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Smart meters may be used to switch off your electricity without warning or compensation 

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smart meters may be used to switch off your electricity without warning or compensation

The Government is considering giving energy networks the power to switch off a household’s energy supply without warning or compensation for those affected. 

A series of backdoor ‘modifications’ to the Smart Energy Code have been proposed by officials and look set to pass into law by next spring. 

These include giving networks the right to decide when they consider the grid to be in a state of ’emergency’ and the power to switch off high usage electrical devices  such as electric vehicle chargers and central heating systems in British homes. 

A series of backdoor 'modifications' to the Smart Energy Code have been proposed by officials and look set to pass into law by the end of the year

A series of backdoor 'modifications' to the Smart Energy Code have been proposed by officials and look set to pass into law by the end of the year

A series of backdoor ‘modifications’ to the Smart Energy Code have been proposed by officials and look set to pass into law by the end of the year

Under the plans all homes would need to have a third generation smart meter installed, to include a function that allows meters in the home to receive and carry out orders made by the energy networks.   

This would dramatically alter the role of smart meters, which are currently capable  only of sending data on energy use to energy networks.  

If passed unchallenged, these ‘modifications’ to the law would mean that electric vehicle owners could plug in at the end of the day and wake up without sufficient charge to travel the next morning. 

Similarly, central heating systems could be turned off in homes across a whole area if too many electric vehicles are plugged in to charge at once, for example. 

Currently, consumers are entitled to compensation if their power supply is cut off, but under these plans, this recompense would likely be scrapped. 

There is also a question mark over whether to force households to install the new smart meters, or make it an opt in or opt out scheme. 

When energy networks are allowed to declare an ’emergency’, triggering their right to switch off private domestic energy devices, is also so far undefined. 

Hartshorn: 'Electricity networks in Great Britain were not designed to accommodate the significant additional demand that certain consumer devices, such as electric vehicle chargers, presents.'

Hartshorn: 'Electricity networks in Great Britain were not designed to accommodate the significant additional demand that certain consumer devices, such as electric vehicle chargers, presents.'

Hartshorn: ‘Electricity networks in Great Britain were not designed to accommodate the significant additional demand that certain consumer devices, such as electric vehicle chargers, presents.’

The modifications, tabled by Richard Hartshorn of Scottish and Southern Electricity earlier this summer, argue that networks must be given these powers if major power cuts are to be avoided as the UK switches from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. 

What’s an emergency? 

Currently, there’s no definition of when networks would be allowed to declare an emergency and therefore gain access to household devices.

However, it’s likely to be in scenarios where energy supply is under significant pressure and cannot meet demand. 

The only available definition of what this looks like reads: ‘Emergency conditions might arise where the condition of an energy system poses an immediate threat of injury or damage, or during a natural disaster or other emergency, or there is an actual or threatened emergency affecting energy supplies.’

That scenario is more common than you might at first think – and will become more so as the UK moves from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. 

Last August, for example, a million customers lost power after two power stations failed.

While the power stations were back up and running within 15 minutes, the energy regulator Ofgem reported that 60 trains were shut down without warning after National Rail services were shut off, Ipswich Hospital suffered ‘critical failures’ and Newcastle Airport went completely dark. 

He says: ‘Electricity networks in Great Britain were not designed to accommodate the significant additional demand that certain consumer devices, such as electric vehicle chargers, presents. 

‘In some circumstances, [energy] distributors will be required to act to find a balance between their obligation to operate cost-effective, safe and reliable electricity networks and the need to support customers who wish to adopt low carbon technologies such as EVs. 

‘The distributors recognise the important role that flexibility services providers and market solutions will play in delivering efficient future networks. 

‘In the event that market mechanisms fail or do not deliver to the extent anticipated the distributors will still need to protect physical assets from overload caused, for example, by the take up of low carbon technologies by domestic customers.’

The paper claims that ‘distributor smart intervention’ would be a ‘last resort, emergency measure, to protect customers’ security of supply and the network assets’. 

But critics have slammed the proposals. 

Clementine Cowton, director of external affairs at Octopus Energy Group, said: ‘Network companies are monopolies where every pound they make gets added to energy bills, and in return their only job is to deliver the power we need, when we need it. 

‘Some are now trying to twist the rules so they don’t even have to do this – they want to reach into our homes and turn stuff off when it suits them. 

‘Great British businesses have already created ultra cheap digital technology to avoid the need for this. Instead of using clockwork solutions in a digital world, companies like these should move into the 21st century or let someone else do the job for them.’ 

Any member who signs up to the Smart Energy Code is entitled to make recommendations to introduce ‘value added services’ like these to Ofgem, which then consults with the industry and consumer groups such as Citizens Advice before approving changes. 

BEIS secretary Alok Sharma, who oversees energy policy and the smart meter rollout

BEIS secretary Alok Sharma, who oversees energy policy and the smart meter rollout

BEIS secretary Alok Sharma, who oversees energy policy and the smart meter rollout

Ofgem has previously stated that appointing a flexibility provider – an energy provider that can flex energy supply up and down using existing smart meters and without these extra powers – should always be the first choice to solving these types of challenges. 

However, while the plans are not yet confirmed, a source close to the discussions told This is Money that Ofgem was minded to support the changes, and that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy would be ‘open to’ proposing legislation that forced customers to install smart meters that allow networks to control domestic energy supply.  

A statement from Ofgem said: ‘The process to consider this proposal is ongoing, and a decision is not expected before spring 2021. 

‘We will take the final decision on whether this proposal is approved, taking into account our statutory duties to protect current and future consumers. 

‘We would expect the proposer to provide further clarity on the governance arrangements that would apply, including the definition of an emergency situation and how consumer interests would be protected, before this modification is submitted to us for decision.’   

This is Money contacted BEIS for comment but had not received a statement at the time of publishing.  

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MARKET REPORT: AA slams into reverse as takeover talks breakdown

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market report aa slams into reverse as takeover talks breakdown

The AA skidded into the red after two potential suitors pulled out of the race to buy the breakdown group.

The debt-laden company revealed in August it had been approached by three potential bidders to take it private – much to the market’s delight.

Private equity groups Platinum Equity, Warburg Pincus, and Towerbrook Capital Partners working with the European arm of Centerbridge Partners were all circling the company, it said.

Non-runner: Private equity groups Platinum Equity and Centerbridge Partners have pulled out of the race to buy debt-laden breakdown company the AA

Non-runner: Private equity groups Platinum Equity and Centerbridge Partners have pulled out of the race to buy debt-laden breakdown company the AA

Non-runner: Private equity groups Platinum Equity and Centerbridge Partners have pulled out of the race to buy debt-laden breakdown company the AA 

But the talks stalled and a deadline at the start of this month was extended to September 29.

With just days to go, Platinum Equity and Centerbridge have withdrawn. Platinum said it was by ‘mutual agreement’, though it has reserved its right to return to the negotiating table under certain conditions.

Centerbridge said that Towerbridge, previously its partner in a joint bid, was still mulling a separate approach.

The AA had been on sounder footing at the start of this year, stemming a long-running customer exodus to cheaper rivals.

It is banking on customers wanting to pay more for a tech-savvy service that can diagnose problems, predict breakdowns and tell patrols where a car is when trouble strikes.

Stock Watch – Loop Up

33543774 8765217 image a 10 1600893521388

33543774 8765217 image a 10 1600893521388

The rapid shift to home working sent revenues at conference call service provider Loop Up 43 per cent higher to £32million in the first half.

Its services were used for 617million minutes – up 58 per cent on the same period last year – and held 3,596 virtual events. 

Customers, who include Travelex and Planet Hollywood, can also now make calls via Microsoft Teams.

Shares in the group, which swung to a £7.5million profit from a £478,000 loss, rose 8.2 per cent, or 18p, to 238p.  

This wouldn’t be its first brush with private equity, with it being privately controlled by CVC Capital Partners and Permira before it refloated on the stock market back in 2014.

But whether it is about to be brought back into the private equity stable remains to be seen. Shares fell 17.1 per cent, or 5.8p, to 28.2p. Both of the London Stock Exchange’s major indexes rose by more than 1 per cent.

The FTSE 100 rose 1.2 per cent, or 69.80 points, to 5899.26, while the FTSE 250 climbed 1.02 per cent, or 171.33 points, to 16,992.99.

The mid-cap index saw some of the day’s biggest rallies.

Upper Crust-owner SSP Group surged 12.3 per cent, or 22.3p, to 203p as investors took solace in a set of figures that were not as bad as they had expected.

Current weekly sales are 76 per cent below last year, an improvement from drops of 95 per cent in April and May. 

And its business in continental Europe has been performing better – sales are down 66 per cent there. The fact it has outlets in 30 countries will help it recover.

But SSP was outdone by Diploma, which yesterday advanced by an astonishing 26.9 per cent, or 461p, to 2172p after it raised £194million to help it take over a US wire and cable distributor.

Diploma is paying £357million for Windy City Wire Cable & Technology Products, which it hopes will help it to gain a bigger foothold in the US. 

Embattled cinema chain Cineworld was also close to the top of the mid-cap leaderboard, up 9.9 per cent, or 4.37p, to 48.52p ahead of half-year results out today.

Over on AIM, recruiter Staffline (up 8.2 per cent, or 2.03p, to 26.7p) appointed non-executive director Albert Ellis to be chief executive from October 1.

This will free executive chairman Ian Lawson, who will move to a non-executive chairman role on December 31.

It said there was an ‘unprecedented surge’ in demand for staff in supermarkets and elsewhere in the supply chain during lockdown. But its loss has widened from £12.3million in the first six months of 2019 to £47.7million.

And the children’s live events and entertainment group Live Company advanced 6.3 per cent, or 0.5p, to 8.5p, after it signed a deal with the White Rose shopping centre in Leeds to showcase a themed trail of Paddington bear models, which are made out of Lego bricks, over Christmas.

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JP Morgan to move £183bn from UK to Frankfurt in No Deal Brexit blow

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jp morgan to move 183bn from uk to frankfurt in no deal brexit blow
Pessimistic: JP Morgan Boss Jamie Dimon

Pessimistic: JP Morgan Boss Jamie Dimon

Pessimistic: JP Morgan Boss Jamie Dimon

Banking giant JP Morgan is shifting £183billion out of the UK to Frankfurt as it braces for a No Deal Brexit.

In a vote of no confidence over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ability to agree a financial services trade deal with the EU, it is transferring assets to bulk up operations on the continent.

This will allow the US bank to keep trading with European clients if the UK does not agree ‘passporting rights’ with the EU by the end of the year. JP Morgan, America’s biggest bank, has also told around 200 staff in London that they may have to move to another European financial hub.

The bank declined to comment, although it is understood that the UK will remain its biggest location in Europe for the foreseeable future.

Currently, the EU financial services passport allows UK banks and firms to do business with their European counterparts. 

But as the end of the UK’s Brexit transition period draws ever closer, financial services firms are increasingly worried that Johnson will not thrash out a deal with the EU to retain passporting rights.

Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan’s long-standing chief executive, has been consistently pessimistic about the UK’s prospects post-Brexit.

Last year he said that a No Deal Brexit would be ‘a disaster for Great Britain’. Speaking at the Economic Club of New York, he added: ‘The Brits were dealt a bad hand and they played it badly.’

But Tory MP Andrew Bridgen raised an eyebrow at JP Morgan’s decision to boost its presence in Germany.

He said: ‘If they think Frankfurt is a better place for their business than London, the centre of the financial markets, that’s their corporate decision.We can’t allow merchant banks to subvert a democratic decision to leave the EU.’

JP Morgan helped to fund the Remain campaign, Britain Stronger in Europe, hinting in 2016 that it could quit the UK if Brexit happened.

And when Dimon shared a stage in Bournemouth in 2016 with the then-Chancellor George Osborne, he said leaving the EU would be a ‘terrible deal for the UK economy’.

In the run-up to the 2016 referendum, Dimon said the bank would need to cut around 4,000 jobs in the UK if the public voted to leave the EU.

He later revised this down to between 500 and 1,000.

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Hornby sales take off during lockdown as families turn to hobbies

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hornby sales take off during lockdown as families turn to hobbies

Hornby enjoyed a lockdown boost, as housebound families turned to hobbies to entertain themselves.

The firm, famous for its model trains, said sales between April and August had been higher than the previous year and exceeded its expectations.

As the company held its annual shareholder meeting yesterday, Hornby, which also owns brands including Airfix and Scalextric, confirmed its operations are ‘nearly back to normal’ following lockdown.

The few: Demand for models during lockdown was so high that Hornby ran out of Airfix Spitfires (pictured) ¿ though they are now back in stock

The few: Demand for models during lockdown was so high that Hornby ran out of Airfix Spitfires (pictured) ¿ though they are now back in stock

The few: Demand for models during lockdown was so high that Hornby ran out of Airfix Spitfires (pictured) – though they are now back in stock

Chief executive Lyndon Davies said: ‘We’ve seen sales increase across all brands and in all markets. In lockdown we could see more things like Airfix selling. Everyone stuck at home was twiddling their thumbs.’

Hornby even ran out of Airfix Spitfires – though they are now back in stock. 

Davies said adults had sought comfort in toys of their childhood. He said: ‘Parents and grandparents know names like Airfix and Hornby, so that’s what they’ve turned to.’ 

His eldest daughter is a nurse, inspiring him to sell ‘Captain Tom’ locomotives and give the proceeds to the NHS. It raised £140,000.

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