Utility Week

UTILITY Week 8th April 2016

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Page 22 of 31

Customers This week Brockovich hits out at Scottish Water Environmental activist describes introduction of chloramination by water company as 'a dirty trick' American environmental activist Erin Brockovich has slammed Scottish Water's plan to chlo- raminate the water supply to customers in the Spey Valley, saying "it's just a dirty trick". Scottish Water announced last week it is making further enhancements to the treatment process at the £24 million Aviemore water treatment works in response to customer feedback concerning chlorine levels. The introduction of chloramination – an alternative disinfection process to chlorination – was planned to improve the taste of drinking water. However, Brockovich, writing on her Facebook page, said: "Scottish Water's plans to 'improve it' – by adding a cocktail of ammonia and chlorine... when in reality it's just a dirty trick. Adding ammonia to drinking water does not improve it. It masks the underlying problems and contaminants. "Scottish Water... clean the water properly... don't just add more chemicals that do nothing more than conceal." Brockovich's successful case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California in 1993 was the sub- ject of the 2000 movie Erin Brockovich. Responding to her criticism, Professor Simon Parsons, strategic customer service planning director at Scottish Water, said: "We recognise that a small number of customers in the Aviemore area have found chlorine levels – necessary to ensure the water is safe – not to their taste. That's why we are engaging with customers on further enhancements to the treatment process." Maureen Gaines, editor of sister publication Wet News ENERGY Smart meter rollout is 'behind schedule' The Institute of Directors (IoD) has slammed the government's "flawed" smart meter rollout, say- ing it is "well behind schedule". New figures released by the Department of Energy and Cli- mate Change (Decc) revealed that 3 million smart meters have so far been installed in homes and small businesses across Britain. The IoD claimed this was "well behind schedule" to hit the government's target of 50 million installed by 2020, and the rollout risks leaving customers to foot the bill for meters that will bring them "little or no benefit". IoD senior infrastructure adviser Dan Lewis said: "There are concerns about the security of the smart meters rolled out so far [SMETS1 meters], while the next generation of meters [SMETS2] are not ready to be installed in significant numbers. Frankly, the whole project is a bit of a mess. The government must now admit that it's not going to plan." Smart Energy GB defended the rollout, and condemned the IoD for releasing "fundamentally flawed" analysis. WATER Social tariffs at all but three companies Eighteen out of 21 water compa- nies now have social tariffs in place, with South Staffordshire Water, Cambridge Water and Dee Valley Water all announcing new schemes this month. Portsmouth Water said it will also have a new tariff to help those on low incomes from July. The Consumer Council for Water welcomed the new tariffs, which it said will "significantly reduce water bills for almost half a million customers who are struggling to pay". ENERGY Bills fell by £46 on average in 2015 Average annual household energy bills fell by £46 in 2015, according to new figures released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc). The average combined bill dropped to £1,298, a 3.5 per cent reduction from 2014. The aver- age gas bill fell by £38 (5.1 per cent) to £714, while the average electricity bill fell by just £8 (1.4 per cent) to £584. Meanwhile, the price per unit of gas fell in real terms by 6.5 per cent, and the price per unit of electricity by 0.3 per cent. The total number of gas switches rose by 18.7 per cent to roughly 2.7 million and the total number of electricity switches by 11.1 per cent to about 3.4 million. The numbers are based on a standard consumption of 3,800kWh per year of electricity and 15,000kWh per year of gas. Brockovich: seasoned campaigner I am the customer Jo Causon There is a lot to be positive about within the utilities sector: the latest UK Customer Satisfac- tion Index (UKCSI) rates it as the most improved sector in the UK economy, gaining 1.9 points compared to last year. Customer-facing staff are the day-to-day representatives of a business. Arguably they determine business reputation through their service and are key, very public touch points. As lead- ers we are responsible for mak- ing sure these critical assets of critical and distinctive human interactions? The results we see in the UKCSI are revealing, but I'm most interested in asking how the utilities sector can benefit from posing these tough ques- tions, sharing excellence from within the industry and learning from other sectors. If we are serious about maintaining the loyalty of customers, we need to answer these questions together. Jo Causon, chief executive, The Institute of Customer Service our business are equipped with the appropriate skills to deliver the best customer experience. The UKCSI looks in detail at the areas where members of staff in the utilities sector are not achieving the highest standards. Understanding this is critical, but for me it is more important to think about broader chal- lenges and potential solutions. Are we rewarding our people appropriately, can we recognise excellence when it happens and replicate it? More importantly, how can we build this into a sustainable model? Also, how do we maximise the roles of tech- nology and artificial intelligence and balance these with the very UTILITY WEEK | 8TH - 14TH APRIL 2016 | 23 "Can utilities recognise excellence when it happens?" Photo: OlivierPA Images

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