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Community / Isles’ politicians meet with Ofgem as energy suppliers confirm they are not obliged to provide connections to new build sites

It turned out that getting connected to the energy network is not straight forward. Photo: Shetland News

A SECOND meeting with energy regulator Ofgem has been pencilled in for later this month after the Northern Isles’ three parliamentarians raised serious concern over the refusal by some energy suppliers to connect new homes in the isles.

It emerged last week that an increasing number of building companies, as well as private homeowners, are unable to get connections to the electricity network – while there are continued difficulties in getting upgrades to smart meters.

One recent example is troubles with getting the new Asta campsite, which is currently under construction, connected to supplies.

These difficulties with energy supply tend to be most prevalent in Scottish island communities.

Ofgem has confirmed that they are assessing the “intelligence” provided by MP Alistair Carmichael, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart and her Orkney counterpart Liam McArthur.

Energy companies must supply a domestic household once approached by a customer, including where this necessitates the installation of a meter to enable supply, the energy regulator said.

However, this does not include commercial customers such as building companies or housing associations. There appears also to be no legal requirement to provide smart meters.

OVO Energy, one of three energy suppliers that responded to Shetland News queries, confirmed there was no requirement on them to “offer meter connections to commercial properties (such as new build sites) unless there’s a contract set up with the housebuilder”.

A spokesperson for the company, formerly owned by SSE, added: “Some suppliers are still offering meter connections to commercial properties.”

One such supplier appears to be French government owned EDF. A spokesperson for the company said: “EDF regularly work with developers to install connections in new homes.

“We have engineers based country-wide who work to deliver these new connections across the United Kingdom and have performed extensive metering work in the Shetlands.

“This year alone we’ve carried out metering work covering the breadth of the country from the Scilly Isles to the Shetlands.”

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael. Photo: Shetland News

Octopus Energy meanwhile said: “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.”

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart. Photo: Shetland News

Following a virtual meeting with Ofgem representatives earlier this week Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said: “I am glad that Ofgem were willing to talk and hear about the problems we are facing in the isles around delayed or denied connections for homes.

“These issues span businesses and individuals with new homes, from unreasonable delays to outright refusals to connect energy supply.

“I am looking forward to seeing what response Ofgem can make on these problems in the next few weeks before our next meeting. This cannot trundle on as winter approaches – change is needed now.”

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart added: “Vital new housing should not be left empty while energy suppliers refuse to connect them.”