You may have noticed that it’s a little cold outside? And if you’ve been anywhere near a headline lately, you will have seen that the UK’s natural gas market is being stretched to its absolute limits as the coldest spell in eight years tests the country’s energy network. And, by design, it’s businesses who will be left bearing the brunt of these issues.
As the UK ices over, what are the potential problems for SMEs?
1. Energy supply concerns
As temperatures plummet and gas demand reaches a five-year high, experts warn that the UK may not have enough gas to meet public demand. Although household users shouldn’t be at risk of running out of gas, there’s a strong chance that industrial users could experience gas supply interruptions.
Making the situation even worse is that there have been several supply outages related to cold weather, such as reduced gas flows from Norway, problems with a pipeline to the Netherlands, as well as technical issues at UK facilities.
This year’s energy crunch is also the UK’s first significant energy security test since the closure of the Rough site last year, which was the country’s biggest gas storage facility, accounting for 70% of the UK’s gas storage. This means that the UK’s gas storage is at the lowest level since 2006.
2. Soaring energy prices
The UK recently saw a 12-year high in wholesale gas prices from same-day delivery, climbing to £420/MWh. Day-ahead baseload power prices reached a one-and-a-half year high of £98.0/MWh last week Thursday, before falling to £76.5/MWh on Friday.
Although none of the large suppliers have raised their tariffs - yet - high wholesale prices could lead to higher energy bills in coming weeks.
3. Effective facilities Maintenance
According to the British Institute for Facilities Management, close to a quarter of their members say that their organisation does not have a winter maintenance plan. An even of those who do have plans in place, 26% do not review it on an annual basis.
Your facility management plan should also ensure that you meet your duty of care to employees and avoid liabilities. During harsh winter weather, your business needs to demonstrate that it has done everything possible to make sites safe for both staff and customers.
Having a fully-managed, proactive approach to winter facility management and maintenance can help your business prevent accident potential ensuing liability claims. Being prepared for winter conditions also ensures business continuity.
4. Waste management
As Storm Emma’s snowy conditions have also prompted waste safety concerns, waste collection services have been suspended in some area due to difficult conditions. Although crews are making collections where it is safe to do so, a backlog of collections in inevitable. For SMEs generating higher volumes of waste than the average household, storing excess waste could pose health and sanitation risks.
Stay warm, stay connected, save money
●Take any steps you can to reduce your energy consumption during the cold spell.
●Check your energy contract end-date - once your contract term is over, some energy suppliers increase your rates to ‘out of contract’ prices, which are often far higher than what you have been paying already.
●Switch your business energy supplier to take advantage of lower rates within the competitive market.
●Make sure that you have a winter facility maintenance and business continuity plan in place, including a plan for waste management and disposal.