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.

 

Gas and power surge

 

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.

 

long-term gas contracts

 

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.

Britain running on sunshine as summer demand falls

The changes have come from an evolution in how energy is being used, and those who successfully manage these demand patterns, particularly if combined with Demand Side Response (DSR), could see significant cost savings.

Analysis from EIC has shown that maximum summer demand (seen between May and August) has fallen 17% in the last decade. From a peak of 44GW in 2012, maximum consumption for the current summer has fallen to just 35GW.

This near 10GW loss in demand is similar to the reduction seen during the winter. Furthermore, it’s not only peak consumption that’s been reduced but baseload generation. Minimum summer demand has fallen by 19% since 2009. How much of this is down to efficiency improvements or consumption moving behind the meter is unclear. However, the change does mean National Grid has nearly 10GW less electricity demand to manage on its transmission network.

 

maximum summer demand

 

The trend can be seen more clearly when broken down by month. Average peak demand during May 2012 was over 39GW. This year that figure was just 31.5GW, a reduction of over 7GW in only six years.

 

maximum demand per month

 

Improving energy efficiency

The cost of LED lighting halved between 2011 and 2013. During this time, consumers switching towards the more efficient bulbs helped facilitate a strong drop in demand. This could be helped further with news that the EU will ban the use of halogen lightbulbs from 1 September 2018.

Another major explanation for the demand drop, aside from efficiency improvements in appliances and lighting, is the significant growth in small-scale on-site solar capacity over the same period. Small-scale distribution connected solar has a capacity of under 4KW but the number of installations has grown from under 30,000 in 2010 to nearly 900,000 in 2018. An increase of almost 2,900%.

The total capacity of the small-scale solar now available is over 2.5GW, which is not far off the total capacity for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

As the use of small-scale solar (the type typically installed on housing or commercial property) has grown demand has fallen. More and more of within-day demand is being met by onsite generation. Consumers can take advantage of the bright and warm summer weather conditions to generate their own solar power, thus reducing the call for demand from the transmission network.

 

maximum demand vs solar

 

The solar impact

The introduction of high volumes of solar generation to the grid – total capacity across all PV sites is over 13GW – has also significantly altered the shape of demand. Consumption across a 24 hour period has flattened in recent years.

The traditional three demand peaks (morning, early afternoon, and evening) have shifted closer to the two peak morning and early evening winter pattern. The ability to generate high levels of embedded – behind the meter – generation during the day in the summer has flattened and at times inverted the typical middle peak. This has left the load shape peaking in early morning (as people wake up) and later in the evening, as people return home from work.

The absolute peak of the day has also shifted in time, moving from early afternoon to the typical early evening peak of 5-5:30pm, again similar to the winter season.

The below graph shows the change over time of the July load shape, which highlights both the reduction in demand and the change in shape, with consumption flattening during daylight hours as a result of behind the meter solar generation dampening network demand. With electricity costs – both wholesale and system – reflecting supply and demand, if consumption is being changed, then it also has an impact on these costs.

 

changing July load shape

 

Stay informed with EIC

Our in-house analysis highlights the impact of onsite generation on load patterns and the extent to which demand can be changed by taking action, and subsequently how behaviours can alter a business’ energy costs.

If you can shift demand away from historical high consumption periods, you can cut your energy costs and make significant savings. One such way to do this is by using smart building controls, such as our IoT-enabled Building Energy Management solution.

To find out more download our brochure, call 01527 511 757, or email info@eic.co.uk.

Reduce your CRC costs through the secondary market

The cost associated with CRC reporting will be replaced from 1 April 2019 with an increase in the Climate Change Levy (CCL), whilst the reporting element of the scheme is to be replaced with Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR).

Participants are required to order, pay, and surrender allowances each compliance year in order to comply with the CRC scheme. There is no further opportunity to purchase forecast allowances at a lower cost, and July 2019 will be the last time ‘Buy to Comply’ allowances will need to be purchased to meet CRC obligations. One allowance equates to one tonne of CO2 reportable, and allowances purchased in the ‘Buy to Comply’ sale will cost more than those sold in the forecast sale at around £1.10 additional cost per allowance.

Allowances can be purchased in government sales of allowances or, where available, through the secondary market.

 
 

What is the secondary market?

CRC allows the trading of allowances through buying or selling to another CRC account holder on the registry. This does not impact the ‘Buy to Comply’ allowance process and doesn’t have set deadlines for purchasing or selling allowances.

The appetite for trading on the secondary market is dependent on the use by other participants and there is no guarantee that buying and selling of allowances will occur when using the notice board.

 
 

Why use the secondary market?

The decrease in fossil fuel use for electricity generation and increase in renewable electricity production has had a positive impact on the emission factor. This has been a favourable outcome for most CRC participants, reducing their emissions and allowance obligations for electricity in CRC reporting.

Organisations that have utilised the lower cost forecast purchase option for CRC reporting have been caught out by the decrease in electricity emission factors for 2017/18 reporting by over forecasting allowances required. This has left some organisations with surplus allowances.

The cost to comply in the 2018/19 Buy to Comply sale has been set at £18.30 per tonne of CO2 reportable.

Purchasing on the CRC secondary market could save your organisation on average approximately £2.18 per tonne of CO2.

 
 

How can EIC help?

EIC can manage the transfer process for you from start to finish*, whether you have surplus allowances to sell or are looking to buy on the secondary market to reduce the cost of complying for the final year of CRC reporting.

The process is simple and if you would like to find out more our dedicated Carbon team is on hand to guide you. You can contact our team on 01527 511 757 or email info@eic.co.uk.

*EIC will not process payment of allowances on behalf of an organisation. Payments for allowances bought or sold on the secondary market are to be made off system between the participants involved. Any additional administration or transaction fees associated with the transfer will need to be pre agreed between the two organisations.

Europe cannot compete with Chinese dash for LNG

European storage started this summer at its lowest levels on record following the impact of the ‘Beast From the East’. This should have encouraged very strong injections right through the summer, ensuring there is enough supply to deal with winter demand.

 

Storage across Europe has been filling, and overall levels are closing in on the average seen over the previous five years.

 

European storage

 

However, when we look a little deeper, we can see that injections were very strong in June. As the summer has progressed the rate of injections has remained fairly constant, while in previous years the rate increased as we moved further into summer. Industrial shutdowns and school holidays in August freed up gas for increased injections.

 

Average daily storage injections

 

This August has only seen a moderate increase on July’s levels and, possibly more importantly, a slower rate of injections than last year. This is despite the need to put more gas into storage.

 

Why is less gas going into storage?

Demand and piped supply have remained at similar levels to previous years but the biggest difference is coming from Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Looking at total LNG send out across Europe we can see a significant reduction in volumes. The difference is almost the same as the equivalent reduction in injections.

 

Average daily LNG

 

The lower levels of LNG are because fewer cargoes are coming to Continental Europe and the UK.

This is due to prices elsewhere being much higher. Looking at the volume of LNG received in the UK, along with prices in the UK and the Far East, it’s clear to see when the difference between the prices has an effect on our level of imports. Suppliers will send the gas to the area they will make the most profit.

 

UK and Asian LNG price

 

Prices in Asia have such a large premium over Europe due to China’s insatiable demand for gas.

As the Chinese government looks to clean up the environment, it’s switching thousands of homes and businesses away from coal and onto gas. This has seen demand for LNG double in the last two years:

 

China by imports BCM

 

For UK consumers, as the gas market becomes ever more global, increased competition for gas will likely put pressure on prices, pushing them down. However, in the shorter term, if the UK needs extra gas (for instance due to a cold snap or supply issue) prices will have to at least match the Asian price to attract supplies for one of the UK’s three LNG terminals.

With Asian LNG prices for the coming winter over 20p/therm higher than in the UK this is an early indication of the cost of meeting higher demand in the heating season. This issue of reduced flexibility is particularly prevalent this year in the light of the Rough closure and the scaling back of Groningen production.

 

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 our Market Intelligence offerings.

 

Long-term Price Forecasting

Electricity and gas are some of the most volatile commodities today. If you’re uncertain about how to budget effectively for your energy costs then we have a solution for you; access year-on-year price projections for the next five years with our Long-Term Price Forecast Report.

This report calculates future energy prices which include the ever-increasing green subsidies, network costs, and taxes.

Is wind technology facing an uncertain future?

With a remaining budget of £557m (in 2012/13 prices) Utilitywise estimates that funding may not be able to cover all of the offshore wind projects currently in development, let alone provide support for any other technologies.

The next CfD auction is expected to focus heavily on offshore wind projects, with the Government eager to develop the country’s geographical advantage towards this technology. Offshore wind also faces less local opposition and environmental challenges than onshore wind. Onshore wind has been banned from entering the CfD auctions, although the next round will have an exception for projects within the Scottish Islands. This is due to the Government’s focus on what it defines as ‘less established’ technologies, and the application of onshore wind in this location fits their definition.

Growth in offshore wind across the UK is already set to accelerate from the current 6GW of capacity in operation. Just over 18GW of additional capacity is in various states of development, with 8GW of that already contracted with a CfD or FIDER subsidy agreement. A further 1.5GW is under construction (meaning the project has broken ground, so is likely to have secured funding arrangements).

All this leaves more than 8GW of offshore wind capacity up for grabs in the upcoming Capacity Market auction. However, if the clearing price in next year’s auction is similar to that in the previous auction – around £57/MWh – EIC calculations show the cost of subsidising all of this capacity would exceed the £557m budget within the next decade, when the new schemes come online.

 

What if the Strike Price falls?

Should the offshore wind Strike Price fall to £55/MWh, which some reports indicate the technology could still operate at, then the budget could support around 80% of the planned capacity by 2030.

However, if costs fell even further, and the Strike Price can be set at levels equivalent to current wholesale prices of £50/MWh at the time of agreements, then this could support all of the in development offshore projects and 40% of the planned onshore sites. In this case, projects would effectively be zero-cost with inflation the main factor providing uplift.

Currently, there is 8GW of onshore wind capacity in differing states of development, only 0.7GW of which has already secured a CfD contract (this was in earlier auctions when the technology was still allowed to take part). Around 6.5GW of the remaining capacity has yet to begin construction and would likely be seeking a subsidy contract of some kind.

 

How will this impact you?

Based on the funds currently provided to the new auctions, regardless of the Strike Price, consumers are expected to face an increase on their electricity bills of around £2.50 to £3/MWh per year by 2030.

The cost to consumers could rise further if the Government wanted to support onshore wind while still pushing for the bulk of planned offshore to be developed, and if Strike Prices were higher than those noted above. This would need a larger budget for CfD contracts and would lead to additional costs, which would then require even higher bills to ensure customers pay for the increased green energy capacity.

 

Long-term price forecasting from EIC

EIC can help you remain informed of price increases and help you budget for any impact these auctions may have on your costs. If you’re uncertain about how to budget effectively for your energy costs then we have a solution for you; access year-on-year price projections for the next five years with our Long-Term Price Forecast Report.

This report calculates future energy prices which include the ever-increasing green subsidies, network costs, and taxes.

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.

Gas Deficit Warning – how did we cope?

On Thursday 1 March, National Grid was forced to call a Gas Deficit Warning (GDW) for the first time since 2008. The warning was issued following a series of significant supply losses.

On Thursday 1 March, National Grid was forced to call a Gas Deficit Warning (GDW) for the first time since 2008. The warning was issued following a series of significant supply losses.

 

Imports from Europe reduced

The recent severe cold weather affected gas production in both the UK and Norway. With high demand across Europe, supplies via flexible pipelines from Belgium and the Netherlands fell significantly. Through most of February, these pipelines were providing around 60mcm of supply a day. However, since the ‘Beast from the East’ began to bite, this fell closer to 30mcm.

Last Thursday’s strong price rises helped to push imports back higher, but this reduced supply increased our reliance on other flexible assets.

 

Storage stocks were low

Medium range storage was sending out at over 70mcm a day to meet the higher demand. Storage began the week 65% full with just under 1,000mcm in storage. The week saw 500mcm of this stock used and if this continues at the same rate, supplies will be empty by the end of this week (9 March).

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) sendout also stepped up to help meet demand, with record send out of 84 mcm.

There is now only 220mcm of gas stored at the UK’s three LNG terminals (Grain, Dragon, and South Hook), yet during the cold snap sendout peaked at over 80mcm/day. Were that rate to continue, LNG stocks would be empty within a week. This gas will have to be replenished but there are currently no tankers booked for the UK.

 

Temperatures rise but it’s still cold

The extreme cold has now ended, with Europe seeing an even bigger thaw, which should aid a return of imports from the Continent.

However, temperatures are set to remain below seasonal norms for the rest of the current 15 day forecast. Fortunately, this cold spell has been accompanied by very strong winds. While this makes it feel even colder, the good news is it reduces the need for gas in the fuel mix. This week sees wind drop from 10GW, to just 3GW. This will support gas demand if CCGT (Combined Cycle Gas Turbines) output has to increase to offset the lower wind output.

 

Will prices become more volatile?

There is enough gas around to make it through the current cold snap, but if it is prolonged or there is a further spell of cold later in March, this could be very troublesome.

The last few years have seen a significant reduction in Europe’s flexibility with the closure of Rough and cuts to Groningen production. This reduced flexibility and the closure of coal plants – which previously might have reduced gas demand for generation – will make price spikes more common in the future.

The market reaction has been confined to the shorter-term markets and future winters are not yet adding in any risk premium. If these events do become more common, suppliers will have to build this risk premium into offers, and this will likely see prices rising.

 

EIC can help

In volatile times you need to understand the risks to be able to capitalise on market movements. That’s where we come in. We have the in-house expertise to manage any risk associated with flexible procurement. Our Risk Management service offers you live market prices through our online reporting. You will also receive twice-daily updates and a weekly market summary and price forecast message.

To find out more, contact us on 01527 511 757, or email info@EIC.co.uk.