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Community / Carmichael calls on energy regulator to act while two suppliers confirm not all meter applications will be granted

ONE OF the largest energy suppliers in the UK says it offers new meter installations for private houses across the islands – but requests from developers are being assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Octopus Energy said decisions to install meters would be made on the basis of resources available.

The company responded to media enquiries after isles MP Alistair Carmichael and Orkney MSP Liam McArthur raised the alarm when it emerged people building new houses were increasingly unable to find an energy supplier willing to install a meter and sell electricity.

A spokesperson for Ovo Energy, formerly SSE, the main electricity supplier in Shetland, said all energy suppliers are required to offer new connections to individual customers, when requested, within a reasonable timeframe.

But they said suppliers do not have a requirement to offer meter connections to commercial properties, such as new build sites, unless there is a contract set up with the house builder. OVO currently has no active property partnerships in the UK.

Meanwhile, energy regulator Ofgem insisted energy companies “must offer” to supply a domestic household once approached by a customer “including where this necessitates the installation of a meter to enable supply”.

“We have been clear about our expectations in this area, and carefully assess all intelligence of potential non-compliance that we receive in order to determine the most appropriate action to take,” a spokesperson for the regulator said.

Carmichael said the last thing that was needed was another Ofgem investigation.

“Not for the first time Ofgem completely misses the point. Domestic households are only part of the problem here,” he said.

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael. Photo: Shetland News

“The lack of supply meters to developers seems not to be covered and that affects scores of new build local properties.

“We need them to use the powers they have and to move to enforcement.”

The two Lib Dem politicians raised the issue after Orkney Builders found it impossible to get a new housing scheme connected as all relevant energy supply companies had refused to install energy meters in the new builds.

In Shetland, Hjaltland Housing Association has voiced concern that it may also be faced with difficulties when it comes to getting electricity connections for tenants in new housing schemes in Scalloway, Brae and Aith.

Meanwhile Shetland Islands Council’s depute leader Gary Robinson said: “We know we need to have more houses in Shetland, and in the islands full stop. It just makes for another obstacle for anybody that’s trying to get their own house.”

With a UK market share of an estimated 7.5 per cent, Octopus Energy is not cited as one of the ‘big six’ energy companies but has an increasing customer base in the isles.

A spokesperson said: “We offer new meter installations for all houses, both new and old, in Orkney and Shetland (and indeed anywhere else in the country).

“In fact, we have dozens of meter installations booked across the islands over the coming weeks. Our engineers are based across the country, and they can complete jobs wherever customers require new connections, including the islands.

“Supply through a developer or housing association would come through our non-domestic energy supply business Octopus Energy for Business.

“We assess each developer request on a case-by-case basis – our non-domestic arm is smaller, and so we will make a decision based on resources available.

“That said, we will always listen to requests that come through and do not have a blanket policy of not working in certain areas of the UK.”

However, Carmichael said that it was his understanding Octopus had told Orkney Builders it was not interested in the company’s request.