May 17, 2020

South Africa's Mining Minister Extends Shale Frac Ban

mining
minister
Susan Shabangu
extends
Admin
2 min
Mining Minister Susan Shabangu extends South Africa’s shale natural gas fracking ban by six months
Companies like Shell will have to wait a bit longer to exploit South Africas shale natural gas resources. South Africas Mining Minister Susan Shabangu...

 

Companies like Shell will have to wait a bit longer to exploit South Africa’s shale natural gas resources.  South Africa’s Mining Minister Susan Shabangu has decided to extend the ban on the practice of hydraulic fracturing used to break through shale rock formations underground to tap once inaccessible gas reserves.  The moratorium will last another six months, while the nation’s appointed team to investigate the safety of hydraulic ‘fracking’ continues its research.

All new applications to exploit shale gas resources have been frozen by Minister Shabangu.  The central Karoo region of South Africa is of particular interest for its presumed shale resources. "I can assure you that when it comes to fracking in the Karoo, we will engage with everybody. We will go to the people," says the Minister.

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"She's putting everything on ice for a further six months so that the task team can complete its work. It has given her an interim report and she has asked them to do further work on that interim report," minerals and resources department spokesman Bheki Khumalo says. "It simply means that South Africa will not take any decision on fracking and finalize this matter in any way until the end of February next year. Also there will be public consultations once she has got the report."

Shell and other major energy producers have claims in the region and were expecting the drilling ban to be lifted; however, the extension will simply put plans on hold until 2012.  Several countries and regions with shale resources are implementing similar bans for fears of water contamination.  The following year will see several international studies being released as to the safety of the practice, once and for all putting an end to the questions that have pitted energy companies against environmental and social activists ever since the hydraulic fracking technology first got underway. 

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Jul 26, 2021

Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April

Ofwat
Utilities
water
prices
Dominic Ellis
3 min
Ofwat confirms levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue

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:   

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.

Anita Dougall, CEO and Founding Partner at Sagacity, said Ofwat’s decision comes hot on the heels of Ofgem’s price cap rise in April.

"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 VenturesWave 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.

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