National Grid issues Electricity Margin Notice
National Grid's Electricity Margin Notice (EMN) remains in place Wednesday evening, ahead of England returning to lockdown on Thursday, as it strives to increase its spare capacity buffer.
While the utility operator tweeted that the EMN is a "routine signal", demand has dropped around 10 percent in recent weeks and the notice serves as a clarion call for the market to provide more capacity. The system is likely to be particularly tight between 16.30-18.30GMT.
"The tight margins on the electricity system are the result of a number of factors including the weather, demand for electricity and availability of generators," it stated.
Last month UK consumers and businesses were warned that the grid's cushion of spare capacity had been cut due to low winds and a number of generator outages.
National Grid Partners, the investment and innovation arm of National Grid, recently announced two new investments in data analytics startups that use AI to protect critical infrastructure and reduce costs. NGP led both funding rounds with $6M in combined investment.
New additions to its portfolio are:
- Boston-based Aperio Systems, which uses AI and machine learning (ML) to analyse and monitor industrial sensor data in real time. Aperio’s data integrity platform enables customers in industries such as energy, mining and manufacturing to make better-informed decisions, reduce downtime and boost safety and security.
- Silicon Valley’s AiDash uses high-resolution satellite imagery coupled with AI to help utility and energy customers transform operations and maintenance activities like vegetation management, remote monitoring and disaster management. Its technology helps protect distribution grids from overgrown plant life that can spark disruptions or fires.
“National Grid’s ambition is to become the most intelligent transmission network in the world,” said Lisa Lambert, the company’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer and the founder and president of National Grid Partners. “We are investing in and deploying technologies across our networks to enhance resilience and reliability, while more easily integrating clean energy.”
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.