A new electrical isolation solution is helping Hull City Council tackle a ten year property electrical inspection and upgrade programme.

The guarantee of a safe working environment for its electrical contractors, and a partnership delivering a cost effective and flexible solution supporting essential electrical upgrade work for council properties, lies at the heart of a long term relationship between MeterPlus, the energy metering division of npower, and Hull City Council.

As many local authorities look to undertake significant upgrade programmes to their property portfolios – a process which started under the government’s Decent Homes initiative – a critical element of improving housing stock condition has been the requirement to carry out electrical inspection and remedial work in a safe and compliant way. The issue facing councils has been to find the best and most effective way of doing so, both to ensure safety for contractors and to drive value for money for public authority funds.

It was against this background that Hull City Council began discussions with MeterPlus about how it could best assist in a wide scale electrical inspection and upgrade project involving approximately 25,000 dwellings across the county.

Before appointed contractors can begin the remedial work of replacing often obsolete or ageing wiring and other electrical components in homes, it is vital their working environment is safe. The key to this is the need to isolate the property’s electrical supply safely and in the correct manner.

Such a requirement can cause issues and present real challenges, as Michael Illingworth, programme manager at Hull City Council’s Housing Investment Team, confirmed, “By law, we are not permitted to work independently on the live side of metering equipment as this is the responsibility of nominated distribution network operators (DNO).

“To create a safe working environment for our contractors within individual dwellings, we would normally have to contact the DNO. This would involve arranging for them to send an engineer to remove the main cut-out fuse and then asking them to return at a later date to replace and re-seal it.

The need to have our electrical contractor and the DNO’s electrician on-site at the same time adds to what has often been a time consuming, expensive and logistically demanding exercise. What’s more, this can often inconvenience residents and is something we aim to avoid as often as possible.”

With many thousands of properties falling under the Hull electrical inspection programme, and a target of upgrading 2,500 properties per annum, it was clear an alternative and more efficient method of working to isolate the electrical supply was needed.

MeterPlus in action
With an existing relationship with npower, the council was able to open discussions about identifying and specifying a potential solution. The answer lay with MeterPlus, the npower metering division, who provided a flexible electrical isolation service especially designed to assist local authorities such as Hull City Council.

Through the implementation of the MeterPlus solution, Hull City Council has moved from what was a cumbersome and time consuming method. Instead, it has entered into a partnership ensuring a pre-planned, cost effective and flexible solution is helping to make homes safe for Hull Council’s electricians to carry out their inspection and upgrade commitments.

The fully trained and accredited metering engineers from MeterPlus work to set plans by Hull City Council. They visit each property before electrical inspection and upgrade work will be carried out under the rolling programme. When at the property, they fit an isolation switch to ensure the council’s team of electricians has no delays prior to commencing work. This is also a benefit for residents who experience less disruption as the power is off for the least amount of time.

Commenting on the MeterPlus solution, Michael Grayson, national account manager from npower Business & Social Housing division, highlighted, “The isolation service provided by MeterPlus, such as the one in action with Hull, offers many benefits to local authorities needing to address important inspection and upgrade work. Once on-site we will, for example, inspect the incoming supply and meters, de-energise the supply, fit lockable isolation switches, conform the integrity of the meter trails, re-energise the supply, and reseal the cut-out fuse and meters.

“In addition, if we discover any safety issues with the incoming supply, we’ll inform the relevant DNO right away. Such a holistic approach means the council can have total confidence they are fully compliant in this area. Their electricians are working safely, equipment has been inspected, checked and verified for correct use, and, importantly, because the metering has been assessed, residents will be accurately billed for the electricity they use.”

The MeterPlus partnership with Hull City Council also extends beyond the pre-planned programmed work on identified properties. The team in Hull also provides a rapid response service so properties needing a visit quickly – such as void dwellings requiring a speedy remedial turnaround so tenants can be housed or properties re-let – can be addressed without delay. With a 24 hour response service, this element of MeterPlus is assisting the council to meet its target for property appraisal and upgrades. The response service is also used to deal with any properties deemed ‘at risk’.

Michael Illingworth summarised a partnership helping to deliver real value for the public purse and residents of Hull. He said, “Our regular liaison with the MeterPlus team ensures all elements of the solution can be continuously monitored and agreed.

“We have a ten year rolling programme of electrical inspection and are mindful of the need to carry this out as efficiently, cost effectively and safely as possible. Our partnership with MeterPlus provides an easy solution and one that is competitive and highly responsive to our needs. We look forward to continuing to work with MeterPlus over the coming years as we strive to enhance the status of our 25,000 strong property portfolio for the benefit of our residents.”