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EON confident in assets swap with RWE as Q1 profit drops

German energy giant EON expressed confidence in its planned massive assets swap with RWE’s renewable energy subsidiary, despite weaker first quarter results released Monday.

Essen-based group EON, which suffered terrible losses from 2014 until 2016 due to restructuring and Germany’s abandoning of nuclear power, has since got back in the black, but its figures were down for the first quarter of 2019.

Between January and March, its adjusted net profit — which strips out discontinued operations in the renewables segment, as well as other non-operating effects — declined 11 percent year-on-year to 650 million euros ($730 million).

Its adjusted operating profit also fell eight percent to 1.17 billion euros.

The figures roughly tally with the expectations of analysts from financial services provider Factset, which expected adjusted net income of 626 million euros and adjusted operating income of 1.15 billion euros.

“Aside from the special case of the United Kingdom,” where capped prices and keen competition saw a sharp decline in the group’s profits, “our core businesses delivered a solid performance,” said chief financial officer Marc Spieker.

The German energy giant has confirmed its target for adjusted operating income for 2019 is between 2.9 and 3.1 billion euros.

The adjusted net income is expected to be in the range of 1.4 to 1.6 billion euros.

Last year EON announced plans to take over German rival RWE’s renewables unit Innogy as part of a complex asset swap deal set to shake up the energy sector.

“The planned transaction with RWE is right on schedule,” EON said of the deal that is expected to impact the two energy giants’ financials.

EON added that as expected, the European Commission in March opened an in-depth probe into the deal but that the company was “confident that it will obtain the necessary approvals in the second half of 2019”.

The redistribution of assets allows the two former rivals to specialise in energy distribution and production respectively.

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Yü Energy shares soar after FCA drops investigation

Yü Group’s share price climbed 66 per cent in early trading on news that the Financial Conduct Authority has discontinued its investigation into the company and does not intend to take action.

The business energy and water supplier revealed a hole in accounts last October related to revenue it had booked but that was not actually recoverable from clients. As a result, Yü said would post a loss for full year 2018 and a much reduced profit for 2019. Its share price collapsed by 80 per cent.

Yü then hired PwC and DLA Piper to conduct a “forensic review” of its books, and CEO Bobby Kalar said the company would be “more selective and prudent” about customer acquisition.

Bad debt is a longstanding issue in the business energy market, particularly at SME level. Drax-owned B2B energy suppliers Opus Energy and Haven Power reported a 72 per cent increase in bad debt charges to £31m for the year ended 31 December.

 

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Siemens spins off struggling gas and power in smart digital shift

MUNICH (Reuters) – Siemens is spinning off its gas and power business, which has dragged on the German engineering firm’s performance as the rise of renewable power hits demand for gas turbines.

The new firm would be a “major player” in energy with revenues of 27 billion euros ($30 billion) and more than 80,000 employees, Siemens said on Tuesday, adding that it would now focus on its Digital Industries and Smart Infrastructure businesses.

Siemens said the Gas and Power division, which includes its oil and gas, conventional power generation, power transmission and related services businesses, will be set up as a standalone company with the aim of a public listing by September 2020.

Last week Reuters, citing sources familiar with the matter, reported that Siemens was considering carving out the unit, whose 2018 profit fell by 75 percent to 377 million euros ($421 million) as revenue dropped 19 percent.

“The new company won’t have to compete for resources with higher margin business like smart infrastructure and digital industries,” Siemens Chief Executive Joe Kaeser told reporters.

Siemens also plans to include its 59 percent stake in wind energy company Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy in Gas and Power.

The decision to separate the business, which will be led by Gas and Power head Lisa Davis, was approved by Siemens supervisory board, which met on Tuesday ahead of its second quarter figures on Wednesday.

The Munich-based company said it would remain an anchor shareholder in Gas and Power with between 25 and 50 percent.

“It’s the right thing to do; it’s necessary and courageous to trigger the planned changes when the company is doing well,” Siemens chairman Jim Hagemann Snabe said.

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Unions also supported the decision, saying the business was better off outside Siemens.

“If the unit were to stay part of Siemens, investments would be further reduced. Thus the business would literally be starved to death,” Siemens works council head Birgit Steinborn, who is also deputy chairwoman of the company, said in a statement.

“With the planned initial public offering in Germany, co-determination will be maintained and Siemens remains committed to keeping jobs in Germany and Europe. In a joint venture, for example with a Japanese competitor, we would have seen that at great risk,” she added.

Siemens is targeting cost cuts of 2.2 billion by 2023 by cutting 10,400 jobs – mainly administration and support roles – at its remaining core units, including 3,000 at Smart Infrastructure and 4,900 at Digital Industries. The company will shed at least 10,400 jobs in the overhaul.

At the same time, Siemens plans to create 20,500 jobs by 2023, resulting in a net increase.

For its Smart Infrastructure unit – which makes fire safety and security products, grid control or energy storage systems for buildings – Siemens is now targeting a profit margin of 13-15 percent by 2023.

 

Digital Industries – which among other products offers industrial software and automation solutions for companies – is targeting a margin of 17-23 percent.

Kaeser stressed that Siemens has many options and plenty of time available for its rail unit Siemens Mobility.

Siemens tried to combine Mobility with listed peer Alstom, but scrapped the deal earlier this year as antitrust concerns mounted. Analysts expect that Siemens will eventually opt for a stock market listing for the unit.

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Government sidesteps Committee’s call for Scottish oil and gas sector deal

09 May 2019

The Government’s response to the Scottish Affairs Committee’s report on the future of the oil and gas does not directly address the Committee’s call for a sector deal, and instead states that the Government’s relationship with the sector is already “well-established.”

The Committee today publishes the Government’s response to its report on the future of the oil and gas industry. The Government sidesteps addressing the Committee’s headline recommendation of an ambitious sector deal to ensure Scotland’s energy industry can navigate the challenges of its future and continue to prosper.

Chair’s comments

Chair of the Committee, Pete Wishart MP said:

“Though there are some positive noises from the government, such as their enhanced funding for carbon capture and storage technologies and the recently announced centre of underwater engineering, we are disappointed by its reluctance to give a clear answer about whether it will implement an over-arching sector deal that would truly transform the oil and gas industry in Scotland. A sector deal would provide the coordinated approach needed to support transition to a new clean energy industry. The last thing the industry needs now is continuing uncertainty, so I have written to the Minister to press for more clarification on the Government’s stance on a sector deal.”

Sector deal

The Committee recommended an oil and gas sector deal that has the detail and ambition needed to support the industry’s challenging future and reflect the Government’s climate change targets by setting out a coordinated way for the sector to transition to green energy production. However, the Government response merely “acknowledges” the Committee’s support for a sector deal and argues that the Government already has a “well-established relationship” with the sector.

The Government suggests that a phased approach to funding and supporting the sector may be preferable to a formal deal. The Chair of the Committee has written to the Energy Minister, Claire Perry MP, to press the Government for more detail on its approach to supporting the industry, including its stance on a formal sector deal and to ask how it will ensure its phased approach does not lead to areas of less immediate economic benefit to the sector, such as work on energy transition and carbon capture, being neglected in favour of the areas of the deal that promise a more immediate economic return.

Climate change and new technologies

The Committee’s report outlined that one of the biggest challenges facing the industry is climate change and called on Government and industry to take a visibly more proactive approach to limiting the sector’s carbon footprint. The Government’s has responded positively to the Committee’s recommendations for increased support for carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) technologies.

In particular, the Government highlights its enhanced funding for CCUS innovations through the BEIS
call for funding applications for feasibility studies, industrial research and experimental development.

The government recently announced its support for a new underwater engineering centre at Aberdeen, which would bring together industry and academia from across the UK to develop new technologies which would enable the sector to move towards a low carbon economy. The Committee called for this in its report, however suggested it should be part of a more structured sector plan.

Decommissioning and skills transfer

The Committee’s report recommended that decommissioning – the process by which oil and gas infrastructure is shut down, or reconfigured, after oil and gas production ceases – should be made a central part of a sector deal. While the Government response acknowledges that decommissioning expertise presents a global economic opportunity for Scotland’s industry, little tangible progress has been made. The Government response points to the launch of a call for evidence on decommissioning in spring 2019, however this announcement had already been made in the 2018 Budget, marking a significant delay in opening the consultation.

Additionally, the Government does not make it clear whether it supports the Committee’s recommendation to set measurable targets for skills transfer as oil production ceases and industry professionals seek new work in clean energy technologies. The Chair of the Committee asks the Minister to provide more information on what the Government is doing to support decommissioning and skills transfer as the sector prepares for its future.

Commenting on the response, Pete Wishart MP said:

“Though the oil and gas industry will have a challenging future, these new circumstances could bring
significant opportunities and help the Government meet the UK’s climate change targets.  If the economic potential of decommissioning and cleaner energies is to be harnessed, the Government must act now by providing strategic vision, and support for the industry.”

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Two thirds of consumers think connected devices are “creepy”

Consumers are distrustful of how devices collect data about people and their behaviours and more than half don’t trust them to protect privacy.

Two thirds of consumers (65 per cent) are concerned with the way connected devices such as smart meters and personal digital assistants collect data, a new study finds.

 

A similar proportion think connected devices are creepy in the way they collect data about people and their behaviours and more than half (55 per cent) do not trust their connected devices to protect their privacy. More than half (53 per cent) also do not trust connected devices to handle their information responsibly.

 

Basic security concerns

 

The survey by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Internet Society and Consumers International was conducted in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, France and the UK.

 

The study noted that testing by multiple consumers organisations has found a range of products are rushed to market with little consideration for basic security and privacy protections.

 

The survey results show that more than three quarters of consumers (77 per cent) across markets said information about privacy and security are important considerations in their buying decisions and more than a quarter of people (28 per cent) who don’t own a connected device don’t buy smart products because of these concerns.

 

Consumers see this broadly as much of a barrier as cost.

 

“The survey results underscore the need for IoT manufacturers to build their devices with security and privacy in mind,” said Andrew Sullivan, president and CEO, Internet Society.

 

“Security should not be an afterthought. It’s clear that manufacturers and retailers need to do more so that consumers can trust their IoT devices.”

 

Those surveyed also believe that accountability for connected device concerns should sit with regulators, manufacturers and retailers.

 

Nine in 10 of survey respondents (88 per cent) said that regulators should ensure Internet of Things (IoT) privacy and security standards, while four-fifths of people (81 per cent) said manufacturers need to provide that assurance, and similar proportion said retailers must address privacy and security.

“Security should not be an afterthought. It’s clear that manufacturers and retailers need to do more so that consumers can trust their IoT devices”

“Consumers have told us they accept that they have some responsibility for the security and privacy of their IoT products but that isn’t the end of the story. They, and we, want to see tangible action from manufacturers, retailers, and governments on this issue.” Added Helena Leurent, director general, Consumers International.

 

She continued: “It has to be a collective effort, not the responsibility of one group. We are exploring this conversation with progressive manufacturers. Together we are looking at the opportunity to create person-centered technology, that people not only enjoy using, but feel safe and secure doing so. By doing this business can address the concerns of those not engaging with this tech, and open up the benefits of the Internet of Things to everyone.”

 

Founded by Internet pioneers, the Internet Society is a non-profit organisation dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet.

 

Working through a global community of chapters and members, the Internet Society collaborates with a broad range of groups to promote the technologies that keep the Internet safe and secure and advocates for policies that enable universal access.

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Government sidesteps Committee’s call for Scottish oil and gas sector dea

The Government’s response to the Scottish Affairs Committee’s report on the future of the oil and gas does not directly address the Committee’s call for a sector deal, and instead states that the Government’s relationship with the sector is already “well-established.”

The Committee today publishes the Government’s response to its report on the future of the oil and gas industry. The Government sidesteps addressing the Committee’s headline recommendation of an ambitious sector deal to ensure Scotland’s energy industry can navigate the challenges of its future and continue to prosper.

Chair’s comments

Chair of the Committee, Pete Wishart MP said:

“Though there are some positive noises from the government, such as their enhanced funding for carbon capture and storage technologies and the recently announced centre of underwater engineering, we are disappointed by its reluctance to give a clear answer about whether it will implement an over-arching sector deal that would truly transform the oil and gas industry in Scotland. A sector deal would provide the coordinated approach needed to support transition to a new clean energy industry. The last thing the industry needs now is continuing uncertainty, so I have written to the Minister to press for more clarification on the Government’s stance on a sector deal.”

Sector deal

The Committee recommended an oil and gas sector deal that has the detail and ambition needed to support the industry’s challenging future and reflect the Government’s climate change targets by setting out a coordinated way for the sector to transition to green energy production. However, the Government response merely “acknowledges” the Committee’s support for a sector deal and argues that the Government already has a “well-established relationship” with the sector.

The Government suggests that a phased approach to funding and supporting the sector may be preferable to a formal deal. The Chair of the Committee has written to the Energy Minister, Claire Perry MP, to press the Government for more detail on its approach to supporting the industry, including its stance on a formal sector deal and to ask how it will ensure its phased approach does not lead to areas of less immediate economic benefit to the sector, such as work on energy transition and carbon capture, being neglected in favour of the areas of the deal that promise a more immediate economic return.

Climate change and new technologies

The Committee’s report outlined that one of the biggest challenges facing the industry is climate change and called on Government and industry to take a visibly more proactive approach to limiting the sector’s carbon footprint. The Government’s has responded positively to the Committee’s recommendations for increased support for carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) technologies.

In particular, the Government highlights its enhanced funding for CCUS innovations through the BEIS
call for funding applications for feasibility studies, industrial research and experimental development.

The government recently announced its support for a new underwater engineering centre at Aberdeen, which would bring together industry and academia from across the UK to develop new technologies which would enable the sector to move towards a low carbon economy. The Committee called for this in its report, however suggested it should be part of a more structured sector plan.

Decommissioning and skills transfer

The Committee’s report recommended that decommissioning – the process by which oil and gas infrastructure is shut down, or reconfigured, after oil and gas production ceases – should be made a central part of a sector deal. While the Government response acknowledges that decommissioning expertise presents a global economic opportunity for Scotland’s industry, little tangible progress has been made. The Government response points to the launch of a call for evidence on decommissioning in spring 2019, however this announcement had already been made in the 2018 Budget, marking a significant delay in opening the consultation.

Additionally, the Government does not make it clear whether it supports the Committee’s recommendation to set measurable targets for skills transfer as oil production ceases and industry professionals seek new work in clean energy technologies. The Chair of the Committee asks the Minister to provide more information on what the Government is doing to support decommissioning and skills transfer as the sector prepares for its future.

Commenting on the response, Pete Wishart MP said:

“Though the oil and gas industry will have a challenging future, these new circumstances could bring
significant opportunities and help the Government meet the UK’s climate change targets.  If the economic potential of decommissioning and cleaner energies is to be harnessed, the Government must act now by providing strategic vision, and support for the industry.”

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Will Corbyn nationalisation kill the National Grid and SSE share prices?

Utilities companies like National Grid (LSE: NG) and SSE (LSE: SSE) have long been seen as reliable income providers, with great visibility of earnings and the ability to translate a high proportion of them to dividends.

National Grid, for example, is expected to provide a dividend yield of 5.6% this year, rising to 5.9% by 2021. SSE’s forecast yield is already even higher at 8.2%. But that would be nowhere near covered by an expected big dip in earnings, and is forecast to drop to 6.7% next year — but still pretty big, if relatively weakly covered.

Debts

SSE is already suffering with rising debts, and that’s added a bit of a drag to the share price. But both of these companies have suffered sharp share price falls in the past month — National Grid shares are down 6.1% with SSE down 7.4%, over a period in which the FTSE 100 gained 3%.

The recent dip was triggered when the BBC published an online article under the headline: “Labour to outline National Grid ownership plans,” reporting on Jeremy Corbyn’s apparent upcoming speech outlining his detailed nationalisation plans. It seems he changed his mind and decided to put off the subject until a later date, and the BBC pulled the article. But the damage was done.

Corbyn hasn’t spoken directly about SSE itself, but he has made clear his intention of nationalising the utilities business.

Popular

Whether Labour will win the next election is completely up in the air — but Corbyn’s chances might be high, with surveys suggesting around three quarters of the UK population are in favour of his nationalisation aims.

But it would be an enormous task. National Grid and SSE are the two biggest, with market capitalisation figures of £28.4bn and £11.8bn, respectively. Adding just the other FTSE 100 utilities firms to the list gets us a total of £56.9bn.

Then there are all the new upstart energy suppliers whose businesses will have to be bought out, and there are going to be plenty of other hefty costs too — so it’s going to be an expensive business.

Payment

Corbyn has mooted the idea of compensating shareholders with government bonds. Now, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want any of those — though I suppose they can be sold easily enough.

One big uncertainty is what prices the companies might be bought out at. But it’s hard to imagine a possibility these days of the government being able to snap them up on the cheap at below market value. But those market values are already being damaged by Labour’s pronouncements.

A buyout of National Grid would be complicated by the fact that half the company’s business in in the USA, though that hurdle is not there with SSE.

Don’t panic

The two things that make me feel shareholders don’t have a huge amount to worry about is that there will surely be big legal challenges to anything institutional investors might feel is unfair, and that I expect it will all take a very, very long time.

In my view, either nationalisation won’t actually happen, or if it does, it will be at a fair price.

Financial Independence, Retire Early

If you’ve ever dreamt of retiring early, or if you’re already retired and protecting your financial independence is your aim, then this could be the report for you!

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Ofgem announces strategic review of microbusiness energy market

3rd May 2019
Information types

Policy areas

  • Ofgem is concerned some microbusinesses are struggling to engage with the market and paying more for their energy than they should.
  • Our evaluation of the impact of the CMA’s price transparency remedy suggests that wider issues remain in the £3.5 billion microbusiness energy market.
  • Ofgem presents its initial analysis on consumer harm and seeks further views and evidence on the challenges microbusinesses face.

Ofgem has announced its strategic review of the microbusiness energy market to better understand and address the issues faced by microbusinesses.

Our initial analysis shows that market information is often inaccessible, resulting in customers paying high prices and struggling to make informed decisions.

Microbusinesses play a central role in the UK economy. According to government data, there were over five million microbusinesses in the UK in 2018, accounting for a third of employment and 21% of turnover. Last year microbusinesses paid £3.5 billion in total in electricity and gas bills.

Ofgem has concerns that the energy market isn’t working as well as it should for these customers.

The complexity of the market with the wide variety of contracts and lack of accessible helpful information about prices means many microbusinesses find it hard and costly to engage in the market to find a better deal.

Ofgem has found that microbusinesses who do not engage in the market still pay a higher “loyalty penalty” than disengaged domestic consumers.

Following its investigation into the energy market, the Competition and Markets Authority ordered suppliers in 2016 to provide clear prices to microbusiness customers through a quotation tool on their websites or through price comparison websites to help them engage in the market.

Ofgem implemented the remedy in 2017 and today has published an evaluation of its effectiveness. The regulator has found while the remedy has improved the level of price information that is available to microbusinesses, it has had a limited impact on microbusiness engagement levels and has failed to address some of the fundamental problems in the market.

We will gather further evidence through the call for inputs and other evidence gathering activities before publishing our action plan in winter 2019.

Ofgem has already introduced a number of reforms to help microbusinesses get a better deal. This includes stopping suppliers from automatically rolling over microbusiness customers onto expensive deals, banning suppliers from backbilling microbusiness customers for energy used more than 12 months previously and introducing an overarching principle to treat microbusiness consumers fairly.

The review and any subsequent actions will complement other reforms being taken forward by Ofgem and government focused on micro and small businesses including smart meters, and the half hourly settlement and switching programmes.

Anthony Pygram, director of conduct and enforcement at Ofgem, said: “Microbusinesses are the backbone of the country’s economy. Yet too many are still finding it hard to navigate what is a complex and at times opaque market to get a better energy deal and are suffering significant consumer detriment as a result.

“Our review announced today, combined with our continued work with the government and industry, aims to deliver a properly functioning competitive retail energy market which works for all microbusinesses.”

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Customers entitled to automatic compensation for switching problems from 1 May

30th April 2019

Information types

Policy areas

  • From 1 May consumers will receive at least £30 compensation for “erroneous switches” and delayed refund of credit balances.
  • New requirements from Ofgem will boost consumer protection and confidence in the switching process.
  • Compensation for delayed switches and late final bills will be introduced later this year.

Customers will automatically receive compensation from 1 May if they are not returned to the correct supplier when they are mistakenly switched or if suppliers are late in refunding the credit balances of customers who have switched away.

The new requirements will give customers peace of mind that they will be compensated if something goes wrong.

They should also serve as a wakeup call for suppliers to reduce the number of problems and boost confidence in switching.

Ofgem will separately introduce new requirements for suppliers to pay automatic compensation for delayed switches and providing late final bills later this year.

For switches initiated from 1 May, customers will automatically receive compensation for so-called “erroneous switches”, where they are mistakenly switched to another supplier.

Under the new rules, customers will be entitled to compensation up to a maximum of £120 if their supply is not restored to the correct supplier in a timely fashion. Both the gaining and losing and suppliers are subject to these new guaranteed standards.

Customers will also be entitled to a £30 payment if their previous supplier is late in refunding them their credit balance after they have switched.

Under Ofgem’s rules, suppliers must refund these credit balances within 10 working days of a final bill being issued.

Suppliers are required to pay compensation automatically to the affected customer within 10 days of the breach occurring. If they fail to make the initial payment, they will be required to make a further payment of £30.

Suppliers will have to report data on payments to Ofgem which will monitor their compliance to ensure that suppliers are implementing new regulations correctly.

While the vast majority of switches go smoothly, more problems are occurring as more people switch to get a better deal.

Rob Salter-Church, director, retail systems transformation at Ofgem, said: “When a switch goes wrong, it can cause inconvenience, and in some cases, real worry and stress for those affected.

Automatic compensation payments from 1 May, and additional payments this year, should serve as an incentive for suppliers to raise their game and get switches right first time.

These new requirements, together with the introduction of the price cap, and tightening the rules on new suppliers entering the market, demonstrate our commitment to protecting consumers and ensuring they get a better deal.”

Further information

For media, contact:

Claire Duffy: 0141 331 6390

Media out of hours mobile: 07766 511470 (media calls only).

Notes

1. Ofgem had proposed introducing automatic compensation for relevant switching problems at the same time. However, following a consultation, Ofgem decided to introduce payments in stages and is reviewing the best way of structuring compensation payments for delayed switches and late final bills. This follows feedback that the original proposals did not set appropriate incentives because suppliers not at fault for these problems could still be liable for compensation.

2. The new Guaranteed Standards introduced from 1 May will apply in the following situations:

  • When a customer reports a potential erroneous switch, the customer will receive a standard payment of £30 from each supplier if they are unable to agree within 20 working days whether an erroneous switch has occurred;
  • The customer will receive £30 from the contacted supplier if they fail to return the 20 Working Day Letter as required by the Erroneous Transfer Customer Charter within 20 working days;
  • An erroneously switched customer will receive £30 from their old supplier if they fail to re-register the customer within 21 working days; and
  • Where a switch has been completed, customers will receive a payment of £30 if suppliers fail to return a credit balance within 10 working days of issue of a final bill.
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Brexit … and your business energy costs

Brexit heralds a new dawn of uncertainty – so what does this mean for your business energy bill?

With potential restrictions on staff, commodities and exports across borders, there’s also the inevitable impact on your business energy tariffs.

Unpredictable energy prices

Whether you were Leave or Remain, there were clear advantages brought by open borders, frictionless trade, unrestricted worker movement, common tariffs and access to Europe-wide energy sources. This helped predict a steady flow of supply and demand. But this may all change soon.

Security of supply

Security of supply and access to energy could become hugely problematic for the UK according to the government’s website when they comment ‘it may be necessary to seek additional powers to preserve security of supply’.

Pipelines bring a large supply of gas into the UK from Europe and free flow of energy across ‘interconnectors’ is vital to keep competition up, and prices down. There is little evidence of a strategy that will address this issue once we leave. Although green and clean energy supply across the UK slowly increases, there is no way it will fill such a big void.

The negotiation period is being extended and we know businesses will be unsure what the future holds. Like yourselves we will watch with interest as the story unfolds. To read more blogs visit our website here.

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