5 customer services values to make you stand our from the crows

Ensuring that your customers have a great experience is important to any business, as it’s the key to attracting and retaining customers. In the energy sector, it’s never been more critical. Here at UGP our Customer Service Team put customers at the heart of what we do to ensure that we not only leave our customers satisfied, we also ensure that we make the right decisions, for the long term.

As Customer Service Manager, the success of my team is built according to these top 5 customer services values:

When talking to customers in a B2B environment, it’s our customers business, income and livelihoods they are talking to us about. Challenges will be faced and our aim is to make contacting UGP the easiest and most pleasurable experience that it can be. Feedback on how we are doing is welcomed, whether good or bad. The personal touch makes a huge difference in customer service ratings, and I pride myself and my team on this. Our team has superb success rates; over 98% of queries resolved satisfactorily and on time. Our complaint resolution times are industry leading and I take great pride in how low our repeat complaints are.

Working for a company that embraces my own personal values makes my job enjoyable and rewarding on a daily basis.

 

UGP’s Head of Major Accounts Discusses Actions from COP26 by Announcing Exciting New Partnership with the Institute of Hospitality

The news this month has been dominated by the global fight against climate change following COP26 in Glasgow, and I’m encouraged to see a number of key pledges and commitments following the summit. Working in the commercial energy industry, I’m all too aware of the importance of corporate sustainability for our customers and I’ve witnessed a huge surge in the demand for renewable energy solutions over the past few years.

This month, we forged a new partnership with the Institute of Hospitality. I was particularly struck by how passionately the topic of sustainability was discussed and after reading the latest HQ Magazine, it’s evident to me that environmental responsibility is gaining huge momentum within the hospitality sector. Businesses are beginning to realise that in addition to their moral obligation to help the UK’s future net zero target, there are multiple benefits that adopting a more sustainable way of working can bring to their businesses, not only with energy but areas such as food waste and sustainable Christmas decorations. And how much impact these strategies have on not just customer attraction but also staff attraction and retention.

Now more than ever people and businesses want to work with and for responsible partners. I’ve helped a number of organisations make the switch to a sustainable energy programme, and those customers have reported a number of key commercial benefits such as an enhanced ability to attract staff, customers and partners to their businesses.

During the pandemic, consumer behaviour shifted. Online shopping experienced its highest growth in over a decade and when given more time to consider purchases at home, customers began to consider factors such as brand reputation, ethics and environmental sustainability when making their decisions. The tide has most definitely turned, and businesses that can demonstrate a social conscience now will undoubtedly enjoy a competitive edge as we get closer to net zero.

I’ve also witnessed a surge in the demand for electric vehicle charging points, a service we’re delighted to offer UGP customers. It’s predicted that by 2030, 60% of the UK’s new car sales will be “plug-in” models. This is great news, but it represents a real challenge for the UK charging infrastructure. Hospitality businesses will have a key role to play in increasing the charging network across the UK and with many financial incentives for early adopters, now is the time for the sector to start to consider installing EV charging stations. Working with the IOH members, I’m looking forward to making a meaningful impact to a carbon neutral UK.

I’m excited to be able to help businesses within the UK hospitality sector to reduce their carbon footprints with the supply of 100% renewable energy. All of the power we supply at UGP comes from wind, hydro and solar sources of energy and one of the single most significant changes that businesses can make to become more sustainable is to switch to a renewable energy supply. While there’s a common belief that renewable power is more expensive than its non-renewable alternatives, this is not true – we’ve been supplying renewable power at no additional cost to our customers for years.

 

Visit the brand new page on the website to find out more.

United Gas Power Creating the New Normal: Environmental Lessons to Remember

Covid lock-down restrictions are beginning to lift, and we are welcoming more daylight into our days perhaps finally signalling the end of the pandemic. Schools have returned and we all seem to be bracing ourselves for the next stage of the Government’s roadmap. Whilst the last year has undoubtedly been difficult for people and businesses across the UK, there are some key lessons that we should be mindful of if we are to build a greener, more sustainable future.

During the first lock-down of March 2020 we witnessed a dramatic reduction in emissions, pollution and a significantly positive effect on the environment. The aftermath of the first major lockdown proved that we as humans can make a difference. Maps using data collected from NASA and European Space Agency satellites show how nitrogen dioxide, a dangerous gas released by burning fuel, has dissipated since the outbreak. “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, said in a statement. Similarly, in Venice again thanks to initial lockdown measures the canals became the cleanest they have been in 60 years, and dolphins were spotted swimming in clearer water.

It’s unrealistic to expect that such low levels of emissions will remain as the world opens up again. Demands on certain industries are unlikely to fall and if anything, be on a larger scale in the effort to jumpstart economies globally. But if we can take one positive impact from recent events, it is that small changes to the way we live and behave can make a marked impact to the global fight on climate change.

Joe Biden has already shown the world that he is serious about environmental issues, one of his very first acts as president was to reinstate the US in the Paris Climate Agreement. Additionally, he has laid out in detail plans to make America an influential force in fighting climate change. There has, however, been speculation as to how he will be able to create jobs in the renewable sector when currently most of the worlds solar panels and wind turbines are manufactured in China. Therefore, we can only assume at this stage that plans are underway to bring manufacturing to America.

Closer to home, the recent budget announcement from Rishi Sunak has given some hope that the previously announced ‘build back green’ plan from Boris Johnson is coming to fruition. The budget has a huge focus on the renewable sector, with budget being allocated to energy projects in Scotland and Wales such as the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub and the Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone. Sunak also recapped on a previous pledge regarding offshore wind, saying “Offshore wind is an innovative industry, where the UK already has a global competitive advantage. So, we’re funding new port infrastructure to build the next generation of wind projects in Teesside and Humberside.” The scheme would see the government invest £160m in developing ports and infrastructure for offshore wind manufacturing and deployment.

With all of these factors considered we think there are a number of key learnings that we’d like to see remembered as we return to normality:

Switch to a Green Energy Provider

The single most impactful thing a business can do is switch to a green energy provider. We help our customers to reduce their carbon footprint and enhance their sustainability agendas by ONLY supplying great value 100% green power generated from wind, solar, hydro at no additional cost. Our rates are highly competitive, against renewable and non-renewable suppliers, and we’re confident we’ll save you money as well as help you do your part for the planet.

Drive less, walk more

Being forced to stay put saw many of us get back to nature and explore the many parks, forests and nature reserves the UK has to offer, even exploring the nearest ‘bit of green’ in walking distance has major health benefits. Walking regularly burns calories, strengthens the heart, lowers blood sugar, improves mood and can improve creative thinking.

Staycation

It’s fair to say not everyone will want to swap all of their holidays abroad for staycations but having had to for the past year (when allowed) many have seen that the UK does have a great deal to offer for breaks and holidays. Just swapping one flight for one staycation will have a dramatic effect on your own personal carbon footprint!

Print Less

As many of us have worked from home for the best part of an entire year access to something like printing has probably proved a little difficult for most. Consequently, many of us have had to think twice or even completely stop what we print, saving paper and the planet.

Buy Local

With covid restricting some imports and exports, many of us have been switching to local suppliers for our everyday essentials. Not only does this result in a greatly reduced carbon footprint, it also means you’re supporting local businesses and the economy as a whole.

With the combination of government’s proposals, green project budget allocations and everyone working together, we may just see a greener future after all. If you would like more information on how you and your business can build back greener then contact one of our advisors today on 0844 318 0044 or fill in this quick form.

Stress Awareness Month: Coping in a Time of Crisis

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April, since 1992 to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. According to the Mental Health Foundation 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. This year has been particularly difficult for a great many people and we think it’s important to discuss the effects that the pandemic and lockdown have had on the UK’s workforce.

The covid epidemic has had a profound effect on many; people have lost jobs and loved ones in what has been an unprecedented set of circumstances; perhaps the worst in modern history. It’s no surprise to learn that levels of anxiety and mental health struggles are at an all-time high.

As a business, supporting employees through these times is particularly challenging, especially when staff are working from home or furloughed. But one year on from the first lockdown, we think it’s time to take stock and re-assess how we can support our people in the most effective way possible. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way…

Check in with your employees regularly

Even if this means a 10-minute phone/video call once a week, it’s imperative to check in regularly with your employees. This may sound difficult especially if you are juggling a dissipated workforce from home but it’s important to speak to your staff about how they are coping emotionally, not just with their workload. 

Provide support

There are many resources that you can utilise and provide to your workforce. For example, the NHS have provided some advice with regards to looking after well-being from home. Check out www.nhsemployers.org for a wealth of information and guidance on how employers can best support their people.

Restore good news

Staying glued to the news and social media, especially when the news is full of negativity, can contribute to stress. While it’s important to keep abreast of what’s going on in the world, encouraging employees to limit time talking about the pandemic in meetings can be helpful.  At UGP, we developed an internal “teams” group and actively encourage people across the business to regularly share good news, updates and give credit to colleagues – we’ve found this has helped boost morale, and it’s something we’ll keep going well after the pandemic has gone.

Allow a zoom-free day

At this point, we’re all well versed in Zoom/Teams or other video conferencing systems.  After a year of online meetings replacing human contact, it’s normal for people to feel pretty drained by it. Just like in ‘ordinary times’, some meetings could be satisfied by a quick email, and whilst it’s great to speak in person,  allowing staff to have a video-call free day, perhaps resorting to a traditional phone, might provide some much needed relief.

Remember to praise

Working from home has meant a lot of heads down and pushing through in order to cope with this turbulent time. Therefore, taking time out to praise staff can easily be forgotten, it might not sound like much but by sending a quick email thanking someone’s efforts or saying well done on a particular achievement will mean a lot.

Encourage a routine that includes self-care

After a year of working from home many are feeling fed up, anxious, irritable and stressed. However, maintaining a routine that also promotes learning is crucial. Continuous development is still possible during a lock-down by even using free resources. Help your employees to draft a daily/weekly routine that sets specific learning time aside, includes regular breaks, a check-in meeting and communicating with co-workers. Don’t forget to also encourage self-care outside of working hours, again there are lots of resources on this which include advice on regular exercising, eating well and doing something that makes the individual feel good, this could be anything from gardening to drawing to watching films. As part of this self-care plenty of rest and sleep should be promoted.

Providing a re-introduction

If employees are needed in the workplace, those who started work for the organisation in the time immediately prior to (or even during) lockdown may need a re-induction into the workplace to help them feel connected and engaged. Additionally, walking all employees returning to the workplace through any health and safety changes such as one-way systems, social distancing and hand sanitiser stations is highly advised.

As the government’s roadmap to normality is rolled out and we look towards the future, UGP can help relieve some of the stresses that businesses are facing upon returning to work. By using our dedicated Account Managers to research and manage your energy portfolio for you as well as handle the entire end-to-end switching process for you, we’ll help you save money and time.

As the only “commercial-only” energy provider in the UK to boast a 5-star TrustPilot rating https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/ugp.co.uk, we also supply 100% renewable power at no additional cost. Call us on 0844 318 0044 or click here to request a call-back at a time convenient for yourself.

What Does Rishi’s New Budget Mean for the UK’s Green Agenda?

Rishi Sunak recently delivered his second budget under the cloud of the coronavirus pandemic; his last ahead of the country hosting the COP26 UN climate talks. The UK Government’s Budget announcement has legislated for the creation of an infrastructure bank and green finance schemes that could benefit the power industry in the country. But what else does this mean for the UK’s renewable agenda and net zero target?

As part of wider “accelerated growth deals”, the chancellor said that energy projects in Scotland and Wales would benefit from the budget. These included the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub, the Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone, and the Global Underwater Hub, also in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen will also benefit from the North Sea Transition Deal, a government plan to incentivise the decarbonisation of its offshore industry. Trade body Oil and Gas UK said that the deal, expected to be implemented in the first half of 2021, would be “essential” to decarbonisation.

Directly following this, Sunak moved on to offshore wind development, recapping a previously announced pledge to develop the UK’s offshore wind sector. He said: “Offshore wind is an innovative industry, where the UK already has a global competitive advantage. So we’re funding new port infrastructure to build the next generation of wind projects in Teesside and Humberside.”

In what is being seen as one of the most significant parts of this years’ budget for climate action, Sunak announced that the UK’s net-zero goal will be added to the remit of the Bank of England, having become part of the government’s overall “economic policy objective”. The budget promises that the government will issue its first “sovereign green bond – or green gilt” in summer 2021, a move it had already announced last November. At least £15bn in government debt will be specifically earmarked for supporting “green objectives”, with further details of how it can be spent expected in June.

In another move trailed before the budget, Sunak also announced a “green retail savings product” commencing in summer 2021, which will “give all UK savers the opportunity to take part in the collective effort to tackle climate change”. The money raised will be spent according to the same rules as the government’s new green gilts.

A centrepiece for climate-focused government spending over the past year has been the “green homes grant”, which allows people to apply for vouchers to cover the cost of home insulation or installing low-carbon heating. The chancellor first announced the £2bn in grants for home-efficiency upgrades, as well as £1bn for improvements in public buildings, as part of his “green recovery” plans in July 2020, although his party’s election manifesto had previously promised £9.2bn for energy efficiency.

This was then given a boost in the prime minister’s 10-point plan published last November, when a further £1bn and an extra year was added to the existing scheme for home improvements. However, at the same time, stories emerged of a scheme beset by difficulties, with suppliers going unpaid and customers waiting months to take advantage of the grants.

After much speculation, reports surfaced in February that the government did not intend to roll over most of the unspent grants to the next financial year, effectively withdrawing £1bn in funding and leaving just £320m for 2021 to 2022.

On the announcement of an infrastructure bank, legal and business services firm DWF partner Darren Walsh said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement to create the first ever UK Infrastructure Bank. We note that the first projects will cover port infrastructure, but we are hopeful that green energy projects will be prioritised to facilitate the enhancement of the Prime Minister’s ten-point plan for net-zero carbon and a drive towards our green revolution.

“We hope that nascent green technologies such as tidal and hydrogen are supported as well as seeing further development of onshore wind and solar PV. This is further great news for sponsors, developers, and investors and the entire low-carbon supply chain.”

The UK has legislated to make all new cars at least partly electric by 2030. Car leasing comparison website LeaseLoco CEO John Wilmot said: “The lack of any meaningful funding announcement by the Chancellor on the electric car switchover is disappointing.”

One action all businesses can take to further the UK’s progress towards a greener future is to switch to a renewable energy provider such as United Gas & Power. Speak to one of our account managers today; either call us on 0844 318 0044 or complete this quick form.

International Women's Day 2021: Celebrating Women in Energy

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality. This year we are marking the day by profiling some of the wonderful women who work for UGP.

The energy sector is widely regarded as one of the least gender diverse areas of the economy. A recent report by the professional initiative POWERful Women and consulting giant PwC studied the board member composition of 80 companies in the UK energy space.  It found that 38% of the UK’s top energy companies had no women members on their boards. Also, more than two-thirds of the firms lacked a single woman-occupied executive seat.

United Gas and Power are determined to lead the way and ensure we have stronger representation of women in the workforce. Additionally, however, UGP is not merely employing more women to tip this numerical target but rather creating a workplace that empowers and encourages the employment, development and progression of everyone irrespective of gender.

Sally Rusbatch United Gas and Power

Sally Rusbatch, Account Manager

“The energy industry used to be very male dominated, but that has really changed now. When I started at UGP I was the only woman in the sales team, our team is now almost a 50/50 split. The results of the team are evenly split as well, showing your gender has literally no affect on your performance to do well in energy.

We have a number of strong women working in every side of our business from the bottom to the top, so much so, gender is never even a topic of conversation – equality goes without saying here.

As a woman, I have worked in a number of male dominated sectors and found success. When hiring other females, many would find that daunting though and re-consider taking a job in that bullish environment. I have found though, all it takes is a few bold ladies and there is no barrier to others joining and becoming a truly versatile and comfortable environment.

I love working in energy. So many of our competitors are heavily male dominated. I think what sets us apart is our customer service and rapport building, patient account management and solution focus. A real step away from the brash experiences many companies experience from brokers and supplies with macho sales teams.”

Kimberley Whitaker UGP

Kimberley Whitaker, Business Improvement Manager

“I am a mum to three boys ranging from the age of almost 2 to almost 17!  I live with my partner Ben in Baildon.  I hadn’t had experience of working in the energy industry until I started work for UGP in May 2015.

I have had various roles at UGP, ranging from Credit Controller to Billing Manager, Office Manager, Customer Service Manager, and now I am the Business Improvement Manager.  Pretty much all areas of the business (except Sales!)

I really enjoy working in this industry as no two days are the same! I have seen UGP’s growth over the years and I am very proud to say I have been here (almost) from the beginning 😊 “.

Chloe Hollins United Gas and Power

Chloe Hollins, Sales Support

“On International Women’s Day and as a female in a notoriously male dominated industry, it’s important for me to feel like I’ve been given the tools, skills and support I need to progress in my career. My time at UGP has shown just that and I have been able to develop in my role in Sales within the Major Accounts team. Going above and beyond for our customers is something we pride ourselves on and for me to feel confident to make decisions that will be supported, knowing my opinions are respected, listened to and used on key projects and to know my voice matters ensures I can do just that.

Whilst relatively new to UGP I have worked in the energy industry for 7 years and even in this short time I’ve seen a lot of changes to the industry as a whole. The energy sector has always been a male dominated industry, with board members, directors and managers not being a reflection of the company they work in. Whilst I believe there is still work to be done on the industry as a whole, I’m happy to work for a company that is continuously evolving, with an SLT made up of over 50% women, it shows that change is happening.

To continue to change, evolve and educate as individuals, businesses and communities we’ll make positive impacts on the people around us and the planet we live on. On that note Happy International Women’s day to all the wonderful women and people in my life that help me be better and do better every day!”

UGP has more people identifying as male than female, with 35% identifying as female. While we’ve a little way to go to reach the 45% national average for female representation, in a typically male dominated sector, we are steadily closing the gap (figures correct as at October 2020). Importantly, across UGP’s managerial team, women represent 43% of all employees.

Even more significantly, United Gas & Powers Senior Management team is a trail blazing 50/50 male/female split! You can see more on our diversity report in the below video –

The energy sector still has a long way to go but UGP is excited to be leading the way in a more diverse workforce and helping to shape this new landscape.

We’re hiring! Interested in joining the UGP family? Check out our current vacancies here.

Post Covid-19: Can We Build Back Greener?

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on businesses, jobs, health and society. But one impact that’s more difficult to quantify is the impact on the environment. Initially, lockdown coupled with the world’s industry grinding to a halt resulted in significant reductions in carbon emissions and pollution, especially in countries such as China and Iran.

Nevertheless, as soon as possible these industries were back to emitting emissions, with many experts voicing concerns they’d be at a higher rate than prior to lock down in order to make up for lost revenue during lockdown.

The Government in the UK has announced that businesses are set to benefit from £134 million investment, enabling ground-breaking clean growth projects, developing new technologies and securing new jobs. Could this recent announcement ensure that in the UK at least, we build back greener and make larger steps to a renewable future?

Among the businesses set to benefit are projects to service offshore wind turbines autonomously, using artificial intelligence to reduce beer waste in the brewing process and converting seaweed into compostable packaging to tackle plastic waste.

The aftermath of the first major lockdown proved that we as humans can make a difference. Maps using data collected from NASA and European Space Agency satellites show how nitrogen dioxide, a dangerous gas released by burning fuel, has dissipated since the outbreak. “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, said in a statement. Similarly, in Venice again thanks to initial lockdown measures the canals became the cleanest they have been in 60 years, and dolphins were spotted swimming in clearer water. 

This drop-in air pollution and carbon emissions is likely to disappear as Chinese industry ramps up again in an attempt to offset its economic losses. A pattern that has already been witnessed before, after the global financial crisis of 2008 emissions saw rapid growth especially in global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion reaching a record high of 9.1GtC1 in 2010. Additionally, unfortunately, many of the world’s largest solar panel, battery and wind turbine manufacturers are located in China, and the country’s COVID-19-related lockdowns and travel restrictions are likely to have disrupted supply chains, delayed delivery of key components and potentially increased costs, discouraging many businesses from building back green. However, if industry across the world is in a rush to get back to maximum capacity this downturn should only be temporary and hopefully marginal.

The concept of ‘build back green’ is one that many companies and even individuals are happy to back. Since the announcement over 1,069 ground-breaking clean growth projects have requested funding. One such business is marine company Rovco in Bristol, which is developing unique technology allowing for autonomous underwater inspections of large offshore wind turbines. This will be crucial in assisting human operators carry out effective maintenance of one of the UK’s cleanest, renewable energy sources, which can often be dangerous, while ensuring it is carried out in accordance with social distancing measures.

However, with this new £134 million investment this represents the opportunity to move forward to a greener future. If the production of solar panels is to be affected it is important for each country to find new ways to support green innovation. It is only through governmental encouragement that we will succeed.

Back in April we speculated that this crisis also presented an opportunity to learn, examining the positive impacts that were being made throughout lockdown and ultimately the lessons that we could carry forward once the crisis is over. Perhaps we might now see a new wave of positive environmental initiatives that make a marked and sustainable impact in our quest for a greener future.

UGP: United in Gender Diversity Progress

The energy sector is widely regarded as one of the least gender diverse areas of the economy. A recent report by the professional initiative POWERful Women and consulting giant PwC studied the board member composition of 80 companies in the UK energy space. It found that 38% of the UK’s top energy companies had no women members on their boards. Also, more than two-thirds of the firms lacked a single woman-occupied executive seat. But could things be about to change?

A report published by the Academy of Management entitled ‘Women Directors and Corporate Social Performance Around the World’ provides strong evidence linking gender diverse boards to improved company performance. Companies with more diverse boards are more likely to report their gender composition thanks to increased publicity such as the 30% Club; a global organisation promoting women in senior management.

Louise Kingham, CEO of the Energy Institute and board member for POWERful Women (PfW) comments, “We need more visible female role models and we need louder, clearer leadership and targets. We also need a range of internal policies and programmes – for example, on flexible working and changes to recruitment practice – to remove unconscious bias and become consciously inclusive.”

Stronger efforts need to start from the beginning, during the recruitment process. Careers in the energy sector are generally not being pitched to women through formal channels such as career counsellors, student employment advisors, job centres, recruitment sessions, or career fairs.

While the challenges of recruiting and retaining women are gradually being addressed in the energy sector, there are still persistent barriers to addressing women’s underrepresentation in senior positions and on boards of directors of energy firms. One option for energy companies is to implement targets that are specifically aligned with the company’s strategy for gender diversity and given the same prescient as business’ targets for budgets and performance. Targets should not be focused solely on numerical goals for the number of women in the workplace. They should also include measures of “new ways of working together” – such as more respectful interactions, inclusive meeting practices or flexibility in where and when some of the work gets done.

United Gas and Power are determined to lead the way and ensure we have stronger representation of women in the workforce. Additionally, however, UGP is not merely employing more women to tip this numerical target but rather creating a workplace that empowers and encourages the employment, development and progression of everyone irrespective of gender.

Table 1: UGP Gender Representation as a % of Total Workforce

UGP has more people identifying as male than female, with 35% identifying as female. While we’ve a little way to go to reach the 45% national average for female representation, in a typically male dominated sector, we are steadily closing the gap (figures correct as at October 2020).

Importantly, across UGP’s managerial team, women represent 43% of all employees:

Table 2: UGP Gender Representation in Managerial Positions

Even more significantly, United Gas & Powers Senior Management team is a trail blazing 50/50 male/female split!

The energy sector still has a long way to go but UGP is excited to be leading the way in a more diverse workforce and helping to shape this new landscape.

Weekly outlook as the UK prepares for potential cold weather

This week has witnessed a number of unplanned outages in the Norwegian gas field of Aasta Hansteen, which supplies gas to the UK. Outages are periods of times where the extraction of gas is halted for reasons such as maintenance of the facility, technical repairs/improvements or health and safety concerns caused be incidents or adverse weather.

Some outages are pre-planned. In these circumstances, the loss of production is prepared and accounted for in readiness for the outage. Unplanned outages however can cause unrest in the markets as they are unpredictable. They typically cause a short fall for meeting gas demand in countries such as the UK, which in turn increases gas prices.

This gas shortage has been amplified due to the recent spell of cold weather across the UK, which increased the overall demand for gas as homes and businesses cranked up their thermostats.

Further compounding the issue was the fact that the UK’s gas system was already somewhat under strain due to lower incomings of LNG (Liquid Nitrogen Gas) tankers to UK Ports.

The country’s power generation is made up of approximately 45% gas fired power plants. As we are heavily reliant on the commodity for our nation’s power, we therefore feel the pinch in prices when outages lead to shortages that struggle to be recovered by renewables.

December is being forecast to be colder than normal, or at least the first half of the month is. A weather phenomenon known as a “stratospheric warming” is dragging atmospheric temperatures, at 30km altitude above Siberia up by around 40C and significantly (more than 30C) above the 30-year average value.

The direct effect on the Siberian jet stream is that cold air is pushed down towards the UK and Northern Europe. Current forecasts predict this will take place in around 10 days’ time.

Although current weather models cannot quite agree on the extent of this cold snap, the consensus seems to be that it should last between 7-10 days. This will undoubtedly have the effect of further skewing the December price shape, with the latter half of the month typically heavily discounted against the first half due to industrial shutdowns.

The main risk we now face in the UK is that an extreme weather event could potentially cause profound system strain, depleting European stocks originally earmarked for January and February; and as December weather forecasts start appearing in the widespread media, this could initiate some closing of December and winter positions, which would most likely push the whole forward curve up if it comes to fruition.

As the UK gears up for a general election in December, and hustings begin, key energy topics become political tools and whipping points to win peoples favour and votes. The highly controversial topic of fracking is the latest issue to attract debate across parties in the lead up to December 12th.

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Fracking to the fore: Energy is hot topic ahead of General Election

Fracking and the General Election

In August of this year an earthquake registering 2.9 on the Richter scale occurred at the Cuadrilla Resources site in Lancashire. Accordingly, the government called an indefinite halt to fracking at the site after it emerged that it would be impossible to predict the size and occurrence of future tremors.

In the run up to the election, the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and Labour Party have all promised to abandon fracking altogether if elected. The Conservatives, on the other hand, whilst temporarily calling a halt to fracking, have publicly recognised the vast economic opportunities that fracking could deliver to UK plc.

Continued fracking has the potential to produce enough gas capacity to supply the North of England for up to 50 years and existing fracking licences, as well as many further potential sites in the region, makes the subject of particular interest to politicians chasing seats in the region.

Existing and potential UK fracking sites

Fracking Sites within the UK
Fracking Sites within the UK

So, what is fracking?

Fracking is the process of drilling through the earth and forcing high-pressure water mixed with chemicals through the sediment to release gas or oil that is trapped inside rocks. Fracking is the term used for when the rock splits apart by the high-pressured mix.

The Positives of fracking:

The Negatives of fracking:

Fracking all over the world

Fracking is widely practiced in the US, Canada, China and Argentina, with the US leading the way in the marketing of shale gas and oil. According to CBS, the US is expected to become a net energy exporter (exporting more energy than it imports) for the first time in 2020, as a result of substantial fracking activity.

Argentina has over 150 shale wells in production as the South American country widely embraces fracking as the largest consumer of natural gas on the continent. Putting environmental effects to one side, fracking has boosted a previously flat economy and led the country out of a state of inflation and economic strain.

South Africa has increased its interest in exploring fracking locations in hopes of providing more jobs for a country plagued with high unemployment levels. The difficulties here will include challenges relating to the building and maintenance of the infrastructure needed to frack.

European countries such as France and Bulgaria have banned fracking, whilst Germany is approaching the topic with caution.

Clearly there are economic, socio-political and environmental consequences to fracking. The key question in the UK is that whilst the economic and employment benefits to fracking are clearly evident, could the investment be better put to use exploring and developing more renewable sources of energy?

We’re sure the debate will surface in the upcoming election campaigns across all parties.

What do you think? We’d welcome your views.