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Centrica

Iain Conn, the boss of British Gas owner Centrica, was a somewhat incongruous figure at the event in March, which is typically dominated by companies that pump hydrocarbons from the ground. Under Conn, who previously spent almost 30 years at BP, Centrica has been shifting away from oil wells towards smart thermostats and boiler repairs. But the urbane Scot had another significant reason to press the flesh at the Texas gathering: he may soon need a new job. In the 4½ years that he has run Centrica, the value of the former energy monopoly has withered from almost £14bn to about £5.3bn, leaving it clinging to its FTSE 100 perch. In just over a week, Conn will tell the market how he thinks the company can be revived, or at least set on a stable footing. The strategy update will not be pretty. Centrica is under attack from all sides: nimble new rivals, politicians keen to drive down household bills via price caps, and seismic changes in how power is generated, distributed, consumed and paid for. All that has got investors and analysts asking how much further Centrica has to fall — and if its business model is doomed to extinction. Centrica is far from alone in its struggles; the big six power companies have all been hammered in recent years. But as the leading supplier of gas and electricity, Centrica has much to lose. Its number of residential accounts fell by 742,000 last year, yet the £505.7m profit it made supplying households makes it a whipping boy for consumers and politicians. Recent events have amplified the pressure. The warm weather, depressed gas price, outages at some of the nuclear power stations it co-owns with EDF and disappointment at a North Sea well are eating into profits. Amid this storm, Conn has been trying to turn Centrica into a supplier of technology services. “In some ways I think of Centrica as a £15bn start-up,” he told The Sunday Times two years ago. “We are reinventing ourselves and going where we think the energy and services market is going.” The reinvention has not gone to plan. Replacing the steady profits of yesteryear with cashflow from servicing boilers, selling Hive thermostats and supplying tradespeople via its Local Heroes website appears more of a pipe dream than a strategy. The connected-home division reported an £85m loss last year on revenues of £67m.

Times 21st July 2019 read more »

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Transport

Taking a long-haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person in dozens of countries around the world produces in a whole year, a new Guardian analysis has found. The figures highlight the disproportionate carbon footprint of those who can afford to fly, with even a short-haul return flight from London to Edinburgh contributing more CO2 than the mean annual emissions of a person in Uganda or Somalia. 2019 is forecast to be another record-breaking year for air travel, with passengers expected to fly a total of 8.1tn km, up 5% from last year and more than 300% since 1990.

Guardian 19th July 2019 read more »

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Infrastructure Finance

The government has appointed a panel of advisors to support the Infrastructure Finance Review, which will conclude alongside the National Infrastructure Strategy in the Autumn. The Infrastructure Finance Review is being carried out by HM Treasury, with support from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, to ensure the government continues to have the right tools in place to support private infrastructure investment as the UK leaves the EU.

Treasury 18th July 2019 read more »

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Renewable Investment

The City and County of Swansea Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) will swap around a quarter of its assets to a low carbon fund by the end of the month, it has announced. The £2.1bn local authority scheme will transition £500m of equities into MSCI’s world low-carbon target index fund, with BlackRock managing the assets, following trustee training on ESG issues.

Business Green 17th July 2019 read more »

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Ofgem and BEIS call on networks to realise £40bn flexible energy opportunity

Ofgem and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have penned a joint letter to the Energy Networks Association (ENA), calling on organisations to “evolve” to a more flexible system that could create a £40bn windfall for the UK economy.

In 2018, the UK generated 52% of its electricity from low-carbon sources

In 2018, the UK generated 52% of its electricity from low-carbon sources

BEIS’s director of energy security, networks and markets Dan Monzani and Ofgem’s director of energy systems transition Frances Warburton, praised the role of the Open Networks project, which helps households, businesses & networks take advantage of new energy technologies to lower costs and improve flexibility.

However, the letter notes that network operators will need to “evolve” in order to transform the UK grid to a low-carbon, flexible network that accounts for renewables, electric vehicles (EVs) and low-carbon heat. Doing so, the letter states, could generate between £17bn – £40bn by 2050 for the UK economy.

“To remain fit for purpose in this transforming system, energy networks will need to evolve too, the letter states. “Flexibility will be crucial, facilitating significant deployment of renewables, electrified transport and, potentially, electrified heat. A smarter and more flexible system could save the UK £17-40bn by 2050, and many of these benefits will be realised at the distribution level.”

In 2018, the UK generated 52% of its electricity from low-carbon sources, much of which was connected at the distribution network via various generation sites and projects.

Recommendations

To improve flexibility further, Ofgem and BEIS have called for: standardising flexibility procurement across network and system operators; demonstrating transparency in evaluating flexibility tenders; providing clear information on current and future system needs; setting out a clear roadmap for data transparency, taking into account recommendations from the Energy Data Taskforce and improving the availability of network information in an interoperable format

The Open Networks project is expected to expand out from electricity to the whole of the energy system including gas, heat and transport.

The UK’s six local electricity network operators have jointly committed to set new requirements for all new network infrastructure to include “smart” flexibility services, as more renewable arrays come online nationwide.

Under the new requirements, the installation of services such as on-site generation, demand-side response and energy efficiency measures will become a pre-requisite for project investment.

Matt Mace

News

EVs

The UK Government has been named as the first government to act as an ambassador for the Climate Group’s EV100 initiative to spur electric vehicle (EV) uptake, on the same day that global pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca joined the initiative.

Edie 17th July 2019 read more »

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Blockchain

The venture fund arm of oil and gas giant Shell has invested in a US-based company that uses blockchain to enable peer-to-peer energy sharing and trading over networks. Shell Ventures and Japanese firm Sumitomo Corporation Group have both announced undisclosed investments into US firm LO3 Energy, to support and upscale a blockchain technology platform for energy trading. LO3’s platform uses blockchain technology as a digital ledger for peer-to-peer energy sharing, enabling transactions to occur while integrating distributed energy resources from traditional generation, onsite renewable arrays and storage units into supply networks.

Edie 15th July 2019 read more »

News

Biofuel

Imports of a “green fuel” source may be inadvertently increasing deforestation and the demand for new palm oil, a study says. Experts say there has been a recent boom in the amount of used cooking oil imported into the UK from Asia. This waste oil is the basis for biodiesel, which produces far less CO2 than fossil fuels in cars. But this report is concerned that the used oil is being replaced across Asia with palm oil from deforested areas. Cutting carbon emissions from transport has proved very difficult for governments all over the world. Many have given incentives to speed up the replacement of fossil-based petrol and diesel with fuels made from crops such as soya or rapeseed. These growing plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and so liquid fuel made from these sources, while not carbon-neutral, is a big improvement on simply burning regular petrol or diesel. In this light, used cooking (UCO) oil has become a key ingredient of biodiesel in the UK and the rest of Europe. Between 2011 and 2016 there was a 360% increase in use of used cooking oil as the basis for biodiesel.

BBC 15th July 2019 read more »

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