The Chief Executive of the Energy Networks Association, David Smith, said: “These are unprecedented times but the energy industry is working hard to keep gas and electricity flowing, look after our vulnerable customers and keep customers and staff safe. The UK’s electricity and gas network is one of the most reliable in the world and over 36,000 employees are working flat out to continue to provide a safe and reliable supply of energy during this time.”
Although the national grid has seen a demand pattern shift, it doesn’t anticipate any problems for the reliability of the supply of electricity in the UK during the pandemic. However, peak demand is down by 30% when compared against the pre-COVID-19 lockdown.
Low energy demand and a sunny weekend sent power prices plunging into negative figures on the day-ahead hourly market for the third time as generation hit a new record.
Last weekend (Sunday 5 April), saw electricity prices drop below -£66 per MWh (i.e. the payment to generators to NOT generate) as wind and solar generation came on-line to the grid. This surge in renewable generation worked with low demand, following the closure of factories and workplaces due to the slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last few weeks, this has seen the UK’s demand pattern change, with average demand falling by 13% as of last Wednesday.
There was a combination of very low transmission system demand levels, which fell well below National Grid forecasts, as well as exceptionally high renewables output which peaked at 69% of UK generation on Sunday afternoon, which was a new record.
The above chart indicates the UK Mega Watt demand downturn since the COVID 19 restrictions introduced by the government came in to force.
All the major Distribution Network Operator (DNO)s issued statements confirming that non-essential works would be temporarily suspended, to ensure that they have adequate staff to maintain the networks.
To this end, they will be postponing all existing and new planned connections activity indefinitely and with immediate effect. The only exception will be projects that are directly supporting the effort to combat Covid-19 such as works to create temporary testing or other medical facilities.
All major gas transporters are seeing the same pattern as the electrical grid.
As these companies have KPIs which are monitored and reported to OfGEM, the regulator has agreed to a review of its regulations given the current crisis. CEO of OfGEM Jonathan Brearley said OfGEM “were aware that the regulatory processes placed resource requirements on energy companies that could be a burden considering the current situation.”
Thames Water, like most water companies, made the decision to focus their resources on their core business priority – continuing to supply water and wastewater services, whilst keeping their customers and staff safe.
This means that they have had to put many of the field services works on hold. There are some exceptions – work on new water connections will continue where possible and where the works are deemed essential, and they will also continue to complete health and safety checks for ongoing connections where appropriate.
Services on hold
- Laying new water mains (unless urgent)
- Diversions of water mains or sewers
- Sewer adoptions
- Inspecting water mains
- Inspecting sewer connections
- Proving water meters and setting up billing accounts
- Customer meetings
Project Management – Live Projects
As highlighted above the utility companies and their framework contractors are only carrying out essential works. Some Utility companies have stood down their contracting resource, so it will take some time to remobilise workforces.
In addition, all works that require local highway notices (section 50 licences) that will have expired by the time that normality of working resumes, will need to re-submit. Most of these are on a 30-day notice so it is essential to engage with the utility project manager to ensure that these notices are applied for well in advance. Once the re-mobilisation takes effect, the utility providers will be inundated with calls for projects to become a priority. Some of the utility providers are already planning sequencing of works for when the time comes.
If you have a project that is highly time dependant upon a prompt utility connection it is advisable to engage with your contacts at the utility companies soonest.