Utility Week

UTILITY Week 3rd February 2017

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6 | 3RD - 9TH FEBRUARY 2017 | UTILITY WEEK People & Opinion 2017 will see major change for water The opening of the retail water market in England will transform the landscape of the industry. Chief executive's view Tony Smith, Consumer Council for Water A s 2016 disappears over the horizon, it's hard to imag- ine that the year that now stretches in front of us could rival the dramatic events of the past 12 months. But for those of us involved in the water sector, 2017 has the potential to be a year of even greater significance. We are about to enter a period of change that has not been witnessed in the sector since privatisation more than 25 years ago. The opening of the retail water market in England from April will transform the land- scape of the industry, giving 1.2 million non-household cus- tomers the power to negotiate a better deal or switch retailer for the very first time. For the market to be a suc- cess the vast majority of eligible non-household customers need to be aware of the changes and the opportunities it presents. That's why we've been working tirelessly behind the scenes to forge strong relationships with representative organisations, including the National Farmers' Union and British Chambers of Commerce, to ensure their mem- bers are up to speed with the changes. The recently launched national awareness campaign by the Open Water partnership will also play a crucial role in ensuring we see businesses of all sizes delving into the market and exercising their right to choose. Change inevitably brings challenges and CCWater is gear- ing up to closely monitor the market, ahead of a potential rise in complaints from non- household customers. The extent of this increase will depend largely on how well retailers perform and engage with whole- salers, especially when it comes to resolving operational issues. Customers will not tolerate companies who try to pass the buck with a complaint, and neither will CCWater. We will be monitoring the complaints we receive closely to identify any systemic problems and ensure market operator MOSL, Ofwat and retailers take swi action to put things right. The progress and impact of the non-household market will also give us the opportunity to see how small businesses engage with competition. How they behave will provide a valu- able insight for government as it contemplates whether to pursue household retail competition in England. As we move into the second half of the year our thoughts will turn increasingly to the 2019 Price Review, which is likely to dominate our workload over the next three years. We need to hit the ground running as we look to build on the strong foundations of the last price-setting process, which was unrivalled in terms of customer representation. Our initial task will be to influence the development of Ofwat's methodology for PR19 so it is focused on consumers' priori- ties. This will help to ensure the regulator's decisions on prices, investment and levels of service are rooted in what consumers want and expect to receive. Through our involvement in Customer Challenge Groups we'll also want to see water compa- nies working towards a long- term strategy that can meet the challenges posed by a growing population, climate change and the need to protect our environ- ment. Our focus will be on mak- ing sure customers get a safe, reliable service now and in the long term. Delivering resilient and affordable services now and for future generations is absolutely essential. The choices and plans the industry makes in the com- ing year can go a long way to securing that goal. "If cross-border interconnector projects don't happen as quickly, the UK government would have to procure more UK generating capacity. It may not be as efficient but I wouldn't worry that there will be a fundamental risk to energy supply" Kevin Dibble, director of strategy and communications, Engie UK

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