The Challenges of Forecasting
On a lighter note… a First Year joke told to us by our First Year Econometrics tutor;
“Economic forecasting is always difficult ….particularly when it involves the future”
In energy trading I learnt another, even if the Bank of England is the rightful owner of this one…
“If you can’t forecast accurately, forecast often”…
With that in mind, I shan’t share or explain the direction I see the market moving next. Suffice to say that it’s a sporting bet that prices are unlikely to fall very significantly nor anywhere near last year’s levels in the weeks left between now and mid September.
What's the Outlook for Commercial Buyers?
Many commercial buyers of gas and electricity may now prefer to buy volumes on contracts which track market prices, rather than sign up for annual renewals fixed at today’s forward prices. Unfortunately (and as a sales agent for certain Big Six and independent suppliers myself I can vouch for this) no UK-based energy supplier will offer renewing I&C customers a ‘buy-on-index’ contract that simply tracks market prices over the contract term.
Smaller-sized commercial users needing to re-contract soon, not wishing to lock into current forward prices are therefore left with a more sophisticated and potentially more expensive contract: the so-called Flexible or ‘Flexi’ contract. A Flexi contact can however still be operated as if it were a ‘buy-on-index’ contract, without the user having to make actual trading decisions during the contract term or utilising the swap trading facility wrapped within it.
The Flexi option may initially look the more expensive way to go. However, if (and only if) buyers take the view that gas and power prices will not rise significantly further and be more likely to fall back, then a ‘DIY buy-on-index’ strategy using a Flexi contract, is one possibly to consider.
In the simplest example perhaps the buyer might simply sell-out a twelfth of its cyclically-adjusted volume each month. The contract will still bestow the buyer’s option to trade, perhaps midway through the contract, although exposure to the market will be rise sharply in such an event.
Today the path for commercial buyers looks difficult to navigate to say the least. With most government attention or support now focused on the domestic consumer at one end of the spectrum and on large employer, electro-intensive consumers on the other, there seems no obvious help from outside on its way. That said, there are still alternative strategies and contract options that exist. Energy conservation, bill checking & re-validation and demand-side-response remain important ‘easy win’ options which shouldn’t be forgotten either. So, I&C users who traditionally renew at prevailing fixed price shouldn’t feel obliged to accept current market prices if they don’t wish to and can avail themselves to the other options out there.
Monday 4 pm, 25th July, 2022
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