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Competition in Connections

Frequently Asked Questions

These FAQs are for all new connections to the network

Contestability

What is contestability?

Contestability, or competition in connections, means that other accredited companies (called an Independent Connections Provider) can provide a quotation for, and build, certain elements (called contestable works) of a new connection once you have applied for and received a dual offer for your connection from NIE Networks. For these ‘contestable’ elements of the connection, you will have a choice whether to accept the quotation from us or to accept a quotation from an ICP.

What are NIE Networks’ obligations under Competition Law?

Competition law has two primary objectives:

  • Regulating anti-competitive agreements (the “Chapter I / Art 101 Prohibition”)
  • Preventing “dominant” undertakings from abusing their position (the “Chapter II / Art 102 Prohibition”)

Therefore NIE Networks must treat all ICPs fairly and equally, ensuring that they have full access to any information required to carry out connection works in Northern Ireland.

What types of connection are open to contestability?

All new connections and increased loads where a new connection is required are open to contestability. This means that if you are submitting an application for a new domestic, commercial, generation or multi-site supply, then your application will be eligible to receive a dual offer. If you are submitting a load change form and your application is for an increased load which requires a new connection then you will receive a dual offer.

How will housing development sites be affected by contestability?

Housing sites with 12 or more dwellings will still be priced by multiplying the Standard Connection Charge by the number of houses to be connected. This price will make up the full works quotation (option 1) in the dual offer. The non contestable works quotation (option 2) will include costs for the non-contestable works, ICP design review, ICP inspections and ICP legal review only.

ICPs (Independent Connection Providers)

What is an ICP?

An Independent Connections Provider (ICP) is an accredited company that is entitled to build electricity networks to the specification and quality required for them to be adopted and then maintained by NIE Networks.

In order to carry out contestable works, ICPs must be accredited under the Lloyds Register National Electricity Registration Scheme (NERS) [link opens in a new window]. 

To view a list of ICPs accredited to work in Northern Ireland: 
1. Visit the Lloyd's website [link opens in a new window] 
2. Scroll down to the list of providers
3. Click on 'Toggle Filters'
4. In 'Current Geographical Areas of Work' tick Northern Ireland
5. Click 'Search'

Can I appoint a local contractor to carry out the contestable connection works in my offer?

No. You may only appoint an Independent Connections Provider (ICP) who is accredited to undertake the contestable works applicable to your offer. To view a list of ICPs accredited to work in Northern Ireland: 

1. Visit the Lloyds website [link opens in a new window] 
2. Scroll down to the list of providers
3. Click on 'Toggle Filters'
4. In 'Current Geographical Areas of Work' tick Northern Ireland
5. Click 'Search'

I have sent back my ICP Nomination Form but I have now changed my mind and wish to appoint a different ICP. What should I do?

If you wish to appoint a different ICP, you should inform NIE Networks as soon as possible using the contact details on your Terms  Letter. You are liable to be charged for two design reviews if both the first and second ICPs submit designs for the connection to NIE Networks. NIE Networks shall at their discretion refund only part of your payment to cover costs incurred in dealing with the first ICP. 

Where can I find a list of accredited ICPs in Northern Ireland?

To view a list of ICPs accredited to work in Northern Ireland: 
1. Visit the Lloyds website [link opens in a new window] 
2. Scroll down to the list of providers
3. Click on 'Toggle Filters'
4. In 'Current Geographical Areas of Work' tick Northern Ireland
5. Click 'Search'

How do I get a quote from, and appoint an ICP?

NIE Networks will send out a dual offer for the connection. You can then take this dual quote to an accredited ICP and receive their quotation to carry out the contestable works if they operate within your market segment.

If you choose to appoint an ICP you should inform NIE Networks upon acceptance of option 2 in your dual offer by filling in the ICP Nomination Form included with your dual offer.

You should return this ICP Nomination Form with your Acceptance of Terms. NIE Networks cannot offer advice or assistance in the appointment of an ICP.

What is the National Electricity Registration Scheme?

The National Electricity Registration Scheme in Northern Ireland (NERS - NI) has been developed to allow contractors who fulfil scheme requirements to become registered as accredited NERS NI Providers.

Any Provider contracting to carry out contestable work must be accredited, and registered, under this scheme. NIE Networks recognise this scheme and, provided that contractors hold the appropriate scope of accreditation, will allow that contractor to undertake contestable connection work. Once the work has been completed, NIE Networks will adopt the connection for the remainder of its lifetime, subject to the work being done satisfactorily and the Provider meeting the adoption requirements.

To view a list of ICPs accredited to work in Northern Ireland: 
1. Visit the Lloyds website [link opens in a new window] 
2. Scroll down to the list of providers
3. Click on 'Toggle Filters'
4. In 'Current Geographical Areas of Work' tick Northern Ireland
5. Click 'Search'

How long does the accreditation process take?

Timescale will vary dependent on the category and number of scope(s) requested. In general, for a medium size company the whole process from application to approval can take up to three months

How do companies apply for accreditation?

More information can be found on the LLoyds Register website [link opens in a new window].

Queries can be emailed to the Utilities Team at utilities@lr.org or Telephone +44 (0) 330 414 1337

Dual offers

What is a dual offer?

When you apply to NIE Networks for a new connection, NIE Networks will determine the Point of Connection (POC) to the network, complete a design for the connection and create quotations for NIE Networks to perform either the full connection works or the non-contestable works only. You shall then receive a dual offer from NIE Networks with two options. You may only select one option when accepting the offer.

Option 1 – NIE Networks will complete the full works
Option 2 – NIE Networks will complete the non-contestable works only

What extra charges will I be paying if I choose to appoint an ICP to carry out the contestable works?

If you choose to appoint an ICP to carry out the contestable elements (contestable works) of your connection then you will be charged for a review of the ICP’s design, inspections of the ICP’s work and a review of any legal documentation associated with the contestable works e.g. wayleaves.  These costs will be included in your Quotation Summary for option 2 of the dual offer.

Contestable and Non-contestable works

How can I find out which connection works require accreditation?

A list of all works which companies can apply for accreditation to perform can be found on the NERS website [link opens in a PDF].

What are contestable works and non-contestable works?

A new connection will be made up of contestable works and non-contestable works. Contestable works can be carried out by an ICP or by NIE Networks, such as detailed design and construction of a new overhead line. Non-contestable works can only be completed by NIE Networks, such as final connection to the network and work on the pre-existing assets. For a non-exhaustive list of contestable works and non-contestable works click here.

Delivery of Contestable works

Who takes responsibility for the contestably constructed assets once they are completed?

NIE Networks and your ICP shall sign an Adoption Agreement before work on your connection begins. After all of the construction works are complete, and if the work is carried out in accordance with NIE Networks’ standards and policies, NIE Networks and the ICP will sign a Completion Certificate. This allows NIE Networks to adopt the assets and assume ownership of and responsibility for the contestable works. Ownership of the assets is taken on by NIE Networks once the connection has been successfully energised. 

Can I employ NIE Networks to carry out the more complex parts of the connection and appoint an ICP to carry out the remainder?

If a customer decides to accept option 2 in their dual offer (NIE Networks shall complete the non-contestable works only), then their appointed ICP must undertake ALL of the contestable works.

If I do the work contestably, will NIE Networks still need to be involved in the process?

Even if you decide to get an ICP to undertake the contestable works there will still be involvement with NIE Networks to complete the connection. NIE Networks will complete the non-contestable works and liaise with your appointed ICP to coordinate commissioning and energisation of the contestable works. In addition, NIE Networks will be undertaking inspections of the contestable works.

Do NIE Networks purchase the contestably constructed assets from the ICP?

No. The customer and ICP must agree to transfer ownership and maintenance responsibilities for the assets to NIE Networks by entering into an Adoption Agreement. NIE Networks will assume ownership and operational responsibilities for the assets after they have been successfully energised and a Completion Certificate has been signed by the ICP and NIE Networks.

How will NIE Networks ensure the work carried out by the ICP is acceptable?

NIE Networks will carry out inspections of the ICP’s work to ensure compliance with NIE Networks’ policies and specifications, which are accessible to ICPs accredited to work in Northern Ireland via the ICP Portal.

Post-adoption of Contestable works

What happens if the contestably constructed assets cease to operate according to their specifications after adoption?

As part of the Adoption Agreement, there is a warranty on all assets constructed by ICPs. Therefore, the ICP will be held liable for the cost to repair any malfunction of the assets for the length of the warranty period after its adoption. Whether the repairs are undertaken by NIE Networks or the ICP will be decided by NIE Networks on a case by case basis, but the ICP will always bear the cost.

Network issues

Will contestability overcome network capacity issues?

The introduction of contestability in Northern Ireland will have no impact on the network capacity issues currently being faced by NIE Networks and SONI. 

Legal Agreement with Third Party Landowners

If an ICP pays me more for my wayleave, do NIE Networks have to pay me the same?

NIE Networks will only ever pay the standard charge for a wayleave, easement or lease. When someone other than NIE Networks approaches a landowner to sign a NIE Networks wayleave (e.g. a customer or ICP) then they must explain to the customer that the NIE Networks wayleave payment will not change. If an ICP or customer decides to give a one-off payment to a landowner, or comes to some other alternative payment plan with the landowner, this will be in total separation from NIE Networks and will have no impact on our standard wayleave payment. This must be explained to the landowner by the ICP.

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