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Prospective renewables generators in Yorkshire are furious at the "excessive" cost of studies to connect projects into the local electricity network. Windcluster, one of those angered by Yorkshire Electricity's charging policy, was quoted £4800 for a connection study for a 10 MW project. "It is a lot of money when most other RECs [renewable energy companies] are charging between nothing and hundreds of pounds for similar information," says Colin Palmer from Windcluster.

The high charges put renewables developers in Yorkshire Electricity's area at a disadvantage when it comes to bidding for contracts under the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO). "There is an inconsistency here because you have this NFFO process which implies there is an evenness in costs across the country, " Palmer explains. "The costs should be the same for everyone bidding into NFFO, but in order to get one bit of information we are suddenly being asked wildly different amounts of money for answers to the same question."

At first glance the case seems to be one calling for intervention by the Office of Electricity Regulation (OFFER), but its powers to act are not as clear cut as it would wish. Karen Marshall from OFFER explains: "Where you have a quote for a connection, we can determine if the actual charges are reasonable. What we cannot do is determine if the charges for making the quote are reasonable." She points out that Yorkshire Electricity has agreed to some suggestions by OFFER for reducing the cost to developers. Applicants now have the option of getting their own study done after the utility has provided information about its distribution system -- for a charge. Alternatively applicants can use NFFO-3 connection quotes, or they can set a financial limit on what they are prepared to pay.

Meanwhile, OFFER is actively seeking clarification of its powers on the issue, says Marshall. "We are not just washing our hands of it; we are still looking seriously at what can be done."

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