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Possible UK Power Shortages Raise Concerns

by Thomas Morgan and David McDonnell 

A warning from the UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem, on 27 June 2013, that the ‘buffer’ capacity of spare electricity on the UK’s national power grid could drop to as little as 2% of national supplies by 2015, has raised concerns in relation to the possibility of widespread disruptions in service. This spare capacity currently stands at about 4%.

The warning was linked to an extensive Electricity Capacity Assessment Report, also published by Ofgem that same day. Revised studies have indicated that power supplies will shrink considerably by 2015, as electricity demand in the United Kingdom is not decreasing in the manner previously foreseen by successive governments. This is due to a variety of factors, among them, the low uptake by residential households of environmentally friendly incentives and energy-efficient practices.

Ofgem recommends the implementation of far-reaching market changes proposed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Among other things, DECC stated in a report, also published on 27 June 2013, that the UK electricity sector will require approximately £110 billion of capital investment in the next decade to modernise its infrastructure. This would create opportunities for investment which a range of market players are likely to monitor with interest.

DECC has also emphasised the need for a ‘Capacity Market’ – essentially an insurance policy against the possibility of future blackouts – which would work by providing financial incentives to generators to keep a certain percentage of energy capacity in reserve to cope with spikes in demand.

The British government has been quick to retort to concerns of service disruption, downplaying the risk of blackouts to domestic consumers and, while it is unlikely that blackouts reminiscent of those experienced in the United Kingdom in the 1970s will be relived, the very publication of a formal warning from Ofgem highlights the potential significance of the concern.

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REMIT Set to be Enforced in the UK

by Prajakt Samant and Simone Goligorsky

If the UK Government meets the implementation deadline of 28 June 2013, then the United Kingdom will be one of the first EU Member States to implement the EU regulation on wholesale market integrity and transparency (REMIT). Market participants should ensure that all compliance procedures and trading functions are kept fully up to date with the stricter market abuse regime.

To read the full article, click here.

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The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets of Great Britain Consults Further on its Electricity and Gas Retail Market Review

by Caroline Lindsey

On October 26, 2012, the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) published updated proposals for changes to the regulation of the non-domestic electricity and gas retail markets in Great Britain.  The Retail Market Review Proposals (RMR Proposals) are part of Ofgem’s RMR program, which also includes proposals for the domestic markets.

The RMR Proposals follow Ofgem’s initial consultation on proposals for the non-domestic market in November 2011, and its Energy Supply Markets Probe in 2008.  Since the initial consultation, Ofgem has been conducting further research, gathering relevant information from suppliers and considering the responses to the initial consultation.

The principal RMR Proposals are:

  • Increased protection for small business consumers – condition 7A of the standard conditions of electricity and gas supply licences (SLC) currently provides protection for micro business consumers when dealing with suppliers.  Ofgem is proposing to expand the number of small business consumers who have the benefit of those protections, by introducing a new definition of small business consumer.  The new definition is intended to capture existing micro business consumers, as well as a wider category of consumers whose annual consumption of electricity and gas is equal to or less than the relevant threshold (100,000 kWh per annum for electricity and 293,000 kWh per annum for gas).  Ofgem also proposes to introduce additional protections, including an obligation to include contract end dates and related notice periods on customer bills.
  • Introduction of binding standards of conduct when dealing with small business consumers – suppliers will, by way of a new SLC 7B, be required to comply with standards of conduct when engaging in the designated activities of billing, contracting and customer transfers with small business consumers.  The overarching objective of the standards of conduct, which will be expressly stated in SLC 7B, is to ensure that each small business consumer is treated fairly.  The standards of conduct include an obligation on the licensee to carry out the designated activities “in a Fair, honest, transparent, appropriate and professional manner.”  Ofgem has indicated that it will give guidance on the meaning of at least some of those terms. 
  • Development of a common code of conduct for third party intermediaries (TPI) – Ofgem proposes to develop options for a common code of conduct for TPIs, who broker contracts between non-domestic consumers and suppliers.  It will also conduct a wider review of the regulatory framework applicable to TPIs, including considering whether more direct regulation by Ofgem (in addition to the code of conduct) is needed.
  • Continuing monitoring of suppliers’ compliance with the customer transfer process – Ofgem proposes to increase its level of monitoring of suppliers’ compliance with the customer transfer objection requirements set out in SLC 14.  No changes to the SLCs are proposed at this stage.

Ofgem intends to publish an issues paper on the TPI regulatory framework review in the first half of 2013. It proposes to introduce the new protections for small business consumers (the first two items in the [...]

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ACER Publishes Second Edition of Guidance on REMIT

 by Prajakt Samant, Thomas Morgan and Simone Goligorsky

On September 28, 2012, the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) issued the second of two pieces of non-binding guidance on the Regulation on Wholesale Energy Market Integrity and Transparency (REMIT).  REMIT imposes requirements aimed at preventing and detecting market abuse, and more specifically, market manipulation and insider trading in the wholesale energy market.

The guidance considers, inter alia,:

  • The scope of REMIT;
  • The application of the definitions of wholesale energy products, wholesale energy market and market participants; inside information;and market manipulation; and
  • The application of the obligation to publish inside information; the prohibitions of market abuse and on possible signals of suspected insider dealing and market manipulation; and the implementation of prohibitions of market abuse.

Considering the scope of REMIT, it should be noted that the guidance stipulates that intra-group transactions, i.e. over-the-counter contracts entered into by counterparties which are part of the same group of companies, would come within the scope of REMIT, given that the definition of wholesale energy products specifies that REMIT will apply to contracts irrespective of how and where they are traded. 

Regarding penalties that will be imposed in the event that a market participant is found to be in breach of REMIT, the guidance states that the national regulatory authorities (NRAs), i.e. the bodies from each member state working with ACER to monitor market participants, should penalize not only breaches of the market abuse prohibition, but also:

  • Any breaches of the obligation to notify ACER of any delayed disclosure of inside information;
  • Any breach of the obligation to provide ACER with a record of wholesale energy market transactions; and
  • A breach of the obligation to register with the competent NRA. 

The first piece of guidance on REMIT was published by ACER in December 2011, a few days before REMIT entered into force.  The guidance focused particularly on the definition of inside information, and what activities ACER would consider to be market manipulation, or attempted market manipulation.  The guidance also gave examples of the types of activities that may indicate insider dealing and suspicious transactions.

It is expected that REMIT will be fully implemented by summer 2013.  In the interim, member states will be required to enable NRAs with the means and powers necessary to investigate suspicious cases, and the prosecute confirmed cases of insider trading and market manipulation.  By summer 2013, it is expected that both ACER and the NRAs (Ofgem in the UK) will start collecting data, and monitoring market participants that come within the scope of REMIT. 

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