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.

 

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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.

Weekly Energy Market Update – 6 January

Gas

Gas prices on the curve rebounded last week, bouncing off contract lows reached between Christmas and New Year.

Prices across Europe pushed to new lows after a new transit supply agreement between Russia and Ukraine was agreed, avoiding supply disruption.

The Summer 20 market dipped below 30p/th, down 10% since Christmas. However, contracts across the curve have rebounded since Friday, following supply risks linked to escalating tensions in the Middle East. A US air strike has killed a top Iranian military general. Tehran has vowed “severe revenge” with the risk of disruption to the region’s vast oil supply providing some price support.

LNG may also be affected by a possible new conflict with the US and Iran previously rowing over access to the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial supply route for tankers. Strong gains in the oil market – which is testing highs of $70/bbl – provided support to longer-dated gas prices, delivering in 2021. While there may be further volatility as the situation develops, fundamentals remain bearish, with oversupply capping prices around their pre-Christmas lows.

LNG imports were at their highest since April 2011 in December, while thirteen tankers are already confirmed for January arrival. Interconnector imports remain untouched and a storage overhang is inevitable as lower demand during the holiday period meant 3TWh of gas was injected into storage.

UK gas reserves are over 95% full and at record highs for the time of year. Demand forecasts for January are also price depressive with above average temperatures expected for at least the next two weeks while wind generation dominated the fuel
mix, providing a third of UK power in the last week after averaging over 10GW a day. With energy demand in the short-term expected to be low the risk of oversupply and an inevitable storage overhang is still weighing on gas markets.

Power

Power prices pushed lower during December led by Day-ahead and balance of winter contracts that reflect the oversupply in the gas market and lower cost of gas-fired generation. Electricity demand fell heavily over the Christmas holiday period, driving Day-ahead power prices to lows of £32/MWh, not seen since early October.

While consumption has picked up as schools and businesses return to full operation, power demand maintains a significant reduction to previous years. Very high wind generation over the last week has reduced the use of fossil fuels, while the gas burn being utilised is at a low cost level.

Wind has provided a third of UK electricity so far this month, leading the fuel mix with average output of 10GW a day. The strong renewable availability is forecast to continue this week as the UK benefits from windy, mild weather conditions, which are providing downward pressure to prices. This is the reverse of the cold, low wind scenarios that risk higher prices
during the winter season.

Across the curve, power prices followed the gas market lower over the holiday period, hitting new lows at the end of December. The market has rebound marginally since Friday following the escalating tensions in the Middle East. However, the scale of movement in power, both lower and in the rebound have been more gradual than in gas. The continued elevation in carbon prices, which are holding above €24/tCO2e are helping to underpin the power market. Week-on-week electricity contracts remain down with the Summer 20 contract under £40/MWh.

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.

Be prepared for Triad season

A crucial time in the UK energy calendar, Triad season, begins in just a matter of weeks. The Triad season runs from 1 November to the end of February. Three half hour periods during this phase are used to calculate transmission charges for the entire year by National Grid. This is part of the Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) scheme. If your electricity contract allows it, reducing your demand at these specific points will result in lower transmission charges. However, knowing when Triads occur is a complex business.

To help our clients, EIC provides a Triad Alert service. We have successfully forecast each of the three Triad periods for the last 7 years. By predicting Triads each winter, EIC has saved customers millions of pounds in transmission charges.

WHAT ARE TRIADS?

Triads are three half-hour periods with the highest electricity demand between 1 November and 28 February. Each Triad must be separated by at least 10 clear days. This means consecutive days of high demand won’t result in multiple Triads.

A NEW LOW?

The 2018/19 Triad season saw electricity demand fall to a new all-time low. Peak electricity demand for the three half hour periods averaged 45.6 GW, with the third Triad occurring as demand was just 45.0 GW.

By comparison in 2017/18 average demand for the Triads was 47.5 GW. Maximum Triad demand has fallen by over 11 GW (~20%) in the last ten years. This reflects an overall trend towards lower electricity consumption. Major advances in technology and energy efficiency for appliances, as well as a move to smarter lighting are contributing to sustained year-on-year demand reduction.

EIC historic Triad demand graph

This trend provides an opportunity for an even lower Triad figure this year. Weekly peak power demand during 2019 has so far been lower than its equivalent week from 2018 on two-thirds of occasions.

EIC power demand Triad graph

Greater role for wind

Another factor contributing to the decline in demand is the increase in installed wind capacity over the past decade and the increasing share of the fuel mix secured by renewable generation. The latest BEIS figures from Q2 2019 showed renewables capacity rising 8% year-on-year, with its share of the fuel mix reaching new highs of 35.5%.

Most of this capacity is connected to the Grid so does not impact demand. However, around 6 GW (~30%) of wind capacity is embedded – it is connected to local distribution networks. As a result, it can influence outturn demand. Each MW of embedded wind generation is a MW of demand which otherwise would need to be provided by the transmission network. Therefore on days of high wind generation there may be a reduction in demand, triggered by the extra embedded wind levels. Average embedded wind output has increased by more than 1 GW over the past 10 years, contributing to the steady trend in demand reduction.

Last year the level of embedded wind generation varied by 3 GW, depending on nationwide wind conditions. This led to a demand swing of the same amount. This is having a growing influence on Triad forecasting as the increasing demand swing reduces the risk of a Triad occurring on days with high wind output. As a consequence, Triads are more likely to occur on days of very low wind generation. This was the case last year when each Triad occurred on a day with less than 1 GW of embedded wind generation.

HOW MANY MORE TRIADS?

The success of Triad avoidance in reducing costs for the end user has forced regulator Ofgem to undertake a change to the charging methodology for distribution costs. A consultation launched in December 2018 proposed changes which could remove the incentive for Triad Avoidance.

The Targeted Charging Review aims to introduce a charge that Ofgem considers is fair to all consumers and not just those able to reduce consumption during peak periods. Under current proposals, Triads would change to a fixed or agreed capacity, eliminating the need for avoidance in the future. Ofgem originally nominated a deadline for the reforms for April 2020. However, a recently released updated timeline has indicated that the regulator is now aiming for an implementation date of April 2023. As a result, it is possible that there will be a maximum of four winters remaining available for Triad forecasting, including the upcoming season. The removal of the Triad scheme will increase costs for business that currently benefit from Triad avoidance.

EIC TRACK RECORD OF SUCCESS

EIC has an in-house model which has successfully forecast every triad period for the last seven years. We provide clients with comprehensive alerts advising when a Triad is forecast, so they can reduce consumption accordingly.

Our Triad Alert Service forecasts the likelihood of any particular day being a Triad and sends alerts before 10am. This allows businesses to take informed action to avoid high usage during these half-hour periods. It also minimises disruption to their everyday activity. We monitor the market throughout the day and in the event of significant change will send out another alert in the afternoon. The daily report includes foresight of the next 14 days alongside a long-term winter outlook allowing clients to plan ahead.

Calling an alert every weekday would generate a 100% success rate, however we recognise the negative impact this could have on our clients. Organisations would incur major damage to revenues if required to turn down their production each day for 4 months ‘just in case”. At EIC our aim is to provide as few alerts as possible.

Last year we successfully predicted all three half-hour periods. The only tracked TPI or supplier which issued fewer alerts than EIC failed to predict all of the Triad periods.

HOW WE CAN HELP

We have helped hundreds of clients avoid these transmission costs by providing them with the tools needed, giving EIC an enviable track record in Triad prediction.

For those that took action last year, demand was cut by an average of 41% compared to standard winter peak-period half-hour consumption.

This resulted in significant cost savings, with clients who responded to our Triad Alerts saving on average £180,000. The best result last winter saw a client saving just shy of £1 million in TNUoS charges.

The Triad season begins on 1 November. To find out more about our Triad Alert service click here or call 01527 511 757.

The role of renewables this winter

The increase in wind and solar capacity in recent years has contributed to the overall reduction in demand. Higher volumes of on-site renewable capacity allow more generation to be provided off-grid, as homes and businesses generate their own electricity supply during windy or sunny spells.

This reduces demand on the national transmission system. The high levels of solar availability during the summer season were a particularly strong influence on demand levels this year, as on-site solar panels increased embedded generation, reducing demand requirements for the transmission network.

During stormy weather conditions, installed wind capacity can now provide around 12GW of electricity to the grid. Average wind generation in the UK last month was 5.3GW a day; over 50% higher than in September 2017.

 

average wind

 

What happens when there’s no wind?

While high winds can reduce power demand, one of the biggest dangers to the National Grid electricity network is a high-demand scenario at a time when wind output is very low. Lighting has a bigger impact on electricity demand than heating, as the majority of home heating is gas-fired.

However, during severe cold periods, electricity demand does spike as additional electric heating is needed to cope with the very low temperatures. This scenario occurred during March as a result of the Beast from the East, when peak demand jumped around 10% as temperatures dropped. The cold snap also brought very high winds to the UK. Wind output at the time topped 10GW, which provided high levels of low-cost electricity to the grid. However, this renewable supply may not be available during another cold spell.

National Grid’s Winter Outlook report forecasts an electricity margin this winter of 7GW, while also expecting 7GW of wind output during the peak winter. Find out more here.

 

How could this impact energy bills?

Supply margins would be placed under significantly more stress during a similar cold snap this winter, if wind output was low or non-existent. This would require another 10GW of supply being provided by gas and coal plant or imports. Such a scenario is likely to require significant price rises in the Within-day and Day-ahead markets.

 

Renewable energy solutions with EIC

If you’re interested in generating energy from your own renewables sources we can support your business to implement solar at your site.

A cost-effective and sustainable energy source, generating power from solar panels will cut your emissions, help the environment, and can be linked with a battery storage solution to maximise ROI. With our support you can install a battery solution as part of your wider energy strategy. Batteries can work in tandem with renewable energy sources such as solar or wind and can help you generate additional revenue via potentially lucrative demand side response (DSR) schemes.

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

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.