MPs demand inquiry into great energy 'swindle'

Article: Great Energy Swindle | The Independent

Unfortunately the 'big six' supply companies may have some defence in their argument. It is quite likely that most of them do hedge forward their demand estimates as much as three years in advance; if they didn't their risk would really be too high and this would severely knock their share price. Ok, they will not have hedged their full volume in the first part of 2008, when prices were soaring, however, a large portion of their demand would have been covered at higher prices than we are seeing now.

This leads to many questions with two of the more interesting ones being:
- who did benefit from the higher prices locked in by the big six supply companies?
- When will we see some drop in prices on the back of recent lower wholesale markets?

The answer to the first question may depend on who the supply companies acquired their hedge from, which is probably a mix of their own internal trading company or the commodity trading banks, who by the way are all having massive years! A point to realise is that the integrated utilities do not really care about the electricity price but more about the generation margin (i.e. the difference between power and the fuel price - the so called 'spark spread' or 'dark spread'), which will not have seen such big gains because fuel prices were also high. This being said, we might expect the nuclear generators to be the big winners for once as their fuel price is less impacted by emission prices or other highly volatile energy markets.

The second question is harder and really depends on the hedging strategy in each company but certainly the retail prices ought to start looking lower from now. However, we should not expect the benefit to be a big hit though as the impact will be spread over the price we pay during the next three years or so.

Of course, if prices in the wholesale market start firming again then this benefit will be diluted; with commodity price induced inflation not far around the corner, because the supply/demand situation hasn't improved much of late, do not hold your breath!


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