Utility Week

UTILITY Week 2nd December 2016

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Customers This week Startup dives into retail water market The Water Retail Company becomes 19th firm to apply for licence to supply businesses from 2017 A new supplier called The Water Retail Company has applied for a licence to participate in the water retail market in England for business customers when it opens next year. Headed up by Rupert Redesdale, with support from the Energy Managers Association, The Water Retail Company has applied to Ofwat for a water supply and sewerage licence (WSSL). A spokesperson told Utility Week the company is in discussion with several potential customers, and will limit itself to no more than 20 businesses in the first year. Its aim is for £30 million of turnover in its first year, £100 million in year two, and £200 million in year three. In its WSSL application, the Water Retail Company said it will offer "highly competitive pricing for water and sewerage services". It added: "The company will use technology and innovation to provide enhanced services and focus on water efficiency and water reuse to drive down bills through reduced water use, reduced effluent discharge and reduced surface water drainage." The spokesperson said that the company will be "focused on bespoke one-to-one services". This application brings the total number of companies to have applied for licences to 19 since Ofwat opened the process. The regulator has predicted as many as 40 new applications in the coming year. The first licences were granted at the beginning of October 2016. LV ENERGY Extra Energy still worst for complaints Extra Energy has scored worst for complaints handling for the third quarter in a row, remaining bottom of the Citizens Advice league table of the 22 largest energy firms in Britain despite recording 1,505 complaints per 100,000 customers compared with 1,791 in the second quarter. Meanwhile independent supplier iSupply saw its complaints ratio more than double, taking it from 16th in the table in the second quarter to second from bottom in the third. New supplier Places for People Energy has replaced SSE at the top with a record low score of 19 complaints per 100,000 customers. Scottish Power and Npower continue to move up the rankings with complaints ratios dropping by about a third on the previous quarter. Both were fined earlier this year for failings caused by new billing systems. ENERGY Smart rollout faces 'huge problems' Deployment of smart meters could run into "huge problems" unless large-scale testing is carried out, the consultancy firm PwC has warned. Steve Mullins, PwC global leader for smart energy, said: "In my experience, you only see these interoperability challenges when you are hanging the meters on the wall... Because of the volumes of meters, a lot of the scenarios you can dream up – and probably a lot you could never dream up – are going to happen and potentially cause a lot of problems." Mullins added that he would want to see a structured field trial with at least 100,000 meters over a period of 12 months to "feel comfortable" embarking on mass deployment. WATER Discover Water moves into phase 2 The water sector has launched the second phase of its customer information website, Discover Water, with company-specific information for comparison. Discover Water is designed to help household customers in England and Wales by bringing together in one place key information about how water and sewerage services are provided. The first phase of the website was launched in July with general information about how the services operate. Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts said: "This simple tool combines for the first time unbiased industry- level and company-by-company information on the issues that customers say matter to them." Ofwat expects up to 40 more WSSL applications UTILITY WEEK | 2ND - 8TH DECEMBER 2016 | 25 Severn Trent has said it will become "more technology- orientated" to further improve its service to customers. "We are looking to become more technology-orientated in terms of keeping customers informed," the company's chief executive Liv Garfield told Utility Week. "We are going to make sure we do more in the technology space to make the experience stronger for customers if they do feel the need to contact us." WATER Severn Trent pushes digital agenda to lift customer service In its financial results for the six months to September 2016, published on 24 November, the company said it had made "good progress in its digital agenda" by implementing new digital services to help keep customers informed and improve efficiency. However, the company said it still has "a lot of work to do" on customer service, and that improving its performance against Ofwat's service incentive mechanism "continues to be a focus for the management team". In Ofwat's 2015/16 customer service satisfaction rankings, Severn Trent finished seventh out of 18 water companies, and was joint-third out of 10 water and sewerage companies. Garfield told Utility Week that while this was "a reasonable performance", it was "not as good as we would like it to be for our customers". She added: "We are very strong in the quantitative area in terms of the experience customers receive every single day around complaints. It is the qualitative performance where we do brilliantly sometimes, and not as good as we would like at other times. It is that variability that we're looking to address." Garfield said that, as well as increasing its technology use, the company would build more resilience into its systems to be able to cope with variable work volumes in the event of severe weather. It will also refine its processes to make them simpler and slicker.

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