Open up household water to competition says Ofwat

water_tapWater regulator Ofwat has stated that the household water market in England and Wales should be opened up to competition. The comments from Ofwat came in a response to a government report in November 2015 that asked the regulator to investigate the costs and benefits of competition.

The findings disclose that a wider water market could bring new offers such as water efficiency services, detection of leaks and multiple service bundles for customers that could include a combination of water and energy services. Despite these perceived benefits, Ofwat is cautious in its proposals; saying that “there can be no guarantee of how successful introducing competition to the residential retail water market would be. But the evidence from our assessment suggests that a net positive outcome is more likely than not.” The assessment points to a significant level of potential benefits worth around £2.9 billion over a 30 year period.  According to Ofwat, greater competition may only have a modest short term impact on bills, with an annual saving of £8 although point to greater customer service. Lower bills would possible be realised over a longer time scale as retailers achieve efficiencies and challenge wholesale prices the report said. Ofwat was keen to highlight that their proposed market would be competitive, not unregulated in order to protect customers and public health and safety.

The water market was privatised in 1989 and competition within the non-residential market introduced in 2014.

Source: Sky News

Hinkley Point C nuclear power station deal approved by UK government

hinkley_point_2Today the UK government have approved plans for a new £18bn nuclear power station, although has enforced “significant new safeguards” in the interest of national security. The new plant will be built at Hinkley Point in Somerset with funding coming from the French and Chinese governments. The UK government has stressed that it will have control over the foreign investment and ministers have the power to stop EDF, the French state controlled energy company from selling its stake in Hinkley Point C.

EDF will finance two-thirds of the project which is set to create more than 25,000 jobs, whilst China will invest the final £6bn. The power plant will meet 7% of British energy demand, and the Chinese stake in the construction of Hinkley Point C will also see developments of a new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk, with the understanding that the UK government will give the green light to a Chinese led project at Bradwell in Essex. Critics of the plan have concerns over national security given the level of involvement from China and the guaranteed strike price of £92.50/MWh for 35 years of generation.

The decision on investment was confirmed by EDF’s board in July, with agreement in principle with China when President Xi made a state visit to the UK in October 2015. The approval decision was then delayed by the UK government on 29 July before giving approval today.

Source: BBC

Global Energy Investment falls by 8% in 2015

electricity_pylon_3The latest report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has revealed that worldwide investment in energy has slipped by 8% in 2015. Total investment in the energy sector fell in 2015 was $1.8 trillion, which was £0.2 trillion lower than the amount invested in 2014.

With a spend of $315bn on energy, China was again the largest country by expenditure on energy; with a particular focus on low-carbon generation and record level investment in electricity networks. In the USA, money towards future energy supply fell by $75bn last year with low oil prices and cost deflation attributed to the fall. The fall in US investment represented half of total global decline in energy spending during 2015.

The IEA’s World Energy Investment 2016 report suggested that the decline in upstream oil and gas spending had outweighed steady investment in renewable sources, energy networks and efficiency projects. The report stated that renewable energy accounted for almost one-fifth of total energy spending last year at $313bn and was the largest source of power investments. Although expenditure on renewable power was flat from 2011 to 2015, power generation from newly installed capacity rose by one third which represented a sharp decline in the cost of wind turbines and solar photovoltaics.  Conversely, the figure invested into global gas-fired power generation crashed by almost 40%.

Innovation in technology has seen a rise in funding for smart grids and storage, with the IEA are expecting to provide a critical role in integrating large volumes of wind and solar power. Battery storage investment was reported as growing ten times its level from 2010.

Source: IEA

What will the energy sources for your business look like in 2026?

electric_carThe news arrived this week that the UK government is set to miss an EU-mandated target to generate 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

And although Britain is no longer a part of the EU, the target is legally-binding according to the Climate Change Act.

The evidence was put forward this week in a report by the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) of MPs, following on from a similar statement from the National Grid during the summer.

National Grid predicted a best-case scenario of 2022 being the earliest date of achieving the EU target, and a worse-case scenario of 2029. Ominous news when you consider that the 2020 target is all part of a bigger picture aiming at emission cuts of 80 per cent by 2050.

This leaves the question of how the government will develop its energy policy in order to meet the incremental targets along the way. Will there be a greater push on electric and hydrogen cars? Is biomass a viable option for large-scale energy? Should there be a greater focus on electric heat pumps?

While technology has been developing rapidly on a consumer level over the past ten or fifteen years – think the difference between the Nokia 3210 when compared with the HD camera, heartrate monitoring smart phones of today – these innovations are also vital on a macro, governmental level.

Listed below are a number of energy changes that could affect you and your business as policy develops to meet the target of generating 15 per cent of its energy from renewables.

The year in which the UK reaches its energy target remains unclear, however, here is what your energy usage could look like in ten years’ time as the clock ticks on its EU targe

Transport: Petrol, diesel or electric?

In 2026 you could well find yourself driving in to work using an electric car. In fact, according to experts, it is more likely than not that you will be doing just that, with electric car sales set to surpass gas-powered car sales.

In order to meet the Climate Change Act targets, it in the government’s interest to provide tax breaks and incentives to businesses that use electric vehicles. Something to pay attention to in the coming years if your business involves transportation.

Solar energy

Does your company have solar panels? In ten years’ time there is every chance that it will.

According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) solar energy will be more economical than fossil fuels as we enter the 2020s. Furthermore, the pricing of solar is becoming more affordable with opportunities to earn money back by pumping excess electricity into the grid.

The caveat should be added that this also requires the solar industry to continue its rapid improvement of cell efficiency and the implementation of economies of scale

Biomass and food waste energy

Businesses are already using food and biological waste as a form of energy. Earlier in the year Sainsbury’s announced that ten per cent of its annual consumption comes from its own food waste as they partnered up with food waste recycler ReFood.

This partnership has produced nearly 50 million kWk of biomethane gas – enough to continuously power 5,000 homes for a year.

ReFood’s other clients include Doncaster Racecourse, Q Hotels and Lidl. If your company is involved in the food industry, partnering up with a food waste company could be viable option.

These are just three ways the energy sources you use in 2026 could look drastically different. Are you interested in learning more about how you can optimise the energy use of your business? Speak to one of our experts on how best manage your energy and utilities.

Source: Saul Bush – One

Centrica Extends Gas Deal with Qatar

oil_platformCentrica, the owner of British Gas, has extended its multi-billion pound deal with Qatar to purchase gas until 2023 in an aim to help the UK increase its imports to replace dwindling domestic supplies from the North Sea.

The energy giant will buy up to two million tonnes of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) each year from January 2019 in a deal worth up to £2 billion, once its existing contract ends. The company first entered in to a deal with Qatargas to buy LNG in 2011, before it extended its current deal, which ends in December 2018.

“With the decline in North Sea production and the recent growth in global LNG supply, the UK is increasingly becoming an attractive destination for LNG,” Centrica said.

If all of this gas were to come to the UK, it could supply the needs of around two million homes, according to Centrica; however, the energy firm is not obligated to bring all of the LNG to the UK, and could, for example, sell volume to other countries in Europe. Over the past five years however, Centrica has imported 40 cargoes to the Britain.

The new agreement is for a lower annual volume, with the previous deals for 2.4 million tonnes and 3 million tonnes a year respectively.

Forecasts currently show that by the mid-2020’s, the UK will need to import around two-thirds of its natural gas requirements as oil North Sea fields become decommissioned. Currently, the UK imports about half of its gas needs, with LNG accounting for 31 percent of gas imports in 2015, 92 percent of which came from Qatar.

Iain Conn, Centrica chief executive, said: “The scale of our gas demand and our strong energy marketing and trading capabilities mean we are ideally placed to work with LNG producers across the world, providing flexibility and a route to market at a time when secure market access is increasingly important.”

Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, Qatar Petroleum president and chairman of the Qatargas board, said the deal “underscores Qatargas’ reputation as a safe and reliable supplier of LNG” and “has the potential to positively contribute to the United Kingdom’s energy security for years to come”.

Source: The Telegraph

Gas flame photo

Ofgem data shows increase in energy switching deals

Gas flame photoGrowing numbers of energy customers have switched their electricity and gas deals during the first six months of 2016 according to data from regulator Ofgem. The increase saw a second consecutive six month period where the total number of energy switches was above 3 million, and the figure was almost 1 million higher than the first half of 2015.

The jump in energy switches has been attributed to wider promotion for customers to look for better deals following the publication of the Competition and Market Authority’s (CMA’s) two year investigation into the UK energy sector, despite Ofgem’s negative response to the investigation and report as not being bold enough.

According to the CMA report, two-thirds of households were paying more than necessary for their energy contracts compared to those who had switched to an alternative tariff. Ofgem claim that UK customers could potentially save more than £300 by moving from standard variable tariffs to cheaper deals, often a fixed-term tariff.

To encourage more customers to switch, Ofgem plans to introduce more effective measures on customers’ bills to urge them to compare different tariffs. However, Ofgem has confirmed that it would not be capping standard variable energy tariffs.

Source: BBC

5 energy saving tips from the world of football that can save your business money

energy_savingThe fine margins between a business’s profit and loss are explicitly evident in the inflated world of football. The transfer window closed this week with clubs spending in excess of £1bn. This is a game where exorbitant wages are common place and a poor run of seasons can result in administration.

With that in mind, there are notable examples from two different football clubs that highlight the way in which energy use can affect the profit margin of a business.

Case study 1: The time when Newcastle United chiefs shaved £200,000 off energy bills

Admittedly, blog posts in 2016 that cite Mike Ashley as an example of best practice will be few and far between, however, the controversial owner of Newcastle United and Sports Direct went some way to highlighting just how much money a business can save when they are efficient with energy outlays.

The Geordie football club saved money by renegotiating water, gas and electricity bills and implemented the use of push taps and LED lighting with motion sensors. These energy saving hacks helped save the club £200,000 during a time they were on the brink of insolvency.

Case study 2: Forest Green Rovers created the world’s greenest football club

Forest Green Rovers are owned by energy entrepreneur Dale Vince and the club diverts 95% of its waste from landfill to recovery and recyclable use. Its stadium features solar panels which generate energy in the stadium on a match day and the club even use a solar powered robot to mow the pitch.

While installing solar panels may not be an option for all businesses, the two examples above demonstrate the energy and money savings that can be made from investing in efficient energy practices.

Below we have assembled five tips that can help your business lower energy costs and save a substantial amount of money.

1.    Assign an energy champion

Like Dale Vince at Forest Green Rovers, it can be invaluable for a company to assign an energy champion. A lot of offices assign social secretaries, fire wardens and first aid officers, energy is another field where it is worthwhile having a designated go-to person. They can hold the rest of the team accountable to the goals and methods set out in team meetings. The energy champion can also report back on the financial savings made by implementing new practices and help to keep the team motivated in striving towards its energy goals.

2.    Lighting – Replace incandescent lights and use motion sensors

This is one area Newcastle United profited from. By replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs a company can use 25-30% of the energy used in traditional lighting. The LED option also lasts 25 times longer. Furthermore, lighting sensors can cut wasted electricity by as much as 30%.

3.    Paper usage

This can extend from the paper in the copier to the paper in the hand towel dispenser. Both places savings can be made. Printing in black and white where possible, and using the double-sided printing function can save ink, paper, and operational energy. By switching from paper towels to hand dryers a company can save up to 90% in operation costs – as the accountants at St. James’ Park discovered.

4.    Power down policy

Being wise with computers can save vast amounts of money. For instance, laptops use 90% less energy than desktops. Powering down a computer at the end of each day and on weekends can save as much as £35 per computer. If you have 10 people in your office you can save £350 per year, if you have 30 you can save more than £1,000.

5.    Get an energy audit

Hire an external expert that can pinpoint which specific areas your business can save money. For example, at The Energy Brokers we can monitor, analyse and report energy consumption and performance. All the figures can be broken down and presented in myEnergy, a secure online portal which provides all the information you need, along with updates and advice.

Read testimonials from our clients to hear more about their experience of using myEnergy and other services.


Source: Saul Bush – One

Worst energy suppliers ‘getting worse’ for complaints

Figures illustrated by Citizens Advice has shown the gap between the best and worst performing energy firms has grown to the widest ever, with small energy firm Extra Energy attracting 80 times more complaints than the best performing supplier SSE in the second quarter of this year.

Whilst SSE received just 22 complaints per 100,000 customers, Extra Energy received 1,791 complaints, up from 1,682 complaints in the January to March period. Co-operative Energy and Scottish Power, the second and third worst performing suppliers on the list created by Citizens Advice, also received more complaints than in the previous three-month period. In contrast, EDF, Eon and British Gas were among the best performing firms.

The Chief Executive of Citizens Advice commented: “The latest league table shows some suppliers are getting much better at sorting out their customers’ problems, but it’s disappointing to see others getting worse at dealing with complaints.”

Extra Energy, which launched in 2014, apologised to its customers and stated it was now dealing with a higher volume of customer complaints. Ben Jones, the company’s managing director of operations said: “These figures reflect historic customer service issues that occurred during a period of time where Extra Energy saw our number of customers expand rapidly and unfortunately some of these complaints have taken longer than expected to resolve.

“We apologise unreservedly to anyone who has not received the standard of service we expect of ourselves.”

Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch said: “It’s encouraging to see some suppliers stepping up their efforts to improve their processes, but it’s clear that others still have some work to do if trust is the energy industry is to be restored.

“Inaccurate bills, one of the main causes for complaints, are unfortunately much more common than we would like.”

Source: BBC