Every day, hundreds of new electrical connections are completed across the country as businesses, generation sites and homes are connected to the electricity distribution network. But did you know that this highly specialised, electrical engineering work is heavily regulated?
In 2000, industry regulator Ofgem introduced the development of competition for electricity connections. When previously only the Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) could provide the service, competition in connections ensured that customers wanting a new or upgraded electricity connection would receive a high-quality service at a fair price.
However, for a number of years, Ofgem had concerns over the lack of progress towards greater competition despite the market being worth over £500m annually, with hundreds of thousands of new connections made.
In fact, Ofgem found that some customers were simply not aware that they could use alternative providers; others felt restricted to the DNO due to there being certain works (termed ‘non contestable’) which only the DNO could undertake. Ultimately, they didn’t want the hassle of dealing with two companies to get their connection completed.
Following a market review in 2015, Ofgem announced a revised 'Competition in Connections Code of Practice'. The ultimate goal? To offer customers a greater choice of connection providers at fairer costs.
Is it risky using an alternative provider?
In Ofgem’s review, the most important priorities for customers were price, customer service and timeliness of the quotation and completed connection. Let’s tackle the risks:
* QUALITY OF WORK
An ‘alternative provider’ must be an accredited Independent Connections Provider (ICP) registered on the Lloyds’ National Electricity Registration Scheme (NERS). This is a rigorous, audit-based qualification based on assessing processes and onsite work.
In addition, the design and installed works have to be to DNO standards. Regardless of who does the work, the end solution will be to the same standard.
* HASSLE OF DEALING WITH MULTIPLE SUPPLIERS
Whilst the DNO has to undertake certain ‘non-contestable’ works (usually involving any reinforcement works and the final connection to their network), there is now an increasing remit that the ICP can cover.
In addition, an ICP like Rock Power Connections, will undertake all the liaison with the DNO. Given these are procedures and paperwork we follow on a daily basis, it will entirely take away any hassle from you. You will have one single point of contact.
Where DNOs and larger energy suppliers could take months to provide a quotation, independent suppliers can often offer faster delivery, increased flexibility around projects, innovative engineering solutions and competitive pricing.
By being more flexible to timescales of a development, delivering on time can prevent unwanted costs in interim power generators or delays in the construction phase.
ICPs will manage any new project or connection switch-over from start to finish and often provide a more dedicated and personal service compared to the ‘default’ utility companies.
Added benefits of using an ICP
One key benefit of choosing the ICP route, instead of accepting the DNO quotation, is getting the installation adopted by an Independent Distribution Network Operator (IDNO).
These organisations fulfill the same function as a DNO, but are not geographically based and are willing to adopt the cables and switchgear involved in a new electrical connection.
This means you have no ongoing responsibility for the servicing or maintenance of the installation, with the added bonus of the IDNO paying you an ‘asset value’ – a financial sum – upon energisation.
Since Ofgem revised the Competition in Connections Code of Practice in 2015, ICPs are beginning to carve out a sizeable portion of the market, capitalizing on the dissatisfaction of many customers who have become frustrated by the lack of good customer service from their larger providers.
But the more individuals and businesses learn about ICPs, the more competitive the market is likely to become, therefore driving down prices even further. It’s a win-win.
The key message to property managers, construction firms, business owners, and the commercial estate agents who manage property on their behalf?
You have options, and more importantly, you have a choice when it comes to connections.
All that’s required is an energy-savvy mindset, a little more research and a willingness to contact a trusted ICP, like Rock Power Connections.
Get in touch – we are happy to answer your questions.
Call Emma or Sophie on 01905 456384 to discuss your project. Or email on firstname.lastname@example.org.