2018 has been an eventful year for utilities. Utility Week has looked through the archives and listed the top ten stories of the year, starting with the most read.
Towards the end of the year came the shock announcement that an EU court had suspended the UK capacity market by overturning a 2014 decision by the European Commission to authorise the scheme under state aid rules. This story went straight to the top of the list, the rest of which was dominated by energy retail stories.
But it was also an interesting year for the water sector. We have included the top five water stories of 2018 at the end along with the most popular features of the year. Utility Week wishes all our readers a happy new year and we look forward to seeing what 2019 has in store.
In November our report on the suspension of the capacity market was our most-read story of 2018.
The shock announcement that an EU court had suspended the UK capacity market by overturning a 2014 decision by the European Commission to authorise the scheme under state aid rules.
The General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union said in making its decision the commission failed to properly establish the technological neutrality of the mechanism.
As a result, future auctions and payments under existing contracts have both been halted until the scheme receives fresh approval. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it is working closely with the European Commission to resolve the matter.
In March Toto Energy said it would transfer thousands of its customers on prepayment meters to Utilita Energy the following month.
The energy supplier said it had been “pushing hard” to improve all aspects of its business and had made the decision for the “good” of customers.
On 2 February we reported on industry regulator Ofgem introducing the safeguard tariff which is designed to reduce the energy bills of one million vulnerable households, as all those who qualify as vulnerable and are on standard variable tariffs (SVTs) will be moved on to safeguard tariffs.
The safeguard tariff already applied to customers on prepayment meters.
In March news emerged that Eon was set to acquire Innogy from RWE, in a far-reaching asset swap which will see Eon concentrate on retail and networks, while RWE focuses on renewables and other forms of generation.
In May Pure Planet announced it was the first energy company to cut its prices this year.
The small, app-based energy supplier said it had made “several efficiencies in its digital operations” which it was passing on to its members.
On 15 October Usio Energy became one of the eight suppliers to have failed this year.
First Utility was later announced as the supplier of last resort.
Usio joined Iresa, Spark, Extra, Future Energy, Gen4U, One Select and Snowdrop in exiting the market.
In September the launch of an unlimited dual fuel energy trial tariff which offers customers a fixed monthly direct debit regardless of the amount of energy they use caused concern within the industry.
Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit warned the new tariff risked “undoing years worth of progress” in reducing the amount of energy used in homes.
British Gas also made the top ten with a story from earlier in the year. On 6 April Ofgem announced it had granted British Gas a temporary derogation from aspects of its gas and electricity supply licences to allow it to leave customers on a “dead” SVT.
The decision meant for a limited period the supplier could stop customers from moving onto its SVT without ending it for those who had already signed up.
The derogation came into effect from 31 March and will remain in force until 30 June 2019, unless revoked or altered by the regulator.
Ofgem’s regulation of small suppliers came under scrutiny in early February following the news that Iresa demanded a one-off payment of hundreds of pounds or a sudden direct debit increase – and in some cases both – from its customers. The supplier ceased trading on 27 July and its customers were rescued by Octopus Energy.
Kick-starting the year in January was the story about Bristol City Council-owned energy company Bristol Energy reportedly running at an £8.4 million loss – despite there being £17.3 million of taxpayer’s money invested in it by the authority.
In response, managing director Peter Haigh told Utility Week that it was business as usual: “At Bristol Energy, there’ll always be more scrutiny of our plans, and rightly so. We’re a council-owned energy company. But we didn’t plan to make a profit in year two of trading, and we remain on track to start repaying back to the council as planned in 2021.
“We’ve hit all our key milestones this year, and the council remains fully supportive. Many councils are financially strained at the moment, and difficult decisions are being made.”
Top five water stories of 2018
It was also a busy year for the UK’s water sector, with acquisitions, customer complaints and technology proving popular topics.
Top five features of 2018