Drax-Power-Station-1024x576

EDF Leads Generators in Winter Windfall

Drax-Power-Station-1024x576

EDF Leads Generators in Winter Windfall

Date
February 10, 2021
Share

 

  • EDF was paid more in 3 days than in all of Q3 by National Grid to balance the system

  • National Grid forced to buy power at £4,000/MWh, some 70 times greater than the average price paid over 2020

  • EPH achieved the highest average sales price for any day in the Balancing Mechanism of over £3,600/MWh

 

A Perfect Storm for Generators

A perfect storm of peak winter demand, low wind generation and delays to supplies from the continent saw record prices for UK power last month. Generators were quick to cash in on this tightness with National Grid forced to pay EDF nine times more than the previous year for their flexibility in January, averaging sales1 of £473/MWh compared to £53/MWh. Meanwhile, EPH and Drax settled for £387/MWh and £303/MWh.

Hartree Analysis – sales price1 to National Grid in the BM by operator4. Jan ’20 vs Jan ’21

 

Record Sales Prices

When the margins were especially low on January 8th, generators were able to drive a hard bargain for their much-needed megawatts. EDF was paid more in three days in the balancing market2 than in the three months through September as National Grid was required to procure their power at £4,000/MWh, some 70 times greater than the average price1 paid over 2020.

Hartree Analysis – sales price1 to National Grid in the BM against maximum sales price4.

 

First Mover Advantage

It was EPH on 13th January that achieved the highest average sales price1 for any day in the Balancing Mechanism2 (BM) of over £3,600/MWh during the second week of tightness. However, we can observe that EDF was quickest to react to the supply scarcity, achieving the highest average sales prices1 in the BM for the three initial tight days. On the last of these, the EDF owned West Burton B recorded the highest ever price paid in the BM contributed to an average sales price1 of over £3,200 /MWh that day.

Hartree Analysis – sales price1 to National Grid in the BM by operator4.

The weekend allowed for a brief interlude to high prices as demand edged lower. But just three days later, as demand rose again, both EPH and Uniper responded to the market dynamics adopting a similar strategy in the BM and surpassed EDF’s average sales prices1 for the remainder of the week.

 

Withholding Power

With high prices available in the markets, most generators sold their power in advance, locking in huge profits well before the power itself had to be delivered. As a result, the amount of unscheduled generation available was minimal, leaving National Grid with few options to balance the system.

Hartree Analysis – the volume of balancing actions by National Grid as a percentage of total generation against the EPEX3 baseload day-ahead auction price4.

On 6th January, the first day of tight margins, National Grid’s actions made up just 3.6% of total volumes compared to 19% for January 2020.

Hartree Analysis – the volume of balancing actions by National Grid as a percentage of total generation4.

As power prices hit £1,500 in the day-ahead auction, all generation sources will have been well in the money a day before delivery. Unsold volumes will either have been a prudent decision against plant failure or a commercial decision in the hope of achieving far greater profits. In the case of West Burton B, EDF offered these withheld volumes to balance the system at a huge £4,000/MWh.

 

Stations Profiting from Low Margins

There were just a handful of generating stations that exploited these low margins including the SSE owned Keadby, the EPH owned Langage, the EDF owned West Burton units, the Uniper owned Connahs Quay units, and the Drax owned Rye House and Draxx-5 coal unit.

Hartree Analysis – highest sales price to National Grid in the BM. Showing the top 10 generation units4.

It was the EDF owned West Burton B that achieved the highest daily and monthly revenues from BM sales across January, receiving over £7.5m in a single day.

Hartree Analysis – plant revenue from sales to National Grid in the BM. Showing the top 6 plant revenues for January

Throughout January the cost of these purchases, despite the low volumes, was over £100m with West Burton B making up over £20m or 21% of that total spend. Costs that are ultimately borne by consumers and generators alike.

Hartree Analysis – the sum of costs of National Grid’s buys in the BM against the volumes of these buys5

 

Estimated Generator Revenues

Whilst there is no information available to show how much volume each generator had presold coming into January, those who presold the lowest volumes will have fared much better. Suppose we estimate scheduled generation revenues using the Day-Ahead auction as an income metric. This case shows that operators such as RWE and Uniper could have seen their revenues from gas, coal, and biomass plants triple compared to the same time last year. Similarly, estimated revenues of Drax, SSE and EDF’s units nearly doubled year-on-year.

Hartree Analysis – scheduled generation revenues use the EPEX Day-Ahead auction3 as their assumed income plus the operators realised income from the BM4. No generation or fuel costs accounted for. Jan ’20 vs Jan ’21

 

Scarcity Pricing

Ofgem has already announced6 they will examine these high prices to fully understand the scarcity behind them, adding “Given our findings and penalties in the past year regarding manipulation in the balancing mechanism, the market knows that Ofgem takes any manipulation very seriously and that we monitor the market closely.”

However, it’s worth noting that scarcity pricing is a part of the market design. In periods of low margin, scarcity pricing acts to ensure that the cost to the country of a blackout is correctly priced into imbalance prices. For example, on 13th January the National Grid calculated de-rated margin7 was just 836MW representing the unused margin on the system8 available before a power outage. This value is then fed into a probability calculation representing the likelihood of a blackout. In this case, it generated a 14% probability. Finally, the cost of a blackout is estimated at an equivalent of £6,000/MWh, so bringing generation on at prices lower than this to avoid a blackout is the better financial option for the country. Applying the probability against the £6,000 cost generated an £835/MWh reserve scarcity price that forms a component of the imbalance price calculation for such hours.

Further consideration should also be given to thermal generators reduced run hours due to the renewable build-out. Generator’s fixed costs make up a large portion of their total annual costs alongside their variable marginal cost of generation. They are increasingly required to be recovered over fewer hours, requiring higher prices to do so or risk closure as per the recent Severn Power that in August 2020 went into administration9.

Network Constraints

Gas generators provided the bulk of this flexibility to National Grid to ensure supply met demand. However, notably in second place was wind, but for very different reasons. These volumes represent the UK’s inability to handle periods of high winds with National Grid forced to constrain the generation. Consequently, these volumes are replaced with higher carbon sources of power, typically gas that add to the UK’s emissions resulting from the network constraints.

Hartree Analysis – balancing volumes by National Grid in the BM by generation fuel type5.

 

What is the Balancing Mechanism?

Whilst generators sell much of their power in advance, they can also offer any unscheduled generation via the Balancing Mechanism (BM). This is National Grid’s tool to ensure supply meets demand in real-time because unlike gas, power has almost no flexibility innately in the transportation and distribution network.

By restraining from selling their power into the market ahead of delivery, operators can instead sell that power to National Grid in the BM. If the system is short of power, this strategy typically achieves a much higher price for that power. But it is a calculated gamble because if the system has excess power or there are lower-priced supply options, the operators miss out on any revenue.

 

The Fundamental Conditions

Temperatures 4°C below normal coupled with metered wind generation averaging just 3.5GW contributed to this power price surge. Demand surpassed last winter’s high by nearly 1GW peaking on 7th January at 46.3GW and with wind averaging just 3.5GW, left limited unscheduled generation to meet the peak evening demand.

See our latest Market Insight, where we discuss the new records in more detail.

High demand and low winds, together with delays to the start-up of the IFA2 interconnector, an undersea electricity connection between England and France, and an outage of the BritNed Interconnector between England and the Netherlands presented a unique opportunity for power plants to exploit.

 

More Challenges Ahead?

As the buildout of renewable generation continues, the UK power market is increasingly exposed to extreme pricing with no low-carbon alternative to coal and gas units’ flexibility to turn to at times of low wind and solar generation. January painted a stark picture of the UK’s challenges as it seeks to decarbonise its electricity. With weather forecasts pointing to further cold weather across Europe for February, the potential for extreme pricing is not yet over this winter.

These events highlight the rewards of having fully optimised assets to capitalise on these conditions. By partnering with Hartree Solutions, businesses can benefit from the team’s wealth of real-time trading and analytical experience and enjoy on-site, low-carbon generation that turns the potential liability into a performing asset.

 

Footnotes
1 Volume Weighted Average
2 National Grid Balancing Mechanism
3 EPEX Day Ahead Auction
4 Data filtered to gas, coal and biomass (flexible thermal) plants and operators with generation volumes greater than 10 million MWh’s in 2020
5 Data filtered to gas, coal, biomass, wind and hydro
6 As reported by Bloomberg on 15th January
7 De-rated margin and LoLP calculation
8 Reserve Scarcity Pricing
9 Severn Power Administration
Cover image – Drax Power Station

 

 

DSC8683-copy
written by
Adam Lewis

More market insights

Environmental technology concept. Sustainable development goals

Understanding REGOs: Do you know where your renewable energy is coming from?

One of the key drivers for the UK to reach net-zero is the continued development…

One of the key drivers for the UK to reach net-zero is the continued development of renewable energy projects to supply clean power to the grid and reduce carbon intensity. These projects can be powered by different energy solutions, including wind, wave, marine, hydro, biomass, or solar.

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the urgent need for the world to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. As this focus on reaching net-zero intensifies, particularly in the run-up to the key UN climate conference, COP26, we look at the role of the Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin scheme (REGOs). This government scheme, which was established to support the energy transition away from fossil fuels, provides transparency about the proportion of electricity suppliers source from renewable generation.

The REGO scheme is part of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, which requires all EU Member States to report what proportion of electricity consumption is from renewable sources. Following Brexit, the REGO scheme is under review in the UK. However, it appears it is the Government’s intention for the scheme to continue. The UK is now in a position where it can review this scheme and decide on a future approach that could expedite the journey to net-zero whilst improving transparency.

Currently, the scheme works by granting one REGO certificate to a renewable generator for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable electricity produced. Energy suppliers must purchase and “retire” REGO certificates as part of their Fuel Mix Disclosure Regulatory requirements, therefore evidencing to end consumers the proportion of power produced from various fuels (renewables, coal, gas, nuclear, etc.).

REGOs can be sold separately to the power with which they are associated. Suppliers often purchase these REGOs without the associated power generation to ‘green’ their fossil fuel-based supply. This means the certificates don’t necessarily support or incentivise the development of new renewable projects, or “additional” projects, often referred to as additionality.

Additionality is becoming increasingly important to customers. It enables them to clearly demonstrate that they are actively involved with a new renewable project, rather than just buying REGOs from an existing project. This is often achieved through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

A customer will guarantee to purchase the power at an agreed price for an agreed length of time and receive the REGOs attached to that power through a PPA. This provides a level of certainty to the developer/investor of the renewable project to build it. The customer can claim the REGOs attached to this specific project and state that they are “additional REGOs”. It also has the benefit that a proportion of the customers’ electricity consumption will be fixed for the long term, which is usually more cost-effective than current energy market prices and also protects against rising electricity costs.

If an organisation is making a true commitment to zero carbon emissions like “Microsoft’s 100/100/0 vision and commitment for a decarbonized grid”, then REGOs are likely to play a smaller part. To truly operate with carbon neutrality 24/7, renewable technologies will need to be paired with energy storage and state-of-the-art energy optimisation to match supply and demand in real-time.

At Hartree Solutions, we can guide you through a net-zero strategy, signposting the best technologies to reduce your carbon from day one. We also have several options to help you access “additional” REGOs with both on-site and off-site solar. Additionally, for hard to abate emissions we can provide verified carbon offsets to set you on the right path from day one as part of your journey to net zero.

Read Article
Araucaria forest Nequen province Argentine Patagonia

Hartree Partners and ecosecurities launch Project Araucaria to generate $1.5bn to support habitat restoration across Latin America

The project will work with local farmers, landowners, cooperatives, and NGOs in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay…

  • The project will work with local farmers, landowners, cooperatives, and NGOs in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay
  • The project will help design, finance, and develop nature-based carbon reduction and removal projects, aiming to achieve the highest level of accreditation
  • The project targets the creation of over 300 million tonnes of voluntary carbon credits over 30 years

Hartree Partners and ecosecurities today announces an estimated $1.5bn project to work with local farmers, landowners, associations, co-operatives, and NGOs in the Cono-Sur region of Latin America.

Named Project Araucaria after one of the most endangered tree species in the region, this project will help design, finance, and develop nature-based carbon reduction and removal projects in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, generating over 10 million tonnes of voluntary carbon credits each year.

Aggressive agricultural land use and conversion in Latin America now account for almost a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and over half the deforestation in the world occurs. By working alongside people who own, farm, and support work on the land, Project Araucaria aims to reverse this trend by promoting the conservation and restoration of forests and implementing sustainable agricultural practices.

Ariel Perez, Partner at Hartree Partners, said:
“Reducing emissions is vital to halting devastating climate change; but it’s not enough. We also need to remove carbon that’s already in the atmosphere by restoring key habitats that have already been degraded and destroyed.

“Hartree’s project with ecosecurities will bring significant investment and expertise to farmers, agricultural producers, and landowners across Latin America by supporting their efforts to restore habitats and ecosystems, targeting the reduction and removal of carbon in the atmosphere by over 300 million tonnes.”

Ecosecurities, an impact-driven provider of environmental services with over two decades of experience in carbon emissions reduction and removal projects around the world, will use its on-the-ground presence in and knowledge of Latin America to engage farmers, producers, and landowners across the region. Ecosecurities aim to design and implement at least 20 projects and programmes.

Pablo Fernandez, CEO of ecosecurities, said:
“If we are to turn climate commitments into tangible action, we must develop solutions that deliver benefits for local people, nature and, as result, to the entire planet.

“This is why we are delighted to be partnering with Hartree to deliver Project Araucaria – a vitally important initiative that will promote sustainable production practices and, in turn, reduce global emissions.”

The portfolio aims to achieve certification under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and receive Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) status; it will be marketed by Vertree, a joint venture formed between Hartree Partners and sustainability leaders SYSTEMIQ.

Hartree Partners, a leading global energy and commodities trading company will invest, develop, manage, and market the projects, to help meet the surging demand for high quality Verified Emissions Reductions as businesses look to play their part in addressing the climate emergency.

Read Article