Wholesale Market Instability in the Energy Sector

Article posted

8th Sep 2023

Read time

4-7 min read


Mollie Pinnington

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The past 18 months have seen the global energy landscape undergo unprecedented changes. From the rise of renewable energy to the ongoing energy transition, the industry has faced a myriad of challenges. However, one of the most significant and pressing issues has been the wholesale market instability that has rocked the energy sector, causing a surge in risks for industry players.

The Whirlwind of Wholesale Market Instability

Wholesale energy markets are the lifeblood of the energy sector. They determine the prices at which electricity and natural gas are bought and sold among producers, suppliers, and traders. Over the past 18 months, several factors have converged to create a perfect storm of instability in these markets.


Pandemic Fallout

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted supply chains, decreased energy demand, and led to erratic consumption patterns. Lockdowns and restrictions left businesses shuttered, factories idle, and offices vacant, leading to unpredictability in energy usage.


Renewable Energy Growth

The rapid expansion of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, has added complexity to wholesale markets. Their intermittent nature means that supply can be inconsistent, leading to fluctuations in market prices.


Extreme Weather Events

Climate change has led to more frequent and severe weather events, including hurricanes, wildfires, and polar vortexes. These events can disrupt energy infrastructure, causing supply shortages and price spikes.


Regulatory Changes

Evolving regulations, such as carbon pricing and emissions targets, have introduced uncertainty into the energy market. Companies must adapt to new rules and invest in cleaner technologies, affecting their bottom lines.


Geopolitical Tensions

Geopolitical tensions and conflicts can disrupt the global energy supply chain, causing price volatility. Events like oil embargoes or pipeline shutdowns can lead to supply shortages and price spikes.


Impacts on the Energy Sector

The instability in wholesale energy markets has had far-reaching consequences for the energy sector:


Increased Price Volatility

 Fluctuations in supply and demand have led to greater price volatility. This makes it challenging for energy companies to predict revenues and costs, impacting their financial stability.


Reduced Investment

Uncertainty in the market has made investors cautious. Many are hesitant to commit to long-term projects or capital investments in the energy sector, slowing down innovation and growth.


Supply Chain Disruptions

 The pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in the global energy supply chain. From delays in equipment delivery to labour shortages, these disruptions have affected the construction and maintenance of energy infrastructure.


Rising Operational Risks

 Energy companies are facing operational challenges due to supply disruptions, extreme weather events, and changing regulations. These risks can result in downtime and costly repairs.


Transition Challenges

The shift toward renewable energy sources, while essential for a sustainable future, presents operational challenges. Integrating intermittent renewables into the energy mix requires significant investment in grid infrastructure and storage solutions.


Navigating the Uncertainty

Given the ongoing wholesale market instability, energy companies must adopt proactive strategies to navigate these uncertain waters:



 Diversify energy portfolios to reduce dependence on a single energy source. A mix of fossil fuels and renewables can provide more resilience in the face of market fluctuations.


Invest in Technology

Embrace advanced technologies like data analytics, predictive maintenance, and automation to optimize operations and reduce costs.


Risk Management

 Develop robust risk management strategies that account for price volatility, supply chain disruptions, and regulatory changes.



 Consider decentralized energy solutions, such as microgrids, to enhance energy resilience in the face of extreme weather events and supply disruptions.


Policy Engagement

 Engage with policymakers to provide input on regulations that impact the industry. Collaboration between industry stakeholders and governments can lead to more stable and predictable energy markets.


The past 18 months have shown that wholesale market instability poses significant challenges and risks to the energy sector. Energy companies must adapt to a rapidly changing landscape characterized by price volatility, supply disruptions, and evolving regulations. By diversifying their energy portfolios, embracing technology, and engaging with policymakers, the industry can build resilience and thrive in the face of uncertainty, ultimately contributing to a more sustainable energy future.

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