Energy firms concerned about 21CN

Energy firms concerned about 21CN

Energy companies want assurances that transition to next-generation services won't restrict the efficiency of energy networks

Energy companies are concerned that transition to the UK’s next-generation communications infrastructure could put their command and control systems at risk.

It is not yet clear whether the 21st Century Network (21CN), which is being put in place by BT will offer the same level of failover protection as the analogue network.

The industry needs a guarantee that it will receive the same level of service without additional expense, said Energy Networks Associations’ acting chief executive David Smith.

“We have not had assurances from either Ofcom or BT that the digital system will offer switching services,” he said.

“The concern is that this could run right to the wire and we will be stuck with a big bill if ‘back-engineering’ is necessary.”

And if the suppliers have to make investments themselves, the costs could be passed on to customers, according to regulator Ofgem.

“We do recognise the issue and we will be helping networks address it through energy network price controls,” said a spokesman.

“We are reviewing the next price controls for the electricity distribution firms and will be looking at the costs for 21CN with a view to making the appropriate allowances,” he said.

But BT says collaboration between all stakeholders is progressing well and that the absence of any definite plans does not indicate a neglect of any party’s requirements.

“It is premature to say that there is a problem,” said BT director of customer experience Mike Galvin.

“We have engaged utilities at an early stage ­ before
we actually have a specification to work with."

“We are including industry requirement in our design cycle by asking key customers to state their critical pieces of infrastructure,” he said.