Algeria Gas Plant Raid: Death Toll Continues to Rise
According the Algeria's Prime Minister, the gunmen that entered the In Amenas gas complex with intent to blow it up is now en route to Mali with foreign hostages, leaving at least 48 dead, including three Americans.
“The [Algerian] army first tried to negotiate in the hope of resolving the situation, but the terrorists were determined and their position was clear, and they had unacceptable demands,” Abdelmalek Sellal told reporters in Algiers today.
The attack had been planned two months prior by a group of 32 Islamists, headed by a man named Bechneb Mohamed al- Amin, a member of the Masked Brigade, who was also killed in the siege. The group is considered to be a splinter faction of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM. Two of the extremists were Canadians, according to Sellal, “judging by his English accent.”
Although little is known about the supposedly Canadian men involved in the incident, such reports have sparked a major concern in Ottawa. Authorities are seeking clarity on a possible Canadian connection to the raid. One of the men, Riad, has been identified as a North American who took part in killing numerous Japanese workers at the engineering firm JGC Corp, according to the AFP.
Sellal described the scene at the gas plant as chaotic and violent in a press conference Monday. He said the attackers had inside knowledge of the plant, because one of them previously worked there as a driver. They came heavily armed and prepared with explosives belts, used to strap onto some of the hostages.
“They had a massive arsenal,” he told BBC. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the event as an “act of war.”
The plant, which is responsible for over one tenth of the country's overall gas output, is expected to resume production by Tuesday, according to Algeria's Energy Minister, and Sallel will deliver a new conference about the attack later today.
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.