Electricity Connections: A Guide for Developers and Landowners

7 April, 2017
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

Real Estate Development Associate Franco Lambiase‘s latest article provides a short but practical overview of the electricity 
industry in England and Wales. 

Although its aim is to inform developers
and landowners, anyone with an interest in how energy connections work should find the following information useful.

1.  Where is electricity generated?

The majority of electricity produced in the UK is generated at a small number of large scale stations.  The owners and operators of power stations are referred to as “generators”.

2.  How does the electricity infrastructure work?

The electricity produced at a power station is approximately 25,000 volts, but it is passed through a transformer before transportation to increase the voltage to either 275,000 or 400,000 volts.  Once that
happens, the electricity enters a series of transmission systems consisting of a network of towers, cables and substations spread across the country.

Electricity is then supplied through infrastructure controlled by Distribution Network Operators (DNOs).  Supply companies use the DNOs’ infrastructure to supply and sell the electricity to the consumer.

3.  Do DNOs have a duty to make a connection?

Under the Electricity Act 1989, DNOs have a duty to make (and maintain) a connection, and to provide the electrical lines/plants required.

A request for the new connection should be made by:

  • the registered owner of the land;
  • the person occupying the land; or
  • a licensed company acting with the authority of the owner or occupier.

4.  What if I require only a temporary supply?

Requesting a temporary builder’s supply is possible.  Electricity will often be required by builders and contractors while the developer awaits the main connection to be finalised.  Each supplier has different mechanisms in place and so it’s worth contacting them directly.

Alternatively, you might consider renting a generator, although its usefulness and cost-effectiveness will depend on the type of job you are doing on site.

5.  Can the DNOs refuse to make a connection?

DNOs have a general duty, under statute, to make and maintain a connection.  However, a DNO can refuse to do so if:

  • it is prevented from making/maintaining a connection by circumstances outside of its control;
  • making the connection would or might involve a breach of safety regulations;
  • it wouldn’t be reasonable to require it to make the connection (perhaps because of safety reasons).

6.  How does the process of requesting a connection work?

You should send a notice to the DNO, specifying:

  • the premises for which a connection is required;
  • the maximum power of electricity required;
  • the date on (or by) which the connection is to be made; and
  • any other information that the DNO might reasonably require.

As the developer, you will have very little say over the process and chances are you will need to accept the DNO’s terms and costs (so long as they are reasonable).

Depending on your location, you will most likely find a pro-forma notice on your DNO’s website, which you can use in place of a personalised notice.

7.  What are the next steps?

Once your notice has been received and reviewed, the DNO must tell you if your proposal is acceptable, and set out any counterproposals it may have (if reasonable and necessary).

The DNO will also have to explain what payment it will require from you to cover the (reasonable) costs it incurs in providing the connection, and the terms which you will need to accept before it carries out the work.

8.  Will I require planning permission?

Planning permission is not generally required when installing or replacing electrical circuits (unless your building is listed, in which case you should contact the local planning authority as you may require listed building consent).  However, compliance with the building regulations is compulsory.

Unless you use a registered competent person (who can self-certify their work is compliant with the building regulations), any ‘notifiable’ job (such as the installation of a complete new circuit) will need to be inspected, approved and certified by an electrician registered with a third-party certification scheme, or a building control body.

For more information on planning, please contact your local planning authority and/or seek advice from a specialist planning lawyer.

9.  What if a dispute arises with the DNO?

A specific dispute resolution process must be followed under s.23 of the Electricity Act 1989.

Essentially, certain unresolved disputes are referred to Ofgem to determine whether a party is at fault.  However, a developer or landowner should be advised to speak with their legal advisers as early as possible, if the situation warrants it.

10.  The line will require access through a third party’s land.  Must they comply?

If this is the case, our advice would be to seek independent legal advice as early as possible, so as to avoid delaying development on your site unnecessarily.

Unless the DNO can agree an access right with the third party landowner, an application for a ‘necessary wayleave’ will need to be made to the Secretary of State.

A necessary wayleave allows entry for installation and subsequent access for the purpose of inspecting, maintaining, adjusting, repairing, altering, replacing or removing the electric line.

11.  Can works be carried out on any land, even streets?

DNOs have power to carry out any works that are requisite for, or incidental to, the installation.  This includes opening or breaking up any street, or any sewers, drains or tunnels within or under any street.

If the street is not publicly maintainable, the power can only be exercised with the consent of the street authority or the Secretary of State, except in cases of emergency.

It is important to note that the DNO must cause as little damage as possible, and compensate the owner for any damage done in the exercise of its powers.

Need specialist advice?

Whether you are a landowner or a developer, our specialist property development team (which comprises development, construction and planning lawyers) can help.  For more information, please see our team’s information page and contact details here.