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Energy Act 2008

Summary and Background

551.This element of the Act relates to electricity safety standards, which are aimed at protecting the general public and consumers from danger. The purpose is to allow for stronger sanctions where there is a breach of electricity safety standards and also to complete the implementation of a recommendation made by Philip Hampton in his March 2005 report, Reducing Administrative Burdens: Effective Inspection and Enforcement.

552.In October 2006, following the Hampton report, there was an administrative transfer of the responsibility for electricity safety standards, from the Secretary of State to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which provided for the HSE to exercise functions on the Secretary of State’s behalf. Electricity safety standards are set out in the Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002/2665) (as amended) (made under the Electricity Act 1989 (c.29)), and include such things as the correct minimum height of overhead lines, appropriate controls on the use of underground cables, and earthing of metalwork.

553.This element of the Act formalises the administrative transfer and creates a consistent approach to the enforcement of safety regulation by giving overall responsibility to one regulatory body. This is in line with the wider Hampton recommendation for HSE to become the overall regulator for safety matters, to reduce the administrative burden of more than one regulator having similar functions.

554.The changes also allow HSE inspectors to use the sanctions available to them under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, when enforcing electricity safety standards. These sanctions are considered by the government to better reflect the seriousness of a breach of electricity safety standards and are the same as sanctions available for a breach of other safety legislation enforced by the HSE.

555.The Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002 deal with issues of both electricity safety and security of supply. This element of the Act deals only with electricity safety. Responsibility for regulating security of supply will remain with the Secretary of State.

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