Ofgem welcomes Western Power Distribution’s contribution to consumers

Publication date
30th April 2018
Information type
Policy area

Ofgem has welcomed a move by Western Power Distribution (WPD), an electricity distribution network operator (DNO) to voluntarily return £77 million of its price control funding to consumers.

This follows the Government’s decision to reduce its rail electrification programme, meaning WPD no longer needs the funding to carry out related projects.

Ofgem has decided not to open a mid-period review of the 2015-2023 electricity distribution price control as it can drive value for money for consumers more effectively through a combination of efficiency gains and voluntary contributions.

WPD’s move and a commitment by all other DNOs to absorb the costs of projects (currently estimated by the DNOs at over £600m) will help drive forward the move to a smarter, more flexible energy system.*

Reopening the electricity distribution price control could risk pushing up the cost of finance for the companies, and risk increasing energy bills at a time when the network costs part of household energy bills has been stable for several years.

WPD’s £77m voluntary return is in addition to the £5 billion** in savings that Ofgem’s regulation has secured for consumers since 2013, as part of the ongoing price control process. This includes voluntary contributions from gas distribution and energy transmission companies.

Network companies need a licence to operate from society at large as well as Ofgem. WPD’s move is important as consumers need to be confident that they are paying a fair price for network services.

Jonathan Brearley, executive director for systems and networks, said: “Our regulation will ensure that consumers continue to share in any savings the companies make in the remainder of the price controls. We will continue to monitor their performance and we have powers to make adjustments to their revenue if we find that targets have not been met, once the price control finishes. 

“We would also welcome moves by other DNOs to voluntarily refund consumers, particularly if a change in circumstances means they have surplus funding that is no longer needed.”

Ofgem has told the networks to prepare for tougher price controls from 2021 onwards with lower expected returns. The tougher approach is expected to deliver savings of over £5 billion to consumers, as a result of our stable and predictable regulatory framework.

Notes to editors

  1. *This includes projects to find smarter solutions to connecting increasing amounts of local, low carbon electricity generation using existing infrastructure, and delivering more charging infrastructure to support the uptake in electric vehicles. The companies will also be investing to increase the resilience of their networks.
  2. **Of the £5 billion, £650m is voluntary contributions from gas distribution and electricity transmission companies. The WPD commitment takes this to over £700m.
  3. Ofgem sets price controls for the maximum amount of revenue that monopoly energy networks, including the DNOs, can earn from charges to use their grids. When Ofgem set WPD’s price control an allowance was made for investment to help the electrification of certain rail routes in the Midlands and in Wales. Following the UK Government’s review of its electrification programme last summer, some projects are not being progressed at this time and WPD no longer needs to recover these costs from consumers. Ofgem’s price controls set the maximum amount that network companies like WPD can recover via charges to use the networks. These charges are part of consumers’ bills.

Further information

For media, contact:

Chris Lock: 0207 901 7225

Media out of hours mobile: 07766 511470 (media calls only)

For investors, contact:

Martin Young: 0207 901 7114 

About Ofgem

Ofgem is the independent energy regulator for Great Britain. Its priority is to make a positive difference for consumers by promoting competition in the energy markets and regulating networks.

For facts, figures and information about Ofgem’s work, see Energy facts and figures or visit the Ofgem Data Portal

For energy insights and updates straight to your inbox from Ofgem, please subscribe.

Follow us on Twitter @ofgemLinkedIn and Facebook.