‘Ridiculous’ energy block on new build homes challenged

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featured newsJuly 26, 2022 at 12:04 pm

Alistair Carmichael MP

Amid a block on the installation of electricity meters for new homes, two Orkney politicians have this week taken the issue to the authorities responsible for energy regulation.

Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP, have this week written to the UK’s Business Secretary, the head of Ofgem, and the trade body Energy UK to challenge the refusal of energy suppliers in the isles to connect new built homes to electricity supply.

Orkney housing developers have voiced frustration in recent days that all relevant energy suppliers have refused to install energy meters in new build homes, believed to be due in part to uncertainty and volatility in the energy market.

The refusal to connect is causing vital new build homes in the isles and elsewhere to sit vacant, despite high demand for housing. The isles representatives have called for all key stakeholders in the industry and government to come together and take urgent action to address the “market failure”.

Northern Isles MP, Alistair Carmichael said: “This is a textbook example of market failure which demands action. The regulator and the government must step in — and step in now, before the coming winter period. Much-needed housing is there to be used — it is only the supplier standing in the way.

“No doubt the current uncertainty and volatility in the energy market is playing a role in the refusal to connect new homes. That is all the more reason, however, for the government to take the long-term view where suppliers will not.

“Whatever their reasons, it is entirely ridiculous that vital new housing should sit vacant simply because energy suppliers are refusing en masse to service them. If it is allowed to stand then it could restrict opportunities – and indeed basic living needs – in the isles and elsewhere for years to come. Whether by the carrot or the stick there must be a change of course.”

Liam McArthur MSP (Orkney Photographic).

Orkney MSP, Liam McArthur added: “While this issue does not appear to be confined to Orkney, it has the potential to cause serious problems for housebuilding in the islands. We already know that demand for housing locally far outstrips supply, so anything that holds up the completion of new housing is the last thing we need to see.

“In the past, energy companies have fallen over themselves to attract new customers, so there has been no need to require them to respond positively to requests for new connections. With so much uncertainty in the energy market right now, however, normal rules simply don’t apply in the same way.

“It is vital, therefore, that a solution is found that enables new customers to be taken on but which also spreads any risk across the different suppliers. This will require the buy in of UK Government, the regulator, Ofgem and the sector trade body, Energy UK.  Alistair Carmichael and I have approached all three seeking an urgent meeting to discuss how this problem can be resolved.”