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Energy & Utilities Case Studies

Energy and Utilities Case Studies

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Hills Waste Solutions - Mechanical and Biological Treatment Plant


We have acted for the Hills Group for many years. Hills Waste Solutions is the largest division in the Hills Group and is involved in waste management for clients in the public and private sectors across the UK.

We were delighted when Hills instructed us to advise them on all aspects of the mechanical and biological treatment (MBT) plant that they were planning to construct and operate in Westbury, Wiltshire.

This plant is the first and only plant of its kind in Wiltshire and is a significant investment by Hills as part of its strategy to expand its energy from waste operations.  It is also a key element in Wiltshire Council’s strategy to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill and therefore the amount of landfill tax paid by the county's taxpayers.

Each year, the MBT process will treat approximately 60,000 tonnes of Wiltshire’s household waste in a way that removes metals for recycling and then creates solid recovered fuel (SRF).  SRF is a dry and sanitised material that can be safely handled.  Once produced, the SRF is used in renewable energy plants to create power and heat.

Construction of the MBT plant took 18 months to complete and was followed by a commissioning period before the plant was made fully operational in December 2013.  The plant is operated by Hills under a 25 year contract agreed with Wiltshire Council.

How were we able to help?

We provided a specialist legal solution to Hills, combining input from our construction, real estate, commercial, intellectual property and corporate banking lawyers to draft, negotiate and finalise the numerous documents required for the project to work successfully.

This included a waste contract with the local authority, funding agreements, construction contracts in respect of the building and the processing equipment, technology licences and a contract for use of the SRF.

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Successful Outcome in an Energy Dispute for a 'Big Six' Energy Supplier

We were instructed by a "Big Six" energy supplier in respect of a potential claim in excess of £570,000.  The Claimant was a major international company, who alleged over-billing due to a historic mismatch in current transformer ratios, following work by its contractors. The Claimant also intimated a claim on the same facts against another "Big Six" energy supplier, who supplied electricity to the same address. At an early stage, the Claimant made our client an offer to settle for £560,000.

Based on the following facts:

  • our client did not cause the fault that led to the alleged over-billing
  • in accordance with the Balancing and Settlements Code, our client had paid-on an average of 97% of everything it received from the Claimant to other members of the supply chain; and
  • our client was time-barred from raising a trading dispute or otherwise recovering money it had paid to the supply chain,

we asserted a change of position defence on our client's behalf.

All three Parties agreed to mediate prior to the issue of a claim, which resulted in a full and final settlement in our client's favour.

How our Client Benefited from Our Advice 

Based on our knowledge of the sector, we identified a defence that brought the Claimant to mediation before Court proceedings were issued, which led to a full and final settlement.

We worked closely with our client's managers and in-house lawyers.   We also worked closely with the other energy company that was involved,  to establish tactics and shared points of interest.  This enabled us to negotiate a settlement that resulted in a significant reduction in our client's potential exposure as well as a considerable saving in legal fees and management time.

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Pipelines Case Study - The impact of HS2

The proposed HS2 route from London to the West Midlands will cross over three oil pipelines of national strategic importance.  VWV are representing the interests of all three pipeline operators, to protect the safety and security of the pipelines and ensure the continuity and security of fuel supply during and after construction of HS2.

The HS2 team engaged with each operator at an early stage to understand the practical issues at the interface of each crossing.  The conclusion was that each will require a diversion of the existing pipelines and additional protection to existing pipelines.

The land rights enjoyed by private oil pipeline operators derive from private contracts and land agreements, rather than statutory powers.  Private pipeline operators are not "statutory undertakers" for the purposes of the HS2 Bill, and do not have the same level of protection afforded to mainstream gas, electricity, telecoms, sewerage and water undertakers.

Accordingly we are negotiating a protective provisions agreement with HS2 on behalf of each pipeline operator, to give at least equivalent protection as statutory undertakers.  The agreement also recognises the limited statutory powers and resources available to the operators, and their statutory obligations including compliance with the Pipeline Safety  Regulations.

To further protect the operators - and as one of a limited number of Roll A Parliamentary Agents - we have lodged petitions against the HS2 Bill, particularly addressing the Bill's compulsory purchase powers. The operators do not object to the principle of HS2, but do object to any powers that:

  • Create a risk to the physical or operational integrity of the pipeline, during or after construction of the proposed scheme.
  • Inhibit the operator's  ability (physically or legally) to protect and gain access to the pipeline for inspection, maintenance and repair, during or after construction of the proposed scheme.
  • Prevent or diminish the operator's ability to comply with its statutory obligations as a pipeline operator.
  • Prevent or diminish the operator's ability to enforce its legal rights in respect of current and future protection of the pipeline from surface or underground activity.

The operators are also concerned to ensure that there are sufficient powers in the Bill to enable the acquisition of all land and rights that are necessary to implement the diversions; that all their diversion costs can be recovered as they are incurred;  and that long term maintenance and access costs are addressed.

The Parliamentary process continues and can be followed at:

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To discuss how our energy lawyers can help you, please contact Jason Prosser on 0117 314 5237.

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Jason Prosser - Partner & Head of Energy Law in Bristol - VWV Law Firm
Edward Rimmell - Partner in Bristol - VWV Law Firm

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