Northern Ireland utility regulator, Pyper, to quit in autumn

Chief executive of Northern Ireland’s economic utility regulator, Jenny Pyper, has announced her retirement after seven years heading the watchdog. Before joining the Utility Regulator of Northern Ireland, which also oversaw the water and energy sectors, Pyper was a career civil servant with the Northern Ireland Executive. She has agreed to stay until the autumn to enable the appointment of a successor and to facilitate a short handover period.

Regulator says price rises needed to fund net zero future in Scotland

Average annual water charges in Scotland should increase by between 1% and 2% above the rate of Consumer Price Inflation in the 2021-7 period, if Scottish Water is to achieve net zero emissions by 2040 and provide resilient services into the future, regulator the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) has said. In a paper published last week – Prospects for prices, its final decision paper head of draft determinations being published in May 2020 – WICS set out the range and reaffirmed it planned to endorse any specific settlement within that price range negotiated between Scottish Water and consumer representative in the price review, the Customer Forum. It said: “The Commission consi

Ofwat axes Tor Water’s licences and allocates customers to four retailers

Ofwat revoked Tor Water’s Water Supply and Sewerage Licences (WSSL) last week. This followed Wessex Water, Bristol Water and MOSL echoing concerns South West Water has raised for many months – that Tor had not paid its bills – and Tor's failure to provide all the information Ofwat repeatedly requested about the matter. South West Water terminated Tor’s wholesale contract on 30 January 2020 after identifying the south west based retailer as a defaulting trading party. Tor’s customers in South West Water’s area were transferred to Pennon Water Services following the contract termination. Now Tor’s WSSL has been revoked, its customers in the Wessex and Bristol wholesale areas have been transfer

Castle Water tops 5,000 Trustpilot reviews

Castle Water last week of clocked up over 5,000 reviews on Trustpilot and reported that over the past month, 93% had been four or five star. Castle’s press release said: “With a Trust Score of 4.6 out of 5, Castle Water has a higher rating than any of the other ‘Big 4’ business water retailers.” An internal message from chief executive John Reynolds congratulating his team added: “We have 15 times the number of five-star reviews for Business Stream, and 22 times the number for Everflow.” Head of customer service Mary Haviland commented: “Everyone at Castle Water is focused on providing excellent service. We are benefiting from a very significant investment in systems and training over the pa

South East Water appoints new regulation director as Hinton prepares for top job

South East Water has appointed Oliver Martin as its new regulation and strategy director. Martin has, since 2015, been South East’s head of economic regulation and strategy and led the business plan preparation for PR19.
 He has worked in the water industry since 1997 in roles including finance, customer service and regulation. Martin will take up his new job on 1 April from David Hinton who will then work with outgoing chief, Paul Butler, on the handover in July when Hinton becomes chief executive officer.

Engineering and artificial intelligence duo in bid to boost asset management

TECHNOLOGY UPDATE Black & Veatch is seeking to develop methods for water infrastructure operators to make more accurate decisions using artificial intelligence analytics of geospatial data from its partner in the venture, Rezatec. The duo claimed the combination of Black & Vetch’s experience in infrastructure engineering and Rezatec’s algorithms and machine learning applied to satellite data will optimise asset management and reduce operating costs.

Watchdog launches guide to stemming rise in customer complaints

CCW has launched a bid to help the industry get to grips with billing complaints, which, it said: “continue to cause enormous frustration for thousands of household customers across England and Wales.” In its guidance to water companies, Getting the measure of billing and debt complaints CCW addresses disputes over bills and debt recovery, which, it said, make up about half of the complaints made to water companies. It highlights examples of good and bad practice in case studies. Recommendations include building a stronger relationship with customers, taking more frequent meter readings and gaining a better understanding of each bill-payer’s individual circumstances. Disputed reliability of

Severn Trent bags £1m funding to develop novel wastewater treatment technology

TECHNOLOGY UPDATE Severn Trent Water has received £1m in government funding to develop a wastewater treatment system that produces plant nutrients and reduces emissions into a commercial product. The system, created by resource optimisation specialist, CCm Technology, combines nitrates, phosphates and organic materials in wastewater with carbon dioxide captured form other processes to produce fertiliser. The process, the company says, produces less greenhouse gas than conventional fertiliser production and could provide Severn Trent with a revenue stream. And the CCm system reduces energy consumption by harnessing heat produced in the chemical processes. Department for Business, Energy and I

Anglian in bid to foster innovation globally

Anglian Water has joined US based, non-profit water innovation organisation, WaterStart, to extend its existing UK-centred initiative in developing new technologies. Like Anglian’s Water Innovation Network partnership with business development company, Allia, Waterstart brings on small technology providers but with most of its activity in western US and Australia. Head of Innovation engagement for Anglian Water, Shaunna Berendsen, said: “Partnering with WaterStart gives us the opportunity to widen our network internationally to access global solutions as well as a back catalogue of trials and case studies so that we can adopt the latest innovations, quickly.”

Severn Trent trials groundbreaking fibre optic leakage detection technology

TECHNOLOGY UPDATE Severn Trent is trialling the use of fibre optic leakage detectors that promise greater sensitivity and coverage than offered by the current leading technology. According to Severn Trent fibre optic cables inserted in water pipes detect changes in pressure, temperature, vibrations and sound to provide early detection leaks when they are in the formative stages. period. And it is superior to hydrophone technology in that it can detect multiple leaks one greater lengths of pipe. Severn Trent technical project lead, Jo Claronino, said: “By ‘listening’ out for any of these changes, we think this technology has enormous potential to act as an early warning system across our n

Affinity Water withdraws its warning of a hosepipe ban in spring

Affinity Water has withdrawn its warning that a spring hosepipe ban could be needed in its central region, announcing groundwater levels are recovering well following the heavy rainfall over winter. The company alerted customers to the possibility of a ban in September after three years of dry weather. But groundwater levels have now recovered from a ‘low’ position in October and are expected to continue to rise until the end of the winter recharge period. Affinity acknowledged the environmental impact prolonged dry weather, notably low flows in the region’s globally rare chalk streams. Director of corporate affairs, Jake Rigg said: “We have embarked on a massive programme of river restorati

Four firms seek watchdog referrals based on fears for resilience and financeability

Three water and sewerage companies (WASCs), and one water only company, last week asked Ofwat to refer their PR19 final determinations (FDs) to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). While there are company specific considerations, the three WASCs – Yorkshire Water, Anglian Water and Northumbrian Water – share common concerns that their customers have not been listened to; that Ofwat has struck the wrong balance between bill cuts and investment; and that their long-term financial resilience is jeopardised by Ofwat’s stance. Yorkshire Water First to announce on Tuesday was Yorkshire, which said it could not accept the long term risks to its resilience and customers the FD posed. “The ov

S&P downgrades Welsh Water following option to accept price controls

S&P Global Ratings has downgraded Welsh Water after it chose to not to appeal Ofwat’s determinations for its 2020-25 price controls. S&P dropped the grading of the senior secured (class B) debt issued by Welsh Water to 'A-' from 'A', and lowered the issue rating for subordinated (class C) debt to 'BBB' from 'BBB+'. The ratings agency affirmed the 'AA' issue rating with a stable outlook on the four senior secured class A bonds issued by Welsh Water. “The downgrade reflects our expectations that the company's credit metrics will not be in line with the levels we see as commensurate with 'A' and 'BBB+' issue ratings over the next regulatory period, AMP7, starting in April 2020,” said S&G’s Ass

British Water chief pledges to up diversity in the company and its board

British Water chief executive, Lila Thompson, has pledged to up the gender diversity of the company to 30% female by 2025 while increasing also the proportion of employees from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) origins. Thompson (pictured centre) is the only woman and BAME member of British Water’s board of 12. She announced her aim to make “positive changes” to address the lack of diversity in the non-executive board. She urged other leaders in the UK water industry to take action to tackle the lack of diversity. Quoting figures from Energy & Utility Skills she said that while 20% of the industry’s workforce is female, compared to 47% for all sectors. And 4% of water sector staff i

Brexiteer Eustace takes tiller at Defra

After only three months in the job Theresa Villiers has been replaced as environment secretary by George Eustace in a bruising reshuffle by prime minister Boris Johnson. Meanwhile Rebecca Pows was reappointed as environment minister. She said on Twitter she was “cracking on" with the Environment Bill – second reading on Feb 26th”. Former environment minister in 2013, Eustace (pictured) was returned returned to Defra last summer. The ex UKIP member had resigned from his Defra position in February last year after then prime minister, Teresa May, freed MPs to vote on the delay to Brexit beyond March 2019.

Armitt urges government to look beyond HS2 in infrastructure ambitions

The government should look beyond HS2 and accelerate investments in water networks as well as other infrastructure projects according to chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt. Speaking to MPs and Peers, Armitt (pictured) pointedly noted the “583 days since the Commission published the UK’s first ever National Infrastructure” and added: “After more than 18 months of delay, we hope the stage is now set for a truly transformative strategy that will prove worth the wait”. He said the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy – due to be published alongside the Budget next month – was “a golden moment of opportunity for government to chart an ambitious but deliv

Portsmouth set to brief "all tiers" of supply chain on planned reservoir project

Portsmouth Water is setting up an event to brief local, regional and national suppliers on its plans to build and develop the UK’s first new reservoir for more than 30 years. The Supply Chain Engagement Event will, according to Portsmouth, give suppliers an informal opportunity to “engage with the company, explore opportunities to be involved and share feedback on the proposals.” The event is part of Portsmouth’s preparations for a procurement programme for packages of works associated with its planned collaboration with Southern Water on the planned Havant Thicket reservoir in Hampshire. Portsmouth’s chief, Bob Taylor (pictured), said he was looking to engage with “companies at all tiers in

Ofwat blocks wholesalers' more-than-due credit support from retailers

On Friday, Ofwat implemented changes to the credit terms operating in the retail market that were originally proposed urgently by Castle Water back in October, in light of wholesalers’ credit metrics coming under pressure from PR19 final determinations. The watchdog closed a loophole which would have allowed wholesalers to draw down more than they are owed from Eligible Credit Support or Alternative Eligible Credit Support posted by retailers. Furthermore, retailers whose credit support has been over-drawn by wholesalers will now only be required to provide further credit support over and above the excess drawn down. Ofwat approved for the most part CPW079, though with clarifications to the

Ofwat seeks social contract director

Ofwat is recruiting for the new post of director – governance, environment and public value. The successful candidate will be responsible for encouraging and incentivising companies to work in the long-term interest of society and the environment. Specific responsibilities include the following. • Developing the concept of public value as it applies to the water sector and assessing ways to promote and incentivise this approach amongst companies. • Developing Ofwat’s role in protecting the environment, including ensuring future environmental investment programmes bring forward the greatest strategic benefits and exploring how best to use natural capital accounting methods to evaluate compani

Retailers' wholesaler performance chart gets go-ahead for April start

R-MeX, a new measure to chart how well wholesalers are performing for retailers, will be introduced to the water market from 1 April after Ofwat approved code change proposal CPW084 last week. The change, formally proposed jointly by Thames Water and Castle Water, put forward a new R-MeX mechanism which has been collaboratively produced by trading parties under the auspices of the Retailer Wholesaler Group. Retailers will be invited to complete regular surveys on each wholesaler’s performance and the results will be fed back to wholesalers in detail and reported publicly in summary. There are no financial incentives attached, but the intention is to drive performance improvements through rep