22 August 2002 – The first step towards opening up the £580m ($884m) UK electricity connections business to full competition where practical, was made Thursday, by UK energy regulator Ofgem.

It has published proposals to bring in effective competition to electricity connections for new housing developments and street lighting.

These proposals are supported by an Ofgem connections survey, also published today, which showed competition has developed well in gas connections since the work was opened to competition in 1996, but competition in electricity connections is minimal.

Ofgem’s Managing Director for Regulation and Financial Affairs, Richard Ramsay, said, “Ofgem and consumer body, Energywatch, have received many complaints from local authorities and housing developers about the lack of choice, high prices and poor levels of service provided by the distribution companies for electricity connections.

“To tackle this problem, we will be bringing in a number of initiatives which will start to open up the connections work to effective competition. This will allow developers and local authorities to shop around for better deals from a list of registered companies.”

Fredrick Harrington of the Lighting Industry Federation has also welcomed the proposals. He said: “We welcome Ofgem’s proposals which will enable clients like local authorities to appoint a contractor to manage the whole project for any connections work. This will make the process as a whole much easier.”

Ofgem’s proposes to introduce a Rent-a-jointer scheme to enable customers like Local Authorities to rent a qualified worker from a Distribution Company for a period of time to connect, for example, new street lights to the electricity network.

It is also suggesting a National registration scheme due to be implemented in October for all companies wishing to offer an electricity connections service. The scheme will assess whether companies are competent to work in the connections industry, for example companies will be required to show that they have the necessary safety procedures in place.

At the moment although it is possible for local authorities and developers to get contractors to lay cables they are still dependent on Distribution Companies to connect the cables to the mains. This often results in delays waiting for the distribution company to connect the network. As a result a competitive industry has not developed as firms seeking to compete against distribution companies cannot lay the cables and join them up to the mains.