Code of conduct to keep flexibility providers in check

A new code of conduct has been drawn up to ensure flexibility service providers are giving customers a fair deal.

The HOMEflex code has been developed by Flex Assure, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and the Centre for Sustainable Energy.

It sets out a range of required customer protections including expectations around sales behaviour, contractual terms, data handling and dispute resolution procedures.

Natasha Mills, scheme administrator at Flex Assure, said: “Today we launched the HOMEflex Code of Conduct for Household or Microbusiness energy flexibility users.

“With the publication of this Code, we hope to increase consumer confidence in energy flexibility services, with the aim of encouraging participation.

“Government policy is clear at showing the importance that domestic flexibility will have in reaching Net Zero in a secure and cost-effective way, but without a focus on consumer trust and inclusion, this reality will not be achieved.”

Simon O’Loughlin, innovation project manager at Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, added: “Energy flexibility is a critical part of the transition to Net Zero and forms a core part of SSEN Distribution’s plans.

“It is vitally important to us that we enable all our customers to benefit from the rewards flexibility can bring. During the transition to low carbon and Net Zero, projects such as HOMEflex are levelling the playing field and creating a fairer energy future for everyone. This will support our flexibility product road map and purchasing of flexibility.”

The HOMEflex project, which has received £310,000 of funding from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition, is being led by SSEN Distribution in partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Energy and Flex Assure. Flex Assure is the voluntary code of conduct for flexibility providers established by the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) in 2019.

Market research carried out ahead of the code being drafted suggested that customers wanted a dedicated watchdog to be established to manage disputes between providers and customers.

The final code of conduct, however, suggests that customers and providers should solicit an independent arbitration or mediation body when disputes cannot be resolved. It adds that the third party should be agreed on during the initial contract negotiations.

Demand flexibility is predicted to play a greater role in balancing the grid in the coming years.

Last month, the ESO announced that it was confident that take-up of this winter’s DFS will be at least three times the size of last winter’s scheme.

Under a “fairly moderate” scenario, the ESO expects around 1GW of capacity to be made available through the DFS. In a more optimistic outlook, the ESO thinks up to 2GW could be made available.

The moderate estimate of 1GW is triple the 350MW made available through the DFS last winter, while the ambitious 2GW target is six times as much.