A new draft version of the G83/2 regulations has been released for consultation including major changes to the rules about when advance permission is needed for connecting a solar PV system to the grid.
The key changes are:-
Definition of 'Close Geographic Region'
Any installations of more than 1 solar PV system by the same installer that fall within either of these categories would require advance permission to be connected, using a revised Appendix 2 multiple installations application form.
1) The postcodes of any of the premises where a SSEG installation is planned by the same organisation are the same when the last two letters are ignored…
ie AB1 2xx where xx could be any pair of letters or where x could be any letter.
2) The premises where a SSEG installation is planned by the same organisation are within 500m of each other.
These rules wouldn't only apply to new installations, but also to all solar PV system that have ever been installed in that 'close geographic region' by the same installer.
This procedure (single premisis connection procedure) will not apply where an Installer plans or has already installed other SSEGs in a Close Geographic Region; in this case the procedure in 5.1.2 shall be followed.
Failure to comply with this requirement may lead to the disconnection of the Customers Installation under ESQCR (26) or failure of the SSEG to operate as intended.
So any installer who carried out an installation within the same postcode area AB1 2XX postcode area or within 500m as another installation they'd carried out, and didn't ask for permission in advance would risk the DNO cutting installation off at any time in the future if any problems did arise with the local grid in that area.
What areas do these postcode districts cover?
The size of these AB1 2XX postcode districts varies massively, but to take a couple of examples, the LS16 5xx district around our house covers around 2km x 2km, covering several thousand houses and to our knowledge at least 6 large transformers.
At the other end of the scale, the IV2 7xx postcode covers an area to the East of Inverness that's over 15km in length.
What is the aim of this change & what impact will it have on DNOs?
We assume that this is a way of trying to ensure that too many solar PV systems aren't connected to the same transformer under the standard G83 single installation regulations.
The problem is that these postcode districts bear no relation to the location of areas served by the same transformers, with most of these large postcode districts containing dozens of different transformers.
If enacted, this would also mean the DNOs are going to be deluged with extra applications, and most are already dealing with large backlogs of G59 and G83 stage 2 applications, without enough engineers to properly assess these applications in a timely manor. Put simply, this proposal will jam up the application process for all new grid connections for all SSEGs, as there is no way the DNOs can cope with this level of extra workload.
How will this affect installers & customers?
We estimate that this would have impacted on around half of all our customers in the Leeds area, but significantly less than that further from our office.
If installers were to follow these rules to the letter, it would put successful local installers at a huge disadvantage compared to new companies or national companies operating in the area for the first time.
Successful local installers such as Leeds Solar will have already carried out installations in most of the postcode districts in the local area, and gain a large proportion of their work from recomendations which are often to friends who live reasonably close by.
We and other local companies like us will be put at a serious disadvantage by these measures if they're implemented, as we'll have to potential customers within the areas we've already carried out installations will have to wait upto 45 working days for us to receive permission from Northern PowerGrid, whereas they could have the installation carried out straight away if they signed up with a company that hadn't installed in that area before.
For customers, the affect of this could be huge, as if they have to wait to receive permission to connect, this could easily mean that they'd not be able to have an installation carried out by their chosen installer before the next quarterly Feed In Tariff cut. This could also lead them to rejecting their preferred installer in favour of any other installer who happened not to have any installations already within that postcode district.
We believe these proposals are totally unworkable, and would unfairly penalise successful local installation companies and favour new companies, national companies and the uncrupulous who could simply ignore these rules.
These proposals as they stand are probably the worst threat to the solar PV industry in the UK yet, causing huge amounts of additional paperwork, delays and disadvantages to honest, professional local installation companies.
Ofgem must seriously rethink these proposals, and we have to remind them of Ofgem's stated purpose of eliminating unnecessary regulatory and market barriers to the economic deployment of distributed energy.
We urge all installers to email Ofgem as soon as possible to make clear that these proposals are completely unworkable, and would also suggest emailing your MPs to put some pressure on Ofgem to ensure they don't go ahead with these damaging changes.
The full proposed G83/2 document is available here