Uncertainty for Israel's E&P Industry
A large number of recent offshore natural gas discoveries in Israel have led to significant changes to the country’s fiscal terms, including the introduction of a windfall tax, and now a court decision could potentially add months to the current period of uncertainty surrounding authorization of gas exports, says a new report from research and consulting firm GlobalData.
According to the company’s latest report*, the new roadblock to natural gas exports, caused by the High Court of Justice’s decision to freeze the Israeli cabinet’s agreement on the revised export policy, will have serious implications for Israel’s upstream operators.
Following the report of the Tzemach Committee in September 2012, which suggested capping exports at 53 percent of proven and probable (2P) reserves, the Israeli cabinet made the decision in late June to set the cap at just 40 percent in order to ensure domestic supply for the next 25 years.
However, as many parties, including environmentalist groups, dispute the calculations on which such supply projections are based and wish to retain a higher percentage for domestic use, challenges have been brought against the policy on the basis that it was only decided upon by the cabinet, not the full Knesset (Israel’s parliament). The High Court of Justice took the decision in August to freeze the Israeli cabinet’s decision, pending a Supreme Court hearing which will commence on September 17.
Rabie Khellafi, GlobalData’s Lead Analyst for the MENA region, says: “This ruling is a blow both to the government and to operators, such as Noble Energy Inc., which have made significant discoveries in Israel’s offshore waters.”
The analyst continues: “Although some fields, such as Tamar, have already commenced production, others, including Leviathan – the largest discovery in the area – are still having development plans finalized. The export regulations will have a significant bearing on these plans and the deals which relate to them. For instance, Woodside Petroleum Ltd has agreed in principle to acquire a share in the Leviathan field, but the details of the final agreement depend on export plans.”
In addition to these recent decisions, the Supreme Court could potentially rule that the Knesset will be responsible for approving any future decisions regarding the country’s natural gas export policy – a move which Khellafi anticipates would cause further uncertainty within the sector.
“Not only is Israel’s export policy not yet finalized, but if the court rules that final decisions on natural gas exports must lie with the Knesset, then further delays will ensue. Given the complications of projecting the country’s supply needs, renewed debate on the subject could be a lengthy process, and although export policy will probably be finalized within the next year, we can expect a considerably high level of uncertainty to remain within the sector for months to come,” the analyst concludes.
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.