Neil Clarke from UK Power Networks explains how to get mains electricity to a new build home.
Interview with Neil Clarke
Neil has been working for UK Power Networks for over 32 years, and currently heads up their connections services division. This covers new builds of up to four plots, highway services (bus shelters, speed cameras, streetlights), as well as the disconnection side when buildings are being demolished.
The main electricity network is broken into 12 separate regions, which are owned by six different companies. UK Power Networks cover the Eastern, South Eastern and London regions. Their role isn't to generate electricity, but to enable its distribution, through maintenance of the wires and sub-stations in the network.
If you're not sure who your distribution network operator is there's a useful search tool on the Energy Networks Association website.
New builds account for 40% of their connections
UK Power Networks receive around 60,000 inquiries a year for small, domestic connections services. This generates around 24,000 quotes, with approximately 60% take-up.
Applications can be done online
There are two approaches that customers can take to get the connection process started. The first is to complete an online application form, which is something that regular customers would be most likely to do.
For anyone that needs a bit more help, the second approach is where the customer can request a site visit. A representative will arrange to meet the customer at the site, talk them through the process, and assist with filling in the application form and processing it through the system.
They provide online videos and tutorials to assist with the application, whether it be for a new service, an alteration, connection on the highway, an electric vehicle charger, etc.
They will work with the homeowner or their electrician
Neil says that if someone is making an application then they usually know roughly what it is that they need. Sometimes this will be because the homeowner will have an electrician applying on their behalf.
If that's not the case then Neil's department will work with the homeowner to explain what kind of supply they would need. Most houses would be a single phase, one-hundred amps. But if they have larger pumps and machinery then a three phase might be needed to even out the voltage across each phase.
Their behind the scenes technical checks will be included in the price and will look at volt drop, the size of the substation, any differences for being in a rural area where there's no electricity, etc.
Larger developments of four units and above will be handled by a different department, as they may need to have network reinforcements.
“All we’re trying to do is support the integrity of the network, to make sure that whatever we supply is sufficient for the homeowner but also fits in with the network.”
Anything is possible, but there will be costs attached
Neil says that even in rural areas anything is possible. But it's worth considering if you're having problems with getting an electricity connection, then you're likely to also have issues with getting water and gas to the site too, and at this point the decision might be that a self build isn't going to be viable.
The most efficient and cost effective way of going about it is to tie-in with the other utilities, rather than trenches needing to be dug each time. When permits are requested from the local authority they can say whether gas and water are going in, and there can be a collaborative working between them to reduce costs and disruption, and get the work done more quickly.
Their responsibility isn't as a supplier or meter operator
UK Power Network's responsibility is up to the termination, from the house outwards. This termination will be 100 amps. From there, a single or a three-phase cable will come out of the property, into a ducting which is usually on their property and runs to their boundary line. At that point it goes to the public footway, or possibly across the road, depending on where the mains cable is.
Plans of where the cables are, are available from their plans provision team, but in the case of a new connection, a surveyor would be sent to map out all of the cables and plot them on the drawings. These are cross-checked with their logged records to make sure they match up correctly.
Staff receive continous training
How many UK Power Networks staff you have attend will depend on the site specifics. Generally, in addition to having a surveyor visit, the field staff will usually come in teams of two. This could include a civils gang, a jointing gang, and a reinstating team.
All staff are fully trained and have refresher sessions every six months to keep their competency up. At six month intervals they are also monitored and tested on site, and have regular safety briefings.
Costs are dependent on a number of factors
Every job will be site specific, but there is a basic cost for a new supply into a house. This would be sufficient for most houses, whether detached or otherwise, and covers up to 40m. Anything greater than 40m and they might need to lay a three-phase cable to stop volt drop, which would start to put the price up.
Other things that may prolong the process and add to the costs, can include having to cross a high-pressure gas main, which would need a specialist on-site for safety reasons, or needing to apply and give notice for a road closure. Other road conditions that could impact the cost, might be if specialist traffic management is needed, parking bay suspensions are required, or if it is crossing red routes.
Underground supplies are preferred
If the property is in a rural area and the only supply is overhead, then they would supply that property overhead, but generally they try to avoid working at height and run it underground into the property if possible.
Cables that are laid in the road are between 600mm and one metre below the ground. In the footway they is usually a minimum of 450mm deep.
The cables are plastic coated with an aluminium core and a copper neutral.
Programme timings can be driven by the customer
At an initial site visit, you might be advised to install a temporary builder's supply (TBS) for use while the building work is being carried out. This would need to be in a lockable, waterproof housing and could be changed to a permanent supply if required later.
UK Power Networks will provide a quote within 5 days of the application being submitted.
Once the customer has paid they aim to provide the supply within 25 days, on a date of the customer's choosing. Five days before the date of supply they will call the customer to check everything is on schedule, and a couple of days before they will pop by to check everything is ready.
Contact them as early as possible
Neil's advice is to communicate with them as early as possible, even if it's just to understand a process or how much it's going to cost. He uses disconnections as an example, where a site has been demolished but their termination has been left standing, potentially being a danger to the customer or their staff.
Other parties involved could include electricians and a meter operator, so it is important that early communication involves those parties to ensure everyone is collaborating effectively.
Find out more
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