Irish excess use charge could herald more general water charges Taoiseach hints

New charges for excess domestic water usage in the Irish Republic could lead to the return of a broader water charge, Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has hinted. In July, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities approved proposals from Irish Water to introduce a charge of €3.70 per 1,000 litres used over the annual free allowance for households. An analysis by the regulator and Irish Water indicates that 7-10% of households – around 80,000 homes – which have water meters use more than the planned free allowance of 213,000 litres a year. Irish Water is set to begin monitoring households with a view to identifying so-called "water wasters". They will be liable for bills of up to €500 a year if th

Ofwat sends panel back to drawing board on code changes

Ofwat sent the Panel back to the drawing board on two Code change proposals last week, saying it could not form an opinion and that the Panel should resubmit final reports. One – CPW061 – concerned a proposal developed by the Credit Committee to introduce an additional option to receive an Unsecured Credit Allowance based on payment performance into the Wholesale Retail Code (WRC). This was to address credit problems in the market experienced by small new entrant retailers in particular, without a credit history. Ofwat said it supported the principle but had not seen sufficient evidence that the Credit Committee had fully considered or sought to address the concerns raised by some respondent

Pennon signals possible hive off for its waste management arm

South West Water’s parent, Pennon Group, has unveiled plans “to conduct a full review of the strategic focus, growth options and capital allocation policy for the group” sparking speculation the waste arm, Viridor, may be sold off. In its latest trading review Pennon reported that the proposed review was appropriate given Viridor’s current “strong financial performance and operational progress” and its “growth opportunities” in the near and medium term along with the forthcoming start of AMP7 for South West Water. Pennon said South West Water delivered “resilient operational performance” but revenue for the half year to 30 September 2019 would be reduced to a more normal level year on year f

United Utilities flags boost in revenue and operating income from price increases

United Utilities has announced in its latest trading statement an expected year-on-year increase in group revenue and operating profit in its first half-year report of 2019/20 largely reflecting increased prices. Lower infrastructure renewals expenditure are anticipated to lift operating income. The company expects “a small share of losses” from joint ventures. Higher retail price index inflation applied to the group’s index-linked debt will, the company said, add just over £10m to underlying net finance expense for the first half of 2019/20 over the first half of last year. “Our responsible approach to financial risk management continues to deliver benefits including a strong balance sheet,

Northern Ireland networks "will burst at the seams" without funding boost

Water and sewerage infrastructure in Northern Ireland will "burst at the seams" without significant additional funding, Northern Ireland Water has warned. Chair of the publicly funded utility, Dr Len O'Hagan, said a further £2.5 billion was needed to "remain fit for purpose.” He pointed out that were already 99 areas “where new housing and businesses may be unable to get connected to our sewerage system. "Indeed, the growth of Belfast city, the primary economic engine of Northern Ireland, will struggle unless the £1bn investment in strategic drainage, is supported.” Dr O’Hagan insisted that "operationally, Northern Ireland Water has never been in better shape" and the utility had "delivere

Welsh Water appoints new finance chief

Welsh Water has appointed its current director of strategy and regulation, Mike Davis, to chief financial officer from January 2020. Davis, (pictured), succeeds finance and commercial director, Peter Bridgewater, who is to stand down at the end of the year after five years on the board.

Report ranks United Utilities in top 20 UK firms on sustainability reporting

An independent climate change report has ranked United Utilities in the top 20 UK companies on sustainability performance reporting. The researchers behind the report found that 85% of FTSE 100 companies do not have sufficient carbon reduction strategies. Commenting on the report finding, its author, international consulting group EcoAct, warned that UK businesses “are not going far enough in implementing critical steps to limit carbon emissions.” The researchers fund that only 8% of FTSE 100 companies have attained carbon neutrality, with only a further 10% making the commitment to do so. National Grid, Centrica, SSE and United Utilities ranked 8th, 9th, 12th and 17th respectively. Unilev

Moody’s downgrades Southern Water following licence breach penalty

Moody’s last week downgraded the senior secured debt ratings of Southern Water Services (Finance) to Baa3 from Baa2 and changed the outlook to stable from "rating under review". The action concluded Moody’s rating review, initiated on 26 June 2019, which was prompted by Ofwat’s issue of a financial penalty to Southern for significant breaches of its licence conditions and statutory duties. Moody’s noted: “The company will have to pay a penalty of £3m during the current financial year as well as face a revenue reduction of around £123m (in 2017/18 prices) over the course of the five-year regulatory period commencing April 2020, which includes underperformance penalties the company avoided pay

Affinity issues early warning on spring 2020 hosepipe bans

Affinity Water has written to its customers to notify them of drought in its central region and to give early warning that it is considering hosepipe bans for spring 2020 if low rainfall patterns continue. The heavily groundwater-reliant company has experienced three years of lower than average rainfall and needs “consistent, above average, rainfall throughout autumn and winter 2019/20 for water levels to recover”. As well as informing customers what it is doing in response, Affinity called on them to reduce consumption. People in its central region, which covers Hertfordshire, west Essex and parts of Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and North London, use on average 158 litre

Scotland to cut emissions by 75% by 2030

The Scottish government's new Climate Change Bill will commit Scotland to a target of net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. This is tougher than a net-zero carbon target, which commits only to balancing carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, the Scottish government has adopted a new target to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030 – which it said was “the toughest statutory target of any country in the world for this date going above and beyond what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said is required worldwide to limit warming to 1.5ºC.” The government said the Bill will demonstrate global leadership on addressing global warming. It will also take supporting actions, includ

Sector support mounts for recruitment of ex-armed forces staff

Northumbrian Water, Thames Water and Welsh Water are among nine utilities that have newly committed to recruit ex-military personnel into the sector. Last week they each signed the Armed Forces Covenant, a promise to treat current and former servicemen and women fairly, and pledged to increase the utility sector’s visibility to ex military staff under an initiative coordinated through the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership. Energy & Utility Skills explained: “Recognising the value and experience of ex-military workforce, energy and utilities employers commit to work together to ensure the sector is recognised as armed forces friendly.” The nine join 15 other utilities, which include Angli

Anglian Water commissions a digital twin for Newmarket Shop Window

TECHNOLOGY UPDATE Black & Veatch and Emagin are to create a digital twin of Anglian Water's Newmarket sites, home of the water company's innovation Shop Window. Black & Veatch and Emagin will create a digital representation of the area’s water treatment and distribution infrastructure, embedding artificial intelligence to provide predictive capabilities and intuitive decision support and intervention. The twin will support Anglian’s seven goals for Newmarket: zero leakage and bursts; 100% customer satisfaction; water consumption of 80 litres per person per day; zero pollution and flooding; 100% compliant and chemical-free drinking water; carbon neutrality; and building a circular economy th

Business Stream commits to "making a positive difference" to stakeholders

Business Stream has launched a new vision, Making a Positive Difference, to “make a positive difference to its customers, its people, the environment and the communities it operates within”. Business Stream said it is “a responsible company committed to doing the right thing and giving back to society”. Its recent efforts include developing a partnership with Business in the Community to run a primary school-based volunteering programme; working with Career Ready to provide mentoring and work experience placements to senior school students; launching its water efficiency pledge; and introducing initiatives to improve employees’ wellbeing, including offering mental health first aid training t

Anglian top and Thames bottom of SIM

Anglian Water retained first place and Portsmouth Water second place in the Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM) league table for 2018-19. Meanwhile Thames remained at the bottom of the table and the industry wide performance declined slightly. Ofwat reported first place Anglian increased its score from 88.3 in 2017-18 to 90 out of 100. Thames’ score dropped by over three points since last year from 78.4 to 75. Under the SIM financial incentive regime (-12% and +6% of residential retail revenue, based on the relative average scores for each company), Anglian earned a £16m reward and Thames a £100m penalty (which will be returned to customers). The average SIM score fell to 84.4 in 2018-19 from

Ofwat seeks chapter and verse on work by companies to support markets

Ofwat’s senior director of markets and enforcement, Emma Kelso, has written to wholesale water company chief executives asking for chapter and verse on what they are doing to support the development of effective markets. Kelso (pictured) has asked detailed questions on the business retail market. Areas of interest to Ofwat include: what companies have done to understand the experiences of end customers; how companies contribute to the Panel and the market change process; subjection to MOSL’s Initial Performance Rectification Plans and monitoring of Operational Performance Standards; work on data quality improvement work; and work on retailer interaction including on bilaterals, policy, charg

Anglian’s wholesale market head elected to MOSL board

Wholesalers have elected Anglian Water’s head of wholesale market services Don Maher to represent them as wholesale non executive director (NED) on the MOSL board. Maher (pictured) has plenty of experience of the market, with former roles including on the Open Water programme, and current roles as a member of the Market Performance Committee and a nominated alternate to the Market Arrangements Code Panel. MOSL’s chair, Jim Keohane, said: “Don brings with him a wealth of experience, and for many years has been a highly engaged member of the Panel Committees and other industry groups… He is well placed to understand the challenges present in the non household market and I am confident that his

Long Bailey pledges water jobs will be safe under public ownership

Shadow secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy, Rebecca Long Bailey sent the message to workers of the water and energy network companies that “they’re still going to have jobs” when a Labour government takes their employers back into public hands. Speaking at a party conference fringe event co-hosted by public ownership campaigner, We Own It, and union, Unite, Long Bailey (pictured) pledged all staff would be transferred under TUPE arrangements to the democratically governed and publicly owned regional water authorities the Labour Party has planned. There was, she said, “one anomaly:” any director who falls foul of Labour’s 20:1 maximum pay ratio for public-sector companies.

Rebecca Pow appointed water minister

Rebecca Pow MP has been appointed as the new water minister. Pow joins DEFRA as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State from the he Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport where she has been Parliamentary Under Secretary of State since May. Pow (pictured) is MP for Taunton Deane and environmental campaigns including on plastic pollution have featured in her work. Aside from water, Pow’s new responsibilities include: domestic natural environment; 25 Year Environment Plan; Environment Bill; climate change adaptation; co-ordination of DEFRA input to net zero; land use; floods; resource and environmental management (including waste, air quality, chemicals, litter). She is also the lead f

Tideway green notes issue gets highest S&P Green Evaluation rating

Bazalgette Tunnel’s £75 million fixed-rate senior secured green notes issuance to design, build, commission and maintain the Thames Tideway Tunnel has received S&P Global Ratings’ highest Green Evaluation rating. The E1 score – the highest of four S&P gradings – breaks down as: a transparency score of 88 which “reflects the extensive disclosure requirements set by the regulators, including a “comprehensive assessment of the environmental impacts of the project’s construction and operational phases”; a mitigation score of 97 acknowledged the “large, systemwide nature of the project, as well as its position at the top end of S&P’s water sustainability hierarchy”; and an “excellent” governance

United Utilities brings sluge-to-agriculture in house to "save £1m a year"

United Utilities has brought in house its transportation of sludge for use as fertiliser in farms with a forecast of savings at £1m a year. It has bought 12 new tipper trucks from its fleet partner, Volvo, and hired 15 new drivers to help it distribute the sludge cake from four major treatment works - Shell Green in Widnes, Davyhulme in Manchester, Stockport and Leigh. The company said it will supply Derbyshire farms initially and extend the service into the North West and Midlands.