customers, carbon offsetting might be an alternative. And that’s something we can do.

What are your hobbies?

Cycling is definitely one of my main, spare time activities. I’ve got a summer bike and a winter bike. I don’t want the summer bike to get messed up in the winter! I’ve got a carbon fibre summer bike, a Canyon, and a more sturdy winter one with mud guards. I’m a member of a cycling club called ‘Chapter 2’, although we haven’t been out since the pandemic.

What was the one thing you missed during the lockdown?

Cycling with other people was one of the things I missed most. To be honest seeing friends and family, particularly as my best friend lives round the corner from me. It was a shame that we could see each other’s houses, but we couldn’t see each other. I sort of saw my mum, from a few metres away to help with shopping and was able to do more for her during the later lockdowns. I didn’t see my sister for a good six or seven months. I only saw her on video chat because she lives down in Kent. It took a long time to see her – we are very close and we get on very well.

60 seconds with John Palmer

What do you think has been the impact of the Covid pandemic on the energy sector?

There’s been quite a few changes as a result. The biggest thing in the pandemic was the way that consumption changed, particularly early on with businesses closing down or reducing what they were doing significantly. One of the big things we had to do was to react to that and reach out to customers, to reforecast their consumptions.

Because we were pro-active with EIC customers, none of our flex customers were penalised for going outside of their forecast consumptions – as we were able to mitigate that.

“This year we’ve seen the bounce in energy prices, from long-term lows to record highs. This will drive people to look at how efficient they are being with their energy, and how flexible they can be with their demand”

We are going to see a lasting shift in the way people work so, for a lot of organisations, people aren’t returning to the office full time. Some businesses are moving entirely to remote working. So that will be a change in the way we use energy.

This year we’ve seen the bounce in energy prices, from long-term lows to record highs. This will drive people to look at how efficient they are being with their energy and how flexible they can be with their demand.

Generally, customers are going to be looking at how they can reduce their energy consumption or generate their own. The cheapest kilowatt hour is the one you don’t use.

“The cheapest kilowatt hour is the one you don’t use.”

If you can generate your own energy onsite, you will be avoiding a lot of the non-commodity charges.

What are your predictions for the energy markets over the next year?

That’s a loaded question! At the moment the big thing is obviously wholesale prices and what they might do. I think we are going to be very much driven by weather over the winter, and how much gas becomes available. I think with Nord Stream 2 coming online, and sending gas from Russia, that might well bring prices down. Certainly if we have a mild winter, prices could come down.

More generally, it certainly looks like there’s going to be a tightening of what is considered to be a green energy contract. At the moment, a Rego [Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin] backed electricity contract may not be linked to your electricity in any way. Accusations of greenwashing suggest that there might be a tightening of those regulations. There will definitely be a push towards green contracts. Hopefully green gas will become more established or an alternative option – perhaps hydrogen in the longer-term – which is being looked at as a cleaner way of doing things.

If you were in your clients’ shoes, what would you be thinking about when considering an energy purchase?

I would definitely go for a flexible contract, if I was big enough for one. If I was signing a fixed contract, I would sign a shorter contract at the moment and be ready to sign another one if the markets went against me. I’d take a short term position.

For a flex contract, I’d be looking to get things set up and look for a strategy that protected me against the market rising but also gives me flexibility to make some savings if prices fall.

From a flexible procurement point of view, our trading team is really good. They get really good results for clients. Since 2014, we’ve saved £79m for clients on flex contracts. Ben Sherbrooke and John Dawson have done a fantastic job.

“Since 2014, we’ve saved £79m for clients on flex contracts. Ben Sherbrooke and John Dawson have done a fantastic job.”

What do you think is the biggest misconception or myth in energy?

The myth that’s been exploded this year is that prices always come down in the summer. That’s been a general assumption, and this year has certainly changed that.

In terms of sustainability, what do you think clients should be focusing on?

The first thing any business should be looking at is reducing the amount of energy they use. That is going to deliver the biggest savings. Projects to replace old lighting or upgrade out-of-date equipment will bring savings on energy contracts.

For companies with the opportunity, onsite generation is something to look at. Solar is becoming more financially viable for a lot of clients and payback times are less now than they were three or four years ago. Alongside solar I suggest battery storage too.

What was the one thing you missed during the lockdown?

Cycling with other people was one of the things I missed most. I’m a member of a cycling club called ‘Chapter 2’, although we haven’t been out since the pandemic.

You can read our full interview with John Palmer here.

It’s not too early to start thinking about ESOS phase 3

The deadline for the third phase of ESOS is on 5 December 2023, but it is never too early to start your carbon reporting process. Although working on a distant deadline may not seem like a priority, planning ahead may save considerable time and money.

Regulated by The Environment Agency, the mandatory compliance scheme aims to ensure that big energy users are working as efficiently as possible. Businesses that qualify for the scheme must have compliance plans in place to avoid fines and civil penalties.

The first step towards assessing an organisation’s carbon footprint is to conduct an energy audit. Energy audits assess total consumption within a business including buildings, industrial processes and transport usage. This is also crucial for understanding where a business could save money through energy conservation.

Who qualifies for ESOS?

ESOS is mandatory for large UK organisations that meet one of more of the following criteria:

  • Employ at least 250 people.
  • Have an annual turnover excess of €50 million and an annual balance sheet excess of €43
  • Are part of a corporate group containing a large enterprise.

Businesses that qualify must carry out ESOS assessments every four years. While fines differ from case to case, they can include an immediate £50,000 fine or £500 per day for up to 80 working days. Businesses who refuse to comply also run the risk of having their information published online.

What are the benefits of ESOS?

You may be thinking, why should I start thinking about phase 3 so early? Starting work towards phase 3 now means you are able to explore different options before deciding on the perfect one for your business. Becoming more energy efficient now will also mean environmental and financial benefits in the long term.

The two most significant benefits of ESOS lie in the reduction of carbon emissions and lowering of energy bills. If approached correctly, ESOS could bring benefits for both the business in question and the environment, in the form of cost effective savings.

ESOS has been predicted to deliver a total of £1.6 billion in savings to UK businesses between 2015 and 2030. Some of the most common areas in which savings are found include lighting, air conditioning and metering. EIC can also provide intelligent procurement: further simplifying our client’s energy management and reducing their utility costs.

Putting off compliance plans may also leave you vulnerable to price increases. Phase 1 of the scheme more than 40% of businesses were still not compliant 4 months after the deadline. If this were to happen again, in excess of 2,800 firms would be fined and in turn suppliers would be forced to raise their prices again. By identifying areas of carbon reduction, ESOS can also improve your Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) narrative. While they are separate schemes, information gained from ESOS can be used to manage energy efficiency in annual reports.

How can EIC help with your compliance needs?

Our carbon team have extensive experience with complex compliance legislation and are dedicated to helping you reach deadlines efficiently. Our Lead Assessors and highly trained Auditors are on hand to assist you throughout your compliance process.

We have assisted over 550 clients with their ESOS journey, and in doing so have identified 4.65 million tonnes worth of CO2 savings. This has meant that our clients have avoided approximately £80 million worth of fines over phase 1 and 2.

Whilst balancing other jobs and responsibilities, schemes may seem like a hassle. Fortunately, EIC can help turn that obligation into an opportunity for your organisation.  Get in touch to find out how we can help you start your compliance journey.

What nuclear fusion means for big energy users

Big energy users rely on the UK’s power network to provide safe, reliable electricity for their ongoing business stability. While the use of renewable energy is reaching an all-time high, concerns linger about its reliability. Nuclear fission has been supporting the drive to lower emissions but remains controversial and recently, science has been looking to the future. Could nuclear fusion be the solution?

Every business uses electricity but smaller companies and low level energy users can often handle short outages. Unfortunately big energy users are not so lucky. While solar and wind can be powerful contributors to the grid, they can’t meet all our energy needs. To decarbonise energy-intense industries such as industry or aviation, the development of hydrogen and nuclear is essential.

How does fusion work?

Unlike nuclear fission which splits an atom to release the energy and heat we need for electricity, fusion does it by combining two atoms. Under intense heat and pressure, two positively charged hydrogen isotopes are forced together to create a heavier element.  This releases the same heat and energy we see in fission.

While the process is more complicated than fission, the end result is far safer and more sustainable. It produces almost no radioactive waste material and if the system gets overwhelmed it shuts down automatically so there’s no risk of a meltdown. Not to mention, it is 25% of the cost of nuclear and half the cost of wind energy.

Fission power is fuelled by uranium which is mined, refined and remains dangerous for thousands of years after use. The fuel for fusion power is deuterium. This is found in seawater and the earth has a near limitless supply.

Fusion power promises clean, reliable energy and a consistent output day or night whatever the weather. Renewable power will certainly remain a key part of the plan but with the help of fusion power, we could completely eliminate the use of coal, oil and natural gas.

What is the problem?

Currently, efficiency is the big issue. Existing reactor designs have struggled to produce more electricity than they require for operation. This is mostly due to the scale of the designs and the fuel used for testing. Scientists have been working on the project for decades but lately, a lot of progress has been made. Current research aims to have a functioning, economically viable fusion reactor online by 2030.

The progress of this technology is often compared to the advancements made in microchip design. The processing power of a microchip doubles every year, (following a principle called Moore’s Law). Fusion research has followed a very similar trend.

If progress continues at the current pace, scientists hope to meet their targets and bring fusion into the fight against fossil fuels.

What do we do until then?

The main problem with nuclear fission reactors is the cost. Taking an average of 6 years to build and costing billions of pounds they represent a big commitment. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until 2030 for the next advancement in energy technology. Small modular reactors and hydrogen fuel are getting ready to bridge the gap.

Small reactor, big energy

A popular option amongst energy researchers today is the Small Modular Reactor (SMR). These portable, self-contained reactor buildings are designed to be mass produced so they can be plugged into a power facility to generate electricity. Once used up, they would be returned to the manufacturer or moved into deep storage. SMR technology has made great progress in the last year and researchers hope to have a working model online in the next 5 years.

Hydrogen fuel

Nuclear power stations can also generate the temperatures required for the production of hydrogen fuel. The market for hydrogen has been growing steadily and is likely to maintain this trajectory in years to come. While not as energy dense as most fuels, hydrogen is more efficient than current battery technology and could greatly benefit the growing electric car market.

Where does EIC come in?

EIC are passionate about cutting edge technology. We regularly explore all the latest advancements and choose the best options for our clients. While fusion power may not be an immediate solution, the future for clean energy looks bright.

At EIC, we can help you manage your energy needs and ensure you meet your emissions targets. Our bespoke services can transform your energy strategy and integrate sustainability into the foundation of your organisation.

From procurement to onsite generation, we can help you find the most efficient and cost effective green energy solutions for your business. To learn more about working towards a clean, efficient energy future, contact us at EIC.

The Hydrogen Age

EIC explores the potential of Hydrogen fuel to decarbonise the UK, its domestic supporters and success it has already enjoyed in the EU.

Hydrogen showing carbon the door

In the wake of COVID-19, economic recovery is now a top priority for the UK government. However, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have both staked their flag in making sure it is a ‘green’ economic recovery. As such, industry leaders – particularly within the energy sector – have reopened the conversation on the role of hydrogen in reaching net zero.

The CCC (Committee on Climate Change) published a report in 2018 summarising its recommendations for a UK hydrogen strategy. The hope is to utilise Hydrogen in the UK’s heating systems, specifically by blending it with natural gas, to reduce its carbon footprint.

UK buildings account for 40% of its energy consumption and 70% of industrial building energy is used on space heating and cooling. With these figures in mind, hydrogen’s value is clear to see provided it can get off the ground.

Unfortunately, there are several roadblocks to hydrogen use on a mass scale. The biggest of these is that it would require an infrastructural overall of current heating systems. Blended gas requires plastic pipes while the vast majority of those in the UK are iron.

In addition, the production of hydrogen fuel is highly carbon-intensive. Fortunately, this embedded carbon can be offset by CCS (carbon capture and storage) technology into its production.

However, these are costly caveats to making hydrogen a viable fuel replacement. Naturally, there are concerns that the government may opt for cheaper, quicker progress that, ironically, may prove unsustainable.

 “On the one hand, we need to put money where it has an immediate economic impact and in the most affected sectors. On the other, we need to keep in mind the long-term benefits of making our economy more resilient.”

Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for energy

Forest and low cloudsPrivate sector rescue

The EU Commission announced in June that it would provide €750 billion for its green recovery plan, reserving €1 billion for R&D into green hydrogen. Simson has stated that hydrogen has the potential to capture 10-16% of the EU’s energy market by 2050.

Following the EU’s lead, industry leaders in the UK approached the government and questioned the absence of hydrogen in both the spring budget COVID recovery plan.

Last month, a letter from the chiefs of four major unions implored the government to move forward on hydrogen development. The leaders of GMB, Prospect, Unison and Unite cited, in the letter, the massive reductions this could offer in the heat, transport and heavy industry sectors. Of course, the development of any new technology sector would also create thousands of jobs.

However, the letter was only one component of the “Hydrogen Strategy Now” campaign led by firms like EDF and Siemens. These companies, along with others supporting the campaign, have stated intentions to invest £1.5bn into hydrogen development.

The government must now seize the initiative and provide the necessary funding and support to make hydrogen happen. Firms that desire to adopt a long-term view of their energy and heat use might benefit from EICs services.

EIC’s combined heat and power solution have saved businesses up to 40% on energy costs. EIC can also provide a  carbon management team able to deliver a comprehensive net-zero strategy. Find out more about the services we offer.

 

Private investment, public gain: Green investment after lockdown

EIC discusses the Northvolt gigafactory, and how private funding is now flooding into green investment and sustainability projects.

Recharging capital

It began with grassroots environmentalism, then government mandate and finally, major financial institutions have started supporting a green future in earnest. Support in the form of loans and bonds for sustainable economic development and innovation, specifically solar storage options.

One such investment occurred last Thursday as the European Investment Bank (EIB) issued a €350 million loan to Northvolt for its lithium battery plant.

The site is based in Northern Sweden and is intended to produce the most environmentally-friendly battery storage packs to date. Using 100% renewable energy and locally-sourced materials, it will soften the characteristically high environmental cost of the Lithium-ion batteries it produces.

The cells will be used mainly in cars, which are responsible for 12% of the EU’s current carbon footprint.

Northvolt has already secured a €2bn supply contract with BMW and Volkswagen is interested in collaborating on a similar factory in Germany. The latter of these two is no surprise after VW unveiled plans to convert its Emden production plant to electric vehicle production.

birds eye view of land by the seaLofty ambitions

The gigafactory will have an initial production capacity of 16 GWh per year and be the first of its kind.

Both the investor and supplier share similarly ambitious intentions moving forward as well. Northvolt plans to scale capacity to 40GWh annually while, back in May, EIB stated its intention to increase green investment financing to over €1bn by the end of the year.

China still dominates the solar battery market, of course, producing more than five times that amount in 2019 alone. However, Northvolt and EIB have just set an important precedent and other banks are now joining the green investment fray.

“I believe that EIB financing support for Northvolt has been a textbook example of how our financial and technical due diligence can help crowd in private investors to visionary projects,”

Andrew McDowell, VP EIB

The COVID-19 lockdown has wrought chaos in several energy markets, most notably West Texas Intermediate – which went negative for the first time in April.

Projections show global growth shrinking to -3% after such dramatic losses in this market, as well as many others. Fortunately, the immediate crisis of COVID-19 has not blinkered business and political leaders to the looming threat of climate change.

Despite these losses, April saw a 272% increase of ESG (environmental, social, governance) bonds compared to April last year.

Green investment rush

Finally, investment in green infrastructure has become vogue among Europe’s financiers and firms should take notice. Last week Sadiq Khan promised £1.5bn to upgrade London’s water and gas networks and prepare for more electric vehicle use.

Beyond our shores, Danish investment bank, Saxo, is already making predictions about renewable technology taking over the global market.

“Governments will increase investments and subsidies for ‘green’ industries, starting a new mega trend in equity markets… We believe that these green stocks could, over time, become some of the world’s most valuable companies”

Peter Garnry, Saxo Bank Head of Equity Strategy

Renewable technology rewards boldness and expediency with huge ROI over time. However, the endorsement of institutions like BlackRock and EIB helps reduce risk profiles, making it more attractive to investors.

EIC have championed firms renewable interests for over 40 years, buying and managing approximately 12TWh of energy each year.

The EIC sustainability offering provides carbon compliance, utility management and procurement advice. Combining this expertise under one banner, you and your investors will have all your bases covered when outfitting your firm for a low carbon future.

Alone, together: Mental health during lockdown

EIC looks back on the recent Mental Health Awareness Week UK, this year’s theme of kindness and some of the stories of kindness that have emerged from the energy sector since lockdown began.

Kindness to all

The theme of kindness could not have been more appropriate for this year’s Mental Health Week UK, with so many struggling under the emotional, financial and medical burdens of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown.

Indeed, kindness, solidarity and generosity are things that have been in great demand as a result of the widespread concerns wrought by coronavirus. Despite the added pressure felt simultaneously by the commercial energy sector, it’s proponents have responded with a magnanimity seldom anticipated by their customers.

Orsted

Danish renewables supplier, Orsted, has promised more than £165,000 to various health and charity organisations across the UK to help support them through the crisis, beneficiaries include Guy and St. Thomas’ Hospital and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Duncan Clark, the supplier’s UK region head, impressed the importance of solidarity between companies and their customers:

“Across the UK, the current situation is having a profound effect on families and communities.. It is at times like these that we must come together to do what we can to support each other.”

Duncan Clark, Orsted

British gas  

Big six supplier British Gas stated their allegiance to customer welfare early on in the lockdown by announcing that vulnerable customers would be issued with 2 weeks of discretionary credit for electricity. The support will be pre-loaded onto keys or cards while gas customers will receive £5 credit, British Gas is also offering a remote version of the same service for those customers with smart meters.

Emergency measures 

Emergency credit limit for gas and electricity has been extended across the board by many major suppliers in the UK,  with E.ON raising the limit tenfold from £5 to £50 and nPower raising emergency credit limits from £7 to £45. 

Hands across the oceans

The trend of solidarity hasn’t stopped in the UK, energy companies across Europe are taking up the cause of customer support during the challenges of COVID-19. Italy was infamous for being one of the worst affected European countries and taken as an omen to be heeded by other EU states, domestic energy giant ENEL has answered with vigour. The supplier has donated €23m to support Italian healthcare professionals by funding hospitals, beds and machinery and president Patrizia Grieco framed this move as an act of duty from ENEL.  

“We are an Italian multinational with strong ties with the territory. It’s natural but also a duty to aid the territories where we operate and the communities we work with every day.”

Meanwhile in France, multinational ENGIE, has also contributed to Italy’s fight against the virus by providing free electricity and technical assistance on the construction of new medical units. 

 

 

A kinder world

The primary beneficiary of the lockdown measures however, might be an unexpected one, with the slowing of economic activity and the subsequent drop in emissions, the planet is receiving a long overdue dose of kindness from our entire species.

COVID-19 may have given us an opportunity to reflect on our current practices as well as a vision of what the world could look like with better, greener behaviour from us. 

EIC are champions of sustainable business practices through an end-to-end approach that can support you from initial procurement of your utilities, through to maximising their efficiency with IoT in order to faster deliver a sustainable commercial culture.

The strides EIC is taking to help the UK build a green commercial sector and reach climate targets are myriad and you can find out how to engage with them on our website.

SECR: Why use EIC?

A brief look into SECR, why it matters, the deadlines and reasoning behind the legislation and how EIC can combine it with ESOS in an economic package suited to your organization’s needs.

The Nuts and Bolts

The UK’s Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting Policy (SECR), is a piece of government legislation that came into effect April 1st of last year. It seeks to consistently highlight the carbon footprint of companies, whilst encouraging long term strategies that are congruent to UK carbon emissions goals.

To that end, the SECR requires companies to provide a detailed report which includes items such as their carbon emissions and energy efficiency/carbon reduction behaviours implemented to redress their overall carbon footprint.

Established as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) was ending, last year’s regulations will affect approximately 11,900 companies in the UK, considerably increasing the range of influence that the CRC originally enjoyed.

The scheme affects businesses described as “large organisations” within the Companies House terminology. Therefore businesses which have at least a turnover of £36 million, balance sheet of at least £18 million, or 250 or more employees, will be within this category.

SECR works in cooperation with the pre-existing legislation the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS).

Year 1 – Act Now

Since the SECR came into effect on April 1st 2019, it means that we now sit on the eve of the first regulatory deadline, with the first trench of qualifying businesses financial year ending in March 2020.

For businesses which also qualify for ESOS, the SECR scheme is a useful tool to provide the necessary data sets required for compliance, making the journey smoother.

As such, we felt that the timing was right to remind our readers of the combined ESOS and SECR package that we offer. The fusing of the two services is designed to remove unnecessary stress and inconvenience with the promise of a dedicated Carbon Consultant.

Finally, EIC also offers a 10% discount to any clients that sign up for a 4-year joint service package, our website contains further details on all of our services and we invite you to find out more should they appeal to you.

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 – 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.

 

STAY INFORMED WITH EIC INSIGHTS

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.

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 an 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, the 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 the 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.

STAY INFORMED WITH EIC INSIGHTS

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.