Severn Trent reports 27% hike in profits before tax

Severn Trent Water reported a year-end group profit before tax up 27% at £384.7m for the 12 months to 31 March 2019. Sales were up £71m to £1,767 million boosted by tariff increases and £13.9m under the regulatory revenue correction mechanism. Net finance costs were down £25.6m to £194.2m. A net gain on financial instruments of £16m was up from a net loss of £6.7m in the previous year. Group profit before interest and taxation (PBIT) for 2018-19 was £573.6m – up 6.8% year on year Excluding exceptional items gave an underlying PBIT of £563.3m. Exceptionals of £9.6m included an £8.9m cost from the legal requirement to offset gender inequality in guaranteed minimum pensions. The company has res

United Utilities reports flat pre tax profit after raft of exceptional items

Pre tax profit at United Utilities was up by less than 1% for the year to 31 March 2019 to £432m on revenue up 4.8% at £1,818 million. Reported operating profit was down £1.5 m to £634.9m. Underlying profit before tax was up £90m to £460m after exclusion of a number exceptional items.. The chief items were £40m from underlying operating profit and £46m from net expense adjustments to exclude items that were not part the “normal course of business.” Underlying operating profit at £685m was up, year on year, £40m on excluding exceptional expenses from the year end 2018 and the current report year. The chief impact arose from a £36m and expenditure on measures to safeguard continuity of supp

MOSL to ramp up the pace and impact of performance improvement in 2019/20

MOSL pledged to accelerate “both the pace and impact of planned improvement initiatives” last week when it published its second Market Performance Operating Plan (MPOP2) – a strategy to tackle systemic issues that are dragging down the performance of the water retail market. The market operator said it had two primary objectives: improved customer outcomes, and improved trading party performance and accountability. MOSL identified the following four areas as requiring the greatest focus in the year ahead: Data quality Meter reading Standards and incentives Data access and insight. Market performance director Steve Arthur, said: “We look forward to working with trading parties and wider stake

Sector gearing up for National Refill Day

The water industry and its Refill partners are expected to announce tens of thousands of venues, including major transport hubs, have joined the water refill movement on National Refill Day on 19 June. National Refill Day is a public awareness campaign to help prevent millions of single-use plastic bottles from polluting streets and oceans by encouraging people to carry a reusable water bottle and refill on the go. As part of a series of events in towns and cities across the country, five of the UK’s busiest Network Rail stations (Manchester, Birmingham, London Waterloo, London Paddington and London Victoria) will unveil new water fountains. High street chains Pret, Greggs and Planet Organi

Northumbrian uses data analytics to create water poverty risk map

Northumbrian Water is rolling out the use of data analytics to pinpoint water poverty hotspots across its supply areas after a successful trial. The company said it began testing the idea – using anonymised, location-specific data and leading edge techniques to identify areas where people are most likely to be in water poverty – at the end of 2018 on a sample of data. Key indicators used include social demographics and payment history, with factors such as the frequency of payments and fluctuations in the amounts paid. The first results were c80% accurate – a level that is expected to improve as the data model continues to learn and develop. Northumbrian said it is now applying the method t

Marchant to hold fort at Thames after Robertson exit

Thames Water announced late on Friday afternoon that Steve Robertson had stepped down as chief executive with immediate effect. Chair, Ian Marchant, will serve as interim executive chair until a successor for Robertson (pictured) is found. No reason was given for the unexpected departure, which reportedly followed a board meeting held that afternoon. Reports variously linked Robertson’s departure to Thames’ ongoing leakage struggles and the poor grade Ofwat gave Thames’ PR19 business plan. One source speculated to THE WATER REPORT that the departure may signal that the board is shying away from a head-on clash with Ofwat over the size of Thames’ 2020-25 investment programme. Robertson has pa

Thames Water and partners set to roll out smart streetworks planner

TECHNOLOGY UPDATE Thames Water and gas network operator, SGN, are poised to extend their use of a street works planning system across London after their joint project in South London took the tally of avoided days of disruption to 100 according to the water company. The companies started the collaboration in Croydon after Thames Water’s design consultant, Atkins, and its partner Fluxx, developed a forward-planning web map and Thames deployed it on its networks. The map, which reveals where upcoming works are planned on same road, is, said Thames, compatible with systems used by Transport for London and the Greater London Authority. Thames and its partners are preparing to roll out the system

SDS buys Waterscan's water recycling arm

Water infrastructure system supplier, SDS has acquired Waterscan’s water recycling division which covers design, supply, installation and maintenance of commercial greywater and rainwater recycling systems. SDS said it will take on immediate responsibility for Waterscan’s current and planned rainwater recycling projects. Water recycling manager at Waterscan, Kevin Reed, has transferred to SDS in the same role. SDS managing director, Patrick Cullen, said: “We have to change the way we think about sustainable drainage systems and treat rainwater first and foremost as a resource, not as a problem to be managed or mitigated. Climate change will lead to more intense storms and flooding in future

Environment Bill will put 25YEP on statutory footing, government tells NCC

The government argued last week that its draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill includes measures to place the 25 Year Environment Plan on a meaningful statutory basis, with an obligation for the government to report annually against progress. It was responding to the Natural Capital Committee’s sixth annual report, which had identified that putting the 25YEP on a meaningful statutory footing in the Environment Bill was its “single most important recommendation”. Elsewhere, the government detailed its response to the NCC’s 11 other recommendations, which included designating a lead body responsible for the 25YEP; the principles that should underpin the plan’s implementation; and

DEFRA reports success so far on 25-Year Environment Plan

Ninety per cent of priority actions set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan have been delivered or are on track for timely delivery, DEFRA said in its first 25YEP progress report. In terms of the “clean and plentiful water” goal – one of ten key objectives specified in the plan – the report listed the following achievements: • Water companies collectively committed over £5bn over the next five-year period to improve the water environment. • Published a National Policy Statement for water resources infrastructure to streamline the process of gaining planning permission for nationally significant infrastructure projects. • Lead a water conservation report in Parliament endorsing incremental le

Abstraction reform on track, says DEFRA

DEFRA last week reported good progress had been made in reforming abstraction management and that it is largely on track with scheduled future actions. The department published a statutory abstraction reform report required under the 2014 Water Act. The report detailed actions since Act (which removed water companies’ compensation rights for abstraction licence changes), including the publication of the government’s abstraction plan in December 2017. Since then, it noted that previously exempt abstractors had been able to apply for licences since January 2018; that a digital licence platform had been developed and gone live in March 2018; that 650 unused or under-used licences had been revok

Only one in three back Labour’s public ownership raid on 6m water pensions

Water UK said 6m pension pots would be hit by the Labour Party’s leaked plans to take water firms back into public hands for a cut price, and that less than a third of people support the move given that statistic. Research by the Global Infrastructure Investor Association identified 67 UK pension funds with investment in the English water industry. These have 4m members from public sector schemes such as Greater Manchester's scheme for local authority workers, and 1.8m members from private sector schemes including those from BT and Tesco. “They face losing potentially thousands of pounds if Labour goes ahead with plans to force through a cut-price takeover of the industry,” Water UK said. Me

CC Water urges Ofwat to tackle root causes of rising retail complaints

The Consumer Council for Water has called on Ofwat to consider tougher sanctions for poorly performing retailers after business customer complaints rose again in the final quarter of 2018/19. There were 1,078 complaints to the watchdog in Q4, up substantially from 968 in the same period the previous year, and up slightly on the 1,036 gripes registered in Q3 2018/19. Around three quarters (783) in the latest data are about billing and charges. The watchdog said regulatory action might be needed to tackle the root causes of rising complaints, and called out three of the largest retailers – Water Plus, Castle Water and Wave – for accounting for almost four out of five cases. It pointed out: “Th

Ofwat moves to mandate its board leadership objectives

Ofwat’s campaign to strengthen water companies’ corporate governance continued last week with a move to make the adoption of its new board leadership objectives compulsory. The regulator is consulting until 14 June on incorporating the board leadership, transparency and governance objectives, which were upgraded earlier this year, into company licences and making it mandatory for companies to meet them. The objectives are that: the board of the appointee establishes the company’s purpose, strategy and values, and is satisfied that these and its culture reflect the needs of all those it serves; the appointee has an effective board with full responsibility for all aspects of the appointee’s bu

Northumbrian puts Barnacle to the test

Northumbrian Water is conducting trails with a smart sensor device that is placed inside the toilet cistern without the need for a plumber to identify potential issues with a customers' water supply including a leaky loo or even problems in the local mains network. The Barnacle prototype is being trialled on a test rig that flushes automatically every ten minutes using recycled water, while researchers alter the flow, pressure and temperature of the water. The trial will gauge the Barnacle’s capacity to gather data at every flush and to detect a difference from the norm. In a person’s home, differences picked up by the Barnacle could reveal a continuously running intern (leaky loo) , or l

Labour unveils proposals for public ownership of energy

Labour has unveiled a proposed restructure for a publicly owned UK energy networks that would combine power and gas transmission operation under a national body – the National Energy Agency (NEA) – and have 14 Regional Energy Agencies (REAs) running power and gas distribution each in a separate region in England, Scotland or Wales. The proposals are part of the party’s plans to renationalise utilities were it to form a future government. Labour’s plans could, according to credit rating agency, Moody’s, bring credit-negative uncertainties for gas distribution network operators (GDNs). They could arise from their proposed acquisition by new public authorities based on the licence areas of the

Welsh Water slashes carbon emissions by 80% with on-site production

Welsh Water has reported its carbon emissions down to a fifth of its 2011 figure. Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water said it had reduced its operational emissions had by 79% since 2010-2011, which, it said was “the result of investment in renewable energy generation and energy-efficiency technologies at its sites, as well as buying all our electricity from renewable sources.” The company said it will generate some 25% of its power demand by next year using a mix of hydro, wind power, solar and gas-to-grid. It has recently started a £36 million investment to turn its Five Fords site which has undertaken into a “model green energy site” processing sewage from around 180,000 customers and generates 2.5GW

Northumbrian appoints head of innovation

Northumbrian Water has appointed Dr Angela MacOscar in its new post of Head of Innovation. The role is “to make innovation business as usual' right across the water company,” Northumbrian said. Physical chemist, MacOscar (pictured), has some 30 years’ experience linked in innovation. including 17 years in “exploring innovation concepts” at Procter & Gamble.

Scottish response to climate emergency too be "world's most stringent"

The Scottish Parliament’s response to the declaration of a climate emergency by Westminster will be “the world’s most stringent legislative targets” according to MSP , Roseanne Cunningham. Cunningham (pictured) said the Scottish Parliament’s response followed advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). Subject to Holyrood approval the amendments to Scotland’s Emissions Reduction Targets Bill would set a 2045 target for net zero emissions. She said it would constitute “the most stringent legislative targets anywhere in the world and Scotland’s contribution to climate change will end, definitively, within a generation.” She said the CCC had emphasised that meeting the UK government wa

SES Water chief to retire in autumn

SES Water managing director, Anthony Ferrar, is to retire this autumn. Ferrar (pictured) has been with SES for 11 years since joining the company from Bournemouth Water where he had been finance director for 15 years. SES Water said h is successor would be appointed “in due course.”