Electricity wholesale market liquidity

About the Programme

Market liquidity supports competition and efficiency. It is a measure of the ability to buy or sell a product - such as electricity - without causing a major change in its price and without incurring significant transaction costs.

An important feature of a liquid market is the presence of a large number of buyers and sellers willing to transact at all times.

Liquidity is one of the measures that we use when monitoring the effectiveness and levels of competition in the GB wholesale market. One way of measuring liquidity is to look at churn - this is the number of times electricity generated in the market is subsequently traded.

Improving liquidity in the electricity market can be beneficial for consumers because:

  • liquidity is needed by any new participant considering entering a market.
  • liquidity may result in greater price transparency which can then provide opportunities for increased competition across the market.
  • improved liquidity can work to provide a level playing field for independent companies so they can compete in the market on the same terms as vertically integrated companies (a vertically integrated company is active in more than one market, for example in both wholesale and retail).

Ofgem's role

How we work to promote liquidity in the electricity market

We have set three liquidity objectives for the market. The electricity wholesale market must:

  1. Ensure the availability of a range of longer-term products - this supports the hedging of risk of exposure to large changes in prices (hedging refers to the ability to buy power over different timescales at set prices).
  2. Support robust reference prices that are widely available to market participants (reference prices  are prices  reflective of a product’s real market value based on underlying economic conditions).
  3. Promote an effective near-term market which enables all companies to buy the power they need for their customers.

To meet these objectives Britain’s major energy suppliers, (known as the Big Six), have committed to trade a proportion of their power station output in the day-ahead market (where power is sold for use the next day).

There have also been some signs that independent suppliers are more able to buy wholesale electricity from Big Six companies in forward markets, although further progress is needed here.

Publications and updates