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

The cost of electricity has been fluctuating considerably in the last few years. From the highpoint in September 2018 wholesale prices had fallen by roughly 60% by 2020. During the lockdown they started to rise again. Despite the temporary drop energy bills have consistently gone up. The reason for this is a rise in non-commodity, or ‘third-party’, 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 about 36% of energy prices. In 2021 this has risen to 64% and is predicted to reach 70% to 80% over the next decade.

Here is our guide to the different types of non-commodity costs.

Transmission and distribution costs

Each supplier incurs expenses to run and maintain the power network. These vary from provider to provider and depend largely on the type of power plant. For example, solar and wind generators are less consistent than 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.

Covid-19 and the energy market

Some non-commodity costs are set at the beginning of each year. Others are subject to change throughout the year. In simple terms, the non-commodity charge is equal to the cost of providing energy to the nation divided by how much we use. The more we need to use, the lower the cost of non-commodity and the higher the wholesale price.

During lockdown, our use of electricity dropped significantly across the UK. Following weeks of high winds in January 2020, the network had a surplus of power and a far lower demand. This resulted in costs of nearly £50m to balance the network and sell off spare energy at a loss on the European market. This is one of the rare occasions where it would have been cheaper long term to leave our lights on.

The lockdown also affected the FiT and CfD levy costs. These are reviewed quarterly and significant changes in generation or demand of renewable energy have a knock-on effect on how much we pay in taxes to support the industry. It’s not all bad news though, lower emissions mean we will end up paying less towards the climate change tax.

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. In our experience, nearly 20% of all utility bills include a mistake.

With such turbulence in the market, there is less control over the wholesale cost of electricity. What can be controlled 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. Our clients have saved on average £180,000 on TNUoS charges.

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.

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.

LED lighting: Reducing costs and carbon at the same time

The past decade in carbon savings has been awash with success stories surrounding the installation of LED lighting systems. EIC has summarised a few public sector examples below and guidance on how your properties could benefit from a lighting upgrade.

Success in the NHS

A UK NHS trust recently made facility management news as it implemented a comprehensive upgrade to its lighting systems. Undertaking a site-wide LED installation means that the trust will now enjoy savings in excess of £180,000 annually. Provided these savings remain consistent, the project will have paid for itself within six years.

The gains of the forward-thinking trust are not only measured in pounds and pence; the switch to highly efficient LED lighting, whose lifespan is more than quadruple that of its fluorescent counterparts, also means reduced maintenance as well as a significantly diminished carbon footprint.

Capital gives green light for LEDs

Earlier this year, the city of London underwent a large-scale retrofit of over 8,000 traffic signals, regulatory box signs and push buttons. Upgrading these sites to LED lighting is expected to deliver energy and cost savings of 75% for Transport for London.

“It’s making our infrastructure greener, more sustainable and cheaper to run and not only that but as LEDs are more visible it is making our roads safer…”

– Glynn Barton, TfL’s Director of Network Management

This conversion echoes another 2018 retrofit that saw 25,000 London signals at 900 sites upgraded with similar technology.

Hertfordshire County Council is taking this attitude a step further and has pledged to replace all the street lighting in its seat with LED illumination. The project reached its final stage earlier this year and the council expect it to reduce street lighting CO2 emissions by more than half. In material terms, this equates to 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and £5m saved for the residents of Hertfordshire.

The Power of LED

The commercial picture

The benefits of LEDs are not just public sector, businesses can also make significant savings with this technology. Consider that a 20% reduction in energy costs can have the equivalent economic effect of a 5% increase in sales.

The difference with an LED installation is that it is permanent, and not subject to market conditions.

Traditional lighting actually wastes 95% of the energy it uses on the heat it produces. Since it operates at low temperatures, LED lighting reduces this waste by 90%. This also makes LED a much safer option if the lighting is located near human activity.

By effectively removing this heat source, temperature control systems like air conditioning will operate with greater efficiency. As EIC’s TM44 blog demonstrates, this too can equate to significant savings.

Light the halls

While the office Christmas party may be cancelled this year, it’s worth mentioning the seasonal savings potential of LEDs.

Granted, decorative lighting is not a year-round expense, but incandescent bulbs can run up quite a bill, especially for smaller retail businesses.

Fortunately holiday lights are now also available as LEDs, with several benefits included. Aside from the aforementioned savings, LED lighting is much more durable as well. Epoxy is used in place of glass to create their lenses, so they are highly resistant to breakage.

Bulbs last dozens of holiday seasons before needing replacement and low voltage requirements means many can share a single outlet.

EIC’s Lighting Solutions, including complimentary lighting control systems, has helped dozens of organisations. These controls include movement sensors, time clocks and light sensors which can all support an LED upgrade in reducing costs and CO2 footprint.

The EIC service includes initial surveys to establish the unique needs of a site, later formulating a bespoke proposal. Once installation is complete, EIC will also provide supplementary training to teams within an enterprise to ensure the new equipment is used as effectively as possible.

A full breakdown of this service is available by contacting the EIC team here.