What is a Utility Consultant and what do you do? A question that is often asked by prospective clients. It’s fair to say it is a role not always recognised across the construction industry, yet one that can de-risk and save costs in an area that features on nearly every risk register and project timeline. First, a brief history lesson. Historically, if you needed electricity connections, you contacted the local electricity company – simple. With a similar approach to water, gas & telecoms life was fairly straightforward, with no more than 4 or 5 players for a typical site this was manageable for most in the industry. But with regulators promoting competition and choice in the high value new connections markets since the 1980s there has been exponential growth in the number of utility organisations.
Navigate the competitive utility market
Today, through our Searches business, we typically see between 15-25 network owner/operators with equipment that may be affected by works in a typical search area. Each one of these may present a constraint to a new development with apparatus needing to be moved, or could provide cost effective new connections. So in simple terms the first role of a Utility Consultant is to help navigate and get best value from the competitive marketplace.
Provide technical support and navigate the rules and regulations of the utility industry
The second key element of the Utility Consultant role is to understand the various rules and regulations that shape the utility industry, and provide technical/commercial advice on the design and technical options available with respect to utility strategies. Many people make the mistake that the rules that apply ‘beyond the meter’ are the same as those that apply to external works – they aren’t – and many organisations have fallen foul of this and realised too late to avoid costly and time consuming re-designs.
Understanding the processes of the utility industry
The next key focus for a Utility Consultant is to navigate the complex and often confusing processes that exist in the world of utilities. Anyone that thinks getting a utility service disconnected or agreeing dates for major utility diversion works is straightforward should try it sometime! It is probably fair to say most utility company processes have evolved over time to meet their own business needs, often at the expense of customer needs. An experienced consultancy team with excellent systems and process knowledge, and a good network of contacts when things fall behind schedule, is invaluable and often the first major benefit our clients attribute to our involvement in projects.
Net Zero 2050
And finally, as society changes to a more digitally focused lifestyle underpinned by an ambition for a Zero Carbon future, the impact on utility networks cannot be underestimated. A good Utility Consultant has to understand new technologies and energy strategies as well as the potential impact of Electric Vehicles, Low Carbon heat sources and High Speed Connectivity associated with most new developments.
Here at Premier Energy we can assist and bring over 25 years of Utility Consultancy experience to all stages of a construction project, from assessing pre-purchase land for utility constraints to supporting planning applications, diverting existing apparatus and procuring cost-effective new connections. If you would like more information on what we can do for your project, call us on 01403 740240.