Independent Connection Providers (ICP) Explained

ICP Explained

An Independent Connection Provider (ICP) operates under NERS accreditation, governed by the National Electricity Registration Scheme. UCPC, TSG’s ICP services company, adheres to the highest industry standards and brings years of experience and expertise to every project.

An Independent Connection Provider (ICP) is a certified company that executes high voltage (HV) and low voltage (LV) electricity connection works on behalf of its clients and in conjunction with the distribution network operators (DNOs). All ICP companies must be accredited by the National Electricity Registration Scheme (NERS) which certifies them to work on the DNO electricity network and confirms their ability to complete undertakings professionally and safely.

National Electricity Registration Scheme (NERS)

NERS is recognised in the UK by all Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) and was founded as part of an initiative that aims to standardise and regulate electrical distribution in the UK. NERS sets specific requirements, scopes and responsibilities to which ICPs must commit and adhere to. Its goal is to assess the technical proficiency of electrical providers to design, project manage and successfully implement electrical connections.

ICPs can only operate in accordance to the extent that their accreditation specifies. They cannot undertake work beyond their confirmed NERS certification, providing total confidence to clients that their needs will be catered for.

Service and maintenance

NERS was originally established to encourage competition and maintain high-quality service in the UK’s electrical industry. Over time, NERS modified its structure to adapt to changing market dynamics and technological progress. Each revision intended to align the industry with global best practices and local operational needs, cultivating a competitive, skilled and quality-driven environment.

Individuals working for an ICP will be issued with a NERS passport to authenticate their identification and provide a general record of their training, competence, inductions, reviews, audits and work histories.

Lloyds Register Quality Assurance (LRQA)

NERS is administered by Lloyds Register Quality Assurance (LRQA) Limited, an independent business of the Lloyds Register, on behalf of the UK’s Distribution Network Operators (DNOs).

NERS assigned the entire accreditation process to LRQA, which has strengthened the procedure’s credibility and acceptance within the industry. A full list of NERS-accredited contractors is available to all on the LRQA website; depending on the scope of their accreditation, ICPs can carry out work such as designing new network connections, substation installation, civil works, cable laying and installing electrical switches and transformers (with voltage limits where applicable).

The introduction of accreditation enabled ICPs to compete in the contestable connections market, attracting more proficient ICPs to the industry.

Contestable and non-contestable connections

There are two categories of work when providing new electrical utility connections: “contestable works” and “non-contestable works.”

Contestable works are not monopolised by the host network and may be undertaken by an accredited Independent Connections Provider (ICP) or an Independent Distribution Network Operator (IDNO). Contestable works may include the installation of cables, substations and other plant associated with the new connection. The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) encourages competition in areas where it can make a positive difference for customers connecting to the network, fairer prices and better service.

Non-contestable work can only be undertaken by the host Distribution Network Operator (DNO). Certain types of reinforcement works could affect the operation of DNO networks, and due to the sensitivity and potential impact, the DNO will only complete these works themselves. These works include but are not limited to: repairs and maintenance, high voltage operations, removing disconnected low voltage mains, high voltage and extra high voltage overhead conductors and poles, removing disconnected substations, and connection of contestable works to the distribution system at both high and extra high voltage.

When to use an ICP

Any UK business that requires a new connection to the electricity grid can use an ICP for part of the work. For example, a business wishing to install electric vehicle chargers on the premises will need additional electrical power to support the venture.

Companies selecting an ICP to complete the contestable works and deliver a grid connection can expect greater flexibility, cost efficiency and a wider choice of providers.

Working timelines will vary depending on the ICP chosen, the service requested, the size and location of the grid connection and the measurement of voltage (low or high). Any grid connection will involve the DNO for the non-contestable works; however, if an ICP conducts the contestable works, which can sometimes be a large proportion of a project, grid connections are generally delivered faster than via local DNOs.

Please note: The time to deliver the connection will often depend on the size of the connection required and the complexity of the work involved. Large connections may take many months to complete, so it is important to stake a claim on the additional power required at the site, even if installing the charge points is not a priority. Otherwise, due to the growing electricity demand across the UK, companies risk there being no power availability when the decision to install chargers is made. Every region is different, so it is worth exploring the local restrictions and time scales with the DNO. There will be a time constraint placed on the connection to the grid, where the additional power will be revoked if not utilised. This imposed deadline will vary depending on the location and once again, the local DNO will be able to provide more information.

Independent Distribution Network Operators (iDNOs)

iDNOs operate and manage electricity distribution networks independently of the major utility companies. They provide services such as connecting new properties to the national grid, maintaining and upgrading local distribution infrastructure, and ensuring the reliable delivery of electricity to end-users. These independent operators play a role in introducing competition into the electricity distribution sector, potentially offering consumers more choices and fostering innovation in the industry. An iDNO also has the ability to offer an “asset value”,  which is an upfront sum of money that will be payable upon energisation of supply and will vary in value depending on if it is metered at LV or HV, but can make the cost of a new connection very appealing.

Connection considerations

In some instances, it might be more economical for companies to request a brand-new connection to the grid, rather than increasing an existing connection. The new connection would link to another part of the site and is particularly suitable for large sites or depots.

It may also be worth businesses considering a time-profiled or flexible connection, which allows the power to be drawn in varied amounts from the electricity network at different times of the day or night – depending on operational requirements.

To explore both of the above options, companies should contact the local network operator.

TSG is here to help

UCPC (a TSG company) is committed to providing an efficient first-class ICP service to all of its clients, by delivering trouble-free seamless connections to the grid.

Crucial to the success of any energy network project is the design process. UCPC’s qualified designers are involved from the onset, as early participation will help identify potential problems before they arise. The designers are also very familiar with all of the latest standards and requirements, guaranteeing that the new connection is both compliant and successful.

Project managers (PMs) are assigned to the job to ensure that the connection stays on track and within budget, meeting all of the client’s expectations. They manage the entire connection process, coordinating with energy suppliers, DNOs, local authorities and other stakeholders. PMs also handle all necessary paperwork, ensuring compliance with regulations and industry standards. Effective project management ensures timely and effective connection delivery.

TSG has the expertise to complete all civil works,  lay cables and install the electric charge points. Before a connection is energised and handed over to the energy supplier, TSG conducts rigorous testing and commissioning procedures to verify the integrity and performance of the infrastructure, in line with all relevant safety standards and regulations.

Author: Cheryl Ashton

Job Opportunities at TSG UK

ICP HV Manager

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