Electricity North West opens grid to independent providers

Blackpool is trialling a new approach to electricity connections by offering customers more choice when connecting to the local network.

Electricity North West, which owns the local electricity grid in the region, claims to be the first company in the UK to allow independent providers to connect directly to its network of live electricity cables via mains joints.

Michael Proctor, connections manager for Electricity North West, said: ‘When a domestic customer, business or local authority wants a new connection to our electricity network, they can use Electricity North West or they can ask an independent provider to make the connection.

‘Currently, independent providers can’t connect to live mains joints for safety reasons. So while they can disconnect or amend existing supplies, they can’t create new ones.

‘This trial allows these independent companies to do more, allowing more competition for work and ultimately more choice for customers.’

Trials are currently running on street-lighting connections in Blackpool, with E.ON Energy Solutions. By allowing these ‘unmetered’ local authority connections to be carried out by independent companies, local authorities would have more choices available to them in trying to secure a better deal for taxpayers.

The trials follow a specific request from the energy regulator Ofgem, for electricity network operators such as Electricity North West to support the development of more competition on their networks. Further trials are planned, involving both low- and high-voltage metered connections for domestic and business customers.