Guest Blog: David Gilbey – Infrastructure, Building connections, and metering solutions for Developers

With the use of former Retail Sector building stock and office buildings into residential units – or HMO’s, it is becoming apparent that utility connections and building services are not being considered early enough in the project as they bring with them specific challenges.

Guidelines have been published by the Electricity Networks Association (ENA) specifically covering the installation of Low Voltage Electricity Connections into Multiple Occupancy Buildings. Now with the increasing demand of housing being provided by formerly office or retail buildings it is more important than ever for developers and contractors to be aware of the implications and act at the earliest opportunity to avoid unnecessary delays and costs. There is not only the installation of the Building Network to consider, but whether the necessary capacity is available from the local network. Metering solutions and billing requirements for the end users also need to be considered to prevent landlords being left having to clear their tenants’ debts.

Many of these developments are now being converted with the space heating and hot water provided by “low cost” panel heaters and immersion heaters rather than central boiler plants. The larger electricity demands requirements of this heating method can mean additional costly reinforcement of the existing distribution networks, reducing any savings made by installing a direct acting heating system.

The Distribution Network operators (DNO’s) will only allow for a bulk intake position into the building and any sub-mains, risers and laterals need to be supplied and installed by a Building Network Operator (BNO). The BNO may be another licensed distributor such as an Independent Distribution Network Operator (IDNO) or a third-party exempt from holding an electricity distribution licence such as a building management company.

The location and capacity requirements of the incoming supply needs to be considered at the earliest stage of a building design as possible to avoid last minute redesigns. In some cases, a new substation will need to be located and installed, requiring further space and 24/7 unrestricted access. Consideration must be given to providing sufficient space for metering equipment, with safe access, security in a watertight external or internal location. Remote metering solutions do not always work depending on the location of the metering equipment. BNO services must be routed through public areas and not through any third-party occupied areas and must be in secure areas to avoid the risk of illegal abstraction and unauthorised access.

If the BNO is adopted by an IDNO (Independent Distribution Network Operator) capital can often be released via an Asset Value back into the project. This also means that the IDNO takes on the responsibility of maintaining, operating and replacing the network, removing a Statutory requirement on the developer to do so. This also allows for the end users to go to the electricity market for supply contracts in the normal way AND ensures each tenant is responsible for their own consumption and bills. This avoids Landlords having to get involved in setting up sub meter billing solutions and relying on the end users to pay the in a timely manner or picking up outstanding debts which they need to recover.

A BNO becomes responsible for the quality of the customers supply in accordance with ESQCR 2002 regulations, however ESQCR regulations can allow for the DNO to withhold connections where there is a reason to believe the installation does not comply or where danger exists.

Earthing within Multiple Occupancy Buildings can prove challenging. Whereas in the past a PME (Protective Multiple Earthing) may have been suitable for an individual building, within an MOB BNO networks are designed usually on a separate neutral and earth basis.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author David Gilbey and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organisation, committee or any other group or individual .

If you would like to get in touch with David Gilbey or any of our Energy Experts please contact Harry Matyjaszek or Stuart Dawes at:

Harry Matyjaszek: 07527 206777 or [email protected]

Stuart Dawes on 07771 777902 or [email protected]

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