Utility Week

UTILITY Week 18th November 2016

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People & Opinion Utility Week community UTILITY WEEK | 18TH - 24TH NOVEMBER 2016 | 7 "We're in a period of intervention. Effectively, the government has nationalised the investment making process" Peter Atherton, associate, Cornwall Energy, says the economics of new power stations have changed as a result of government actions "We are still in the aftermath of a piece of vandalism on CCS after government cancelled the two pilot projects" Alan Whitehead, shadow energy and climate change minister "Policy since May 2015 has been a mix of irrationality, incompetence and lies" Ed Davey, Lib Dem former energy secretary South East Water recently received a sewerage licence to allow its business retail arm – South East Water Choice – to offer wastewater services to its 55,000 business customers. The company has also applied for a water supply and sewerage licence to enable it to operate nationally. South East Water Choice managing director James Dubois talks to Utility Week about the company's strategy and expectations in the new market. Q: What is South East Water's strategy for the non-household market? A: Historically we were a water only supplier. We applied for, and have been granted, a sewerage licence to offer sewer age service within our area. We do that under the traditional brand of South East Water, to which we've added 'Choice'. Looking aer our existing customer base is the primary focus. But we do have some national ambitions, and those will start with servicing the national branches of our local customers. We're going through the Q&A James Dubois, managing director, South East Water Choice process of an outofarea appli cation for a water supply and sewerage licence to allow us to operate nationally. We will use Invicta Water – a dormant com pany which doesn't have any transactions on it – as a vehicle to operate out of area, trading as Water Choice South East. We see at some stage – date unknown – transitioning all our customers into Water Choice South East. Q: What is the company doing to raise awareness of switching? A: Around 47,000 of our 55,000 business customers are SMEs. One of the first things I did when I became managing director was write to all those customers informing them about competi tion, when it was coming, and what to expect. I've planned another two letters between now and market opening, keeping them about three months apart, inviting our customers to contact us if they have questions. As soon as we send those letters out, the phones light up. We put our team through a programme of training, so they can explain what to expect from the market. Q: What will you be doing to retain existing customers and win new ones? A: The primary plan for reten tion is to offer the sewerage service to our existing water only customers. That seems to be an obvious thing for us to do because it provides the convenience of a single supplier, bill and payment. We will be looking to speak to as many of our existing customers as we possibly can, in addition to the letters I've sent out, and offer that sewerage service. The second key to retention will be looking at what our competitors are offering. A big prompt for customers to switch will be if they receive poor service from their existing supplier, so we will make sure we offer the very best possible level of service. Q: You currently share supply areas with Southern Water and Thames Water. Would you consider Business Stream and Castle water as competitors? A: Absolutely. They are compet itors and they have experience that we don't, having been in the Scottish market for some time. Their customers have been forced to have a new supplier – so what's going through these customers' minds? They're either thinking they've already moved once and they don't want to move again. Or they don't have a relationship with this new supplier Busi ness Stream or Castle Water and, therefore, they might be more open to looking at an alternative. Q: Have you heard anything about energy-water link-ups? A: I'm surprised at how little I've heard. For the moment, water companies seem to be concentrating on what they know and do well, and energy companies are doing the same. I think that's right, but I've no doubt it will come. We thought about it for a very short period and went straight back to the thought of: no, let's stick to what we know we can do well and only when we're supplying water and sew erage services as efficiently as possible will we consider that again. There are no immediate plans.

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