A Guide to The Utilities Procurement Regulations

Published28th April 2021 AuthorJohn Hudson

Utilities Procurement Regulations: answering your FAQs

Utilities Procurement Regulations are also known as the Utilities Contracts Regulations or UCRs. They are the principal procurement rules governing utilities in the UK. The regulations were created in order to help ensure general principles of transparency in the procurement process for utilities.

They’re used to establish equal treatment and non-discrimination ensuring that all tenders are assessed creating a fair and competitive process. UCRs create a more level playing field, allowing SMEs to get involved in tendering in the public sector. The Government have pledged to spend £1 in every £3 with SMEs by 2022. This means the public sector is actively looking to work with smaller businesses.

There are two sets of Utilities Procurement Regulations for the UK these are as follows:

  • In England, Wales and Northern Ireland: The Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016
  • In Scotland: The Utilities Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2016

When are UCRs used?

Utilities Procurement Regulations apply where the following three conditions are satisfied when the:

  1. Entity awarding the contract is a ‘utility’
  2. Contract is for works, services or suppliers associated with a prescribed relevant utility activity
  3. Estimated value of the contract exceeds the relevant financial thresholds.

What entities are covered by the UCRs?

The entities that are covered by the Utilities Procurement Regulations are defined as ‘utilities’ and must be:

  • Contracting authorities

Including public bodies tasked with performing public functions such as local authorities.

  • Public undertakings

Over which contracting authorities may directly or indirectly exercise a dominant influence. They could do this by virtue of their ownership or financial participation or governing rules.

  • Private undertakings operating on the basis of ‘special or exclusive rights’

Deriving from authorisations granted by the State. For example, authorisations or licences to operate a gas or water network.

Utility activities in the UK are contained in the UCRs. They can be summarised as covering:

  • Regulated water and sewerage companies
  • Incumbent gas and electricity transmission and distribution network businesses
  • District heating networks
  • Transport services
  • Ports and airports
  • Postal services.

What contracts are covered by the Utilities Procurement Regulations?

The UCRs apply to the following contracts:

What’s the difference between UCRs and public sector regulations?

The contracts that the regulations apply to are fairly similar to the public sector regulations (PCR) 2015. The Utilities Procurement Regulations provide greater flexibility for utilities being more market-orientated. Therefore, they’re less likely to be influenced by ‘buy national’ circumstance when procuring works, supplies and services.

The UCRs only apply to the award of works, supplies and service contracts relating to the relevant utility activity. They allow utilities to choose freely between prescribed contract award procedures. Moreover, they give utilities greater freedom to use framework agreements now they have become more regulated. The PCRs stipulate that there’s a four-year maximum term for a framework. Whereas under the UCRs, a utilities framework can have a maximum of eight years.

What is a framework?

A framework agreement is a multi-supplier agreement used by the public sector to procure a range of goods and services. They are frequently used within the utilities sector. The length of a framework can vary from a few months, but utilities frameworks more often run for years. Due to this, securing a place on a framework agreement can be a lucrative opportunity for your business.

Framework agreements are split into different lots. Each lot can either be a specific good, service, work or geographical location. They allow suppliers to apply to be part of a wider contract without needing to supply all areas. The number of suppliers for each lot varies and can be anything from four suppliers for one lot to ten. Suppliers need only apply for the specific lot[s] they specialise in.

Depending on the buyer, suppliers may be able to bid on any or all of the framework lots available. This will be stated within the tender documents and tender specification released by the buyer. If this is an option, a supplier must be able to demonstrate that they’re able to undertake all works. They must have the appropriate capacity and resources to undertake the works across all selected respective lots.

What are the tender award procedures?

Utilities Procurement Regulations provide for six main contract awards tender procedures:

  1. Open procedure
  2. Restricted procedure
  3. Competitive procedure with negotiation
  4. Competitive dialogue procedure
  5. Innovation partnership
  6. Negotiated procedure without a call for competition.

How are utilities contracts awarded?

Under the Utilities Procurement Regulations, all contracts must now be awarded to the most economically advantageous tender (MEAT). A MEAT takes on a cost-effectiveness approach and could be based on price or cost alone. It could also be evaluated by a best price-quality ratio.

A MEAT can consider the following aspects of a tender:

  • Accessibility
  • Customer service
  • Sustainability
  • Environmental aspects
  • Ability to deliver on time
  • Price
  • Quality.

Need help with your next utilities tender?

You may not always have the experience, time or resources in-house to write a winning tender response. If you’re interested in a current framework agreement or utilities DPS but don’t know where to start, we can help. Outsourcing to tender writing experts can help you win your next tender, securing a pipeline of work for your business.

Our sister company Hudson Succeed, have over 60 years of bid writing experience and an 87% success rate. They offer four bid writing support services that can help you win more utilities tenders. Whether you’ve never tendered before or need your response proofread before you submit – we can help.

Tender Writing

Once you’ve found the perfect utilities tender for your business, why not send it over to us? Our Bid Writers can take care of it all for you. They’ll let you know what they need from you, providing you with a full Tender Writing breakdown. They’ll even submit it on your behalf.

Tender Ready

Our Tender Ready programme is perfect for those who have never tendered before. A Bid Writer will work with you to make sure you have everything you need in place to tender successfully. The 4-week programme offers your business:

  • A 12-month subscription to Facilities Tenders
  • Access to Global Bid Directors and Senior Bidding professionals
  • An organisation-wide Bid Library, including 3 case studies, 5 CV’s and 8 policies
  • Additional flexible benefit options.

Tender Improvement

If you’ve been tendering but aren’t seeing the results you want, our Tender Improvement package can help. The Bid Team will assess your previous responses and tender documents, working with you to improve for future submissions. This package includes a 12-month subscription to Facilities Tenders and additional tendering development services.

Tender Mentor

If you’ve written your own tender response and need someone to double-check it for errors, Tender Mentor can help. Our Bid Team will proofread your work for any inconsistencies, grammar or spelling mistakes. They’ll also ensure that it’s in line with the specification before you submit.

Below are previous utilities tenders sourced on our portal:

Utilities Framework

Exceeding Limited- East Midlands- Budget: £1,500,000

Market Engagement Event in relation to LB Hackney’s Zero Carbon Electricity Power Purchase Agreement(s)

London Borough of Hackney- London- Budget: Undisclosed

Supply of Electric/Gas Meter Covers

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council- West Midlands- Budget: Undisclosed

Contract for the Provision of a Fully Managed Service for Energy Supply (Gas and Electric)

Cheshire East Borough Council- North West- Budget: £6,000,000

Plot N24 Electricity Installation (Hereford Enterprise Zone)

Herefordshire Council- West Midlands- Budget: Undisclosed

A subscription to Facilities Tenders offers your business:

  • Access to all exclusive, public and private sector opportunities within the facilities management industry.
  • An on-hand Account Manager is available to answer any questions you may have about utilities tenders. They can help you understand the procurement process and answer any questions you have about the tendering process in general.
  • A daily email bulletin sent straight to your inbox when new, sector-specific opportunities are uploaded.
  • Discounted support from Hudson Succeed, our bid writing division.
  • 20-minutes of free consultancy with one of our Bid Consultants each month.

We also track opportunities for the following sub-sectors:

Book a free live demo today to learn how we can grow your business!

Want to save even more time?

Upgrading to Discover Elite allows you to identify tender opportunities – even when you’re busy. Our two upgraded packages can improve your competitor awareness and bidding success rate. Each can help save you even more time when searching for utilities tenders.

The Ultimate Time Saver package offers your business:

  • An annual subscription to a maximum of two Hudson Discover sector-specific portals. This option can help businesses that overlap two industries such as Facilities and Logistics, for example.
  • A maximum of five tender breakdowns per month.
  • Pre-market and award engagement notices monitored on your behalf.
  • Buyer portal management, including registration, password management, downloading documents and assessing viability based on your bid or no-bid strategy.
  • Weekly phone calls with your Account Manager to discuss viable tendering opportunities.

The Become a Pre-Bid Master package offers your business:

  • All of the above.
  • Up to seven tender breakdowns per month.
  • Bid Strategy delivered by a Senior Bid Manager with a minimum of 5 years of experience. It will also be managed by our Global Bid Director.

Contact us to find out how we can help your business grow.

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