Electricity industry body Elexon has agreed new flexibility measures in its processes, because suppliers who cannot get site access to read meters during the Coronavirus pandemic feared data errors could impede settlement of bills within the industry.
Suppliers have to provide meter data to ensure accurate settlement, and missing data automatically trigger dispute processes, especially for business customers using larger amounts. But the balancing and settlement Performance Assurance Board (PAB), run by Elexon, heard supplier fears over:
- ‘Extreme difficulty’ in obtaining access to sites to obtain routine meter reads, or fix communication issues where meter data is transmitted automatically.
- Site access issues that limit suppliers’ ability to fix meter faults and install new meters.
- Concerns that required data flows may be delayed, if people become ill or need to self-isolate where the ability to work from home is not in yet in place.
- Concerns that estimation and profiling arrangements modelled on normal customer behaviour, which mean meter reads can be estimated, will not be effective in the current circumstances.
The PAB decided on a suite of temporary measures to help the industry ride through the period of government restrictions. It agreed that:
- The regular Error and Failure Resolution (EFR) process, which has automatic triggers if data quality falls, will be suspended, except for “significant and exceptional issues”. Planned changes to the EFR process are on hold.
- To aid suppliers’ cash flow, automatic charges levied on companies that fail to meet performance standards will be calculated for January 2020 and February 2020, but the charge will not be applied until a later date. From March onwards, Elexon is looking at a blanket “Force Majeure” application that would set all such charges to zero, but the practicalities of that approach are still under discussion.
Elexon has also suspended other regular site visits and is investigating how to manage the fact that more estimated reads will mean settlement is less accurate. Settlement between electricity industry parties is normally revisited at regular points over an 18-month period as more meter reads for the charging period become available, and parties are credited or debited to true up or down payments made.
Elexon added, “The decisions the PAB have made reflects the significant difficulty organisations will have obtaining access at this time, however, organisations need to make their own decisions on whether to instruct or undertake access attempts, subject to any over-arching guidance from Ofgem or UK Government directives.”
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