A recent article at www.commercialintegrator.com considers the past, present and future of KNX building control technology.

15 years after the EIBA, EHSA and BCI formed the KNX Association, KNX gives real value by not only being able to control lighting and HVAC, but by also being able to interface with a multitude of HVAC and other building control protocols. Virtually all big CI (customer installer or integrator) companies in the UK now have at least one person who is a KNX partner.

In the article Andrew M Taylor, who handles technical sales for Jung UK and is a certified KNX Association tutor and KNX Partner, discusses recent developments for KNX, including the release of ERS5, which introduces a new medium in the form of KNX/RF and is an exciting addition to the KNX stable.

Taylor believes the awareness of KNX in the UK controls industry has grown, and KNX is no longer dismissed as 'another lighting control system'. The training of enough KNX partners and their ability to advise and direct clients to provide the correct solutions for their requirements, are also key to further developing awareness of the protocol.

KNX is the world's first open standard for the intelligent control of all types of buildings – industrial, commercial and residential, and growing fast, however only one college in the UK (Plymouth City College) teaches the City and Guilds course for KNX both as a mechanical and electrical subject.

Many involved would suggest KNX, or at least building controls, needs to form part of a young engineer's college training, not afterwards, another part of the UK's growing skills gap.

The relevant bodies must act now to teach young students about KNX, DALI, EnOcean and BACnet now, rather than the all too common scenario of KNX trained engineers being brought in from Europe to plug that skills gap.

I would be interested to hear your views.

This morning's online and print news was filled with National Grid's warning its capacity to supply electricity this winter will be at a seven-year low due to generator closures and breakdowns.

Gas supplies are said to be in a strong position this winter, with gas supplies, storage and network capacity well in excess of maximum expected demand.

This year electricity margins have decreased compared to recent years, with the average cold spell (ACS) margin expected to be 4.1%.

Three years ago the margin was 17%.

In response, National Grid is finalising contracts with three power stations to provide additional reserve under Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR).

Cordi O’Hara, director of market operation, said: “The Winter Outlook Report provides the energy market with a snapshot of the potential gas and electricity picture for the coming winter.

“Our analysis shows gas supplies to be in a strong position. Supply sources are diverse, network capacity is healthy and gas storage is well stocked.

“The electricity margin has decreased compared to recent years, but the outlook remains manageable and well within the reliability standard set by government.

“As System Operator, we have taken the sensible precaution to secure additional tools to bolster our response to tighter margins.

“We will continue to keep a close watching brief across both electricity and gas throughout the winter so that we’re strongly placed to respond to any unanticipated events.”

Is it time for big firms to switch off their supply overnight - as suggested by National Grid? I would be interested to hear your views.

CLICK HERE to catch up on the 30 minute webinar recording, and learn how to optimise cooling and realise efficiency gains.

Data centre and IT managers are looking for ways to reduce energy consumption and boost performance for the good of the environment, as well as the bottom line. Now, making the right choices to optimise for energy and cost savings just got easier. 

In this webinar we discussed an exciting new generation of energy efficient in-row cooling products for the data centre environment.

Well qualified

I was so sorry to gather, after less than three years in the role, Angela Knight is to stand down as chief executive of Energy UK.

When Angela Knight was appointed, there were lots of jokes – ­ mostly made by me – that she was moving over from running the British Bankers Association because she wanted to represent a marginally less unpopular industry. So perhaps it is to her credit that recent polls have found the Big Six are now even more distrusted that the high street banks.

So who is to succeed her? Well, I have found somebody absolutely perfectly qualified to do so. Russell Hamblin-Boone was previously the director of corporate affairs for the Energy Retailers Association, right up until the time it morphed into the Energy UK organisation. Subsequently he has found very pertinent employment. He is now the chief executive of the Consumer Finance Association. And upon whose behalf does this pleasant sounding Association speak? If I tell you that amongst its main members are key High Street names like Money Shop, Quick Quid and Wonga, you will quickly work out that the estimable Mr. H-B currently speaks for the payday loan industry. These are companies that still outweigh even the Big Six in public detestation. Given this pedigree, he should be a shoo-in as Knight¹s replacement.

Grovelling apology

Linda and Nigel Brotherton live in a three bedroom semi-detached 1990s house in Burnley, Lancashire. Their electricity consumption has always been pretty frugal.

But this summer they received notification from their supplier, nPower (a subsidiary of the German loss-making monolith, RWE). It told them they were increasing their quarterly direct debit, which had been a commendably low £87. The new charge was to be £53,000,000. And the Brothertons need not respond. It would be debited automatically.

In the last week, an open letter to energy suppliers from Ofgem chief Dermot Nolan demanded action on poor consumer complaints handling.

Nolan wrote to to the CEOs of not only the 'big six', but also smaller independent suppliers after research, commissioned by Ofgem, highlighted over half of those who had complained (57% of domestic and 52% of small business consumers) were not satisfied with the way their complaint had been handled by their energy supplier.

Ofgem highlighted the key areas customers were most concerned about and where suppliers must do most to improve. These included:

• improving the speed of resolving a complaint

• communicating better with consumers during the complaint process   

• being more proactive in resolving complaints

Nolan said: “These satisfaction scores are frankly awful. Almost all energy suppliers need to improve their complaints handling as a matter of urgency. There are real business benefits to good complaints handling schemes, and it shouldn’t need a regulator to tell companies about the importance of this.

“Suppliers must now tell their customers what steps they will be taking to put things right. We are already formally investigating npower about complaints handling and other customer service issues, and this should send a strong signal to all suppliers that, where necessary, we will take action.”

Many customers are now responding to suppliers’ poor service by switching supplier. Nearly one in two customers had either already switched or planned to do so as a result of their complaints experience.

With what Ofgem calls an "industry wide" failure, and almost 60% of domestic customers dissatisfied with the way problems are dealt with, one wonders how many suppliers a customer needs to go through to find one worth sticking with?

Electrical Review is pleased to announce the video footage from its recent TTSC (transformer technology and substation) event.

Sponsored by Megger, Wilson Power Solutions and Roxtec, the free, half-day, London seminar focused on the latest developments in transformer technology and substations and educated attendees on the latest developments in transformer and substation technology. Themes included energy efficiency, reliability and diagnostics.

Not a natural
None of the Big Six will forget in a hurry how, during a highly publicised cross-examination session before the House of Commons energy select committee, a hitherto unknown Irishman running an utterly obscure electricity brand stole all the headlines from them.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, the CEO of OVO Energy, played the cheeky upstart to perfection. Whenever the panjandrums of EDF or SSE tried to explain how the big price rises were all down to external forces way beyond their control, up would pop the little leprechaun fellow, saying that precisely the same worldwide trading conditions were allowing him to drop rather than increase his charges.

New from the the Electrical Review team is its Transformer Technology and Substations Conference (TTSC). This free, half-day seminar will focus on the latest developments in transformer technology and substations and educate attendees on the latest developments in transformer and substation technology. Covering themes including energy efficiency, reliability and diagnostics, the conference will provide essential information for those looking to upgrade, maintain and reduce energy costs for transformer and substation assets.

Persuasion from London

Sometimes you do think the UK government seems determined to do all in its power to persuade the Scots to vote for independence in their referendum this September. Take this latest ham-fisted example, perpetrated by energy minister Michael Fallon.

On Thursday 10 April Electrical Review and Schneider Electric held a webinar on prefabricated modules for flexible data growth.

Prefabricated data centre modules continue to show value to the industry as a viable option in designing and building a data centre.

Historically, the case for prefabricated data centres has focused heavily on direct cost comparisons with that of traditional builds. While this type of correlation may be valid in most cases, it over simplifies the discussion, resulting in complex comparisons that leave evaluators unconvinced.

This presentation discussed the business justification for prefabricated data centres and feature examples of actual applications, concluding with a review of Schneider Electric's capabilities, tools and offer.

Speaking at this webinar was Scott Neal, product marketing director of prefabricated data centre modules, Schneider Electric.

Scott is responsible for communicating the value and strategy of Schneider’s prefabricated solutions. He has a broad technical background and has focused much of his 19 year career on new product development and technical marketing in support of products and solutions for data centre infrastructure.

The webinar broadcast is now available here.