Utility Week

UTILITY Week 31st March 2017

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UTILITY WEEK | 31ST MARCH - 6TH APRIL 2017 | 11 Policy & Regulation This week Thames hit with record £20m fine Judge says multimillion-pound fine for breaches will ensure Thames Water 'gets the message' Thames Water has been hit with a record £20.3 million fine, for polluting the River Thames with 1.4 billion litres of raw sewage. The water company was ordered to pay £19.75 million plus costs in Aylesbury Crown Court for offences at six facilities in the Thames Valley during the period 2012-14. This is by far the largest penalty imposed on a water company for an environmental breach. The company was prosecuted for each of the six pol- lution offences collectively by the Environment Agency. The facilities involved were five sewage treatment works in Aylesbury, Didcot, Henley, Little Marlow and Arbor- field, and Littlemore sewage pumping station. According to reports in the national media, Judge Francis Sheridan, who delivered the sentence on 22 March, said: "The fact that Thames Water takes its name from the River Thames does not make it their property to poison and pollute." The Guardian quoted Sheridan as saying: "I have to make the fine sufficiently large that [Thames Water] get the message." He described the breaches as "wicked", and said: "One has to get the message across to the shareholders that the environment is to be treasured and protected, and not poisoned." Thames Water chief executive Steve Robertson, appointed in September 2016, said: "We asked for these incidents to be considered and sentenced together, because it was clear that our performance in this part of our region, at that time, was not up to the very high standards that we and our customers expect." LV ELECTRICITY Solar firms call for business rate help Solar energy firms have called on the Scottish government to use devolved powers to make rooop solar systems exempt from business rates. In a letter published in the Sunday Herald, a group of 12 dif- ferent companies and organisa- tions – including the Solar Trade Association, Forster Energy and iPower Energy – claimed the Scottish solar industry was at a "competitive disadvantage", because business rates for solar are ten times higher north of the border, compared with England. The letter urged Holyrood ministers to introduce "simple secondary legislation" to exempt rooop photovoltaic systems from business rates and help give the Scottish solar industry a boost. "Solar deployment on Scot- tish rooops lags far behind both national and European deployment," the letter states. "One of the reasons for this is the particularly harsh tax treat- ment of rooop solar on Scottish businesses and public sector buildings, including schools and hospitals," it adds. ENERGY Former regulators oppose price caps Five former top industry regula- tors have banded together in a bid to head off mooted government moves to cap retail energy prices. In a column for the Daily Tele graph last week, the five ex- regulators warned that fresh med- dling would have an "adverse effect" on the energy market. The column was written jointly by Stephen Littlechild, who was head of the Office of Electricity Regulation from 1989-98, former Ofgem chairman Sir Callum McCarthy, ex-Ofgem managing director Eileen Mar- shall CBE, former Ofgem senior executive Stephen Smith and Clare Spottiswoode CBE, who was head of Ofgas from 1993-98. Their intervention followed a speech by prime minister Theresa May in which she said relying on customers to switch suppliers, the current Ofgem policy, was not leading to lower energy prices. WATER Defra sets out cyber- security strategy The government has published a cyber-security strategy for the water sector, summarising what water and sewerage companies need to do to reduce the risks of cyber attacks. Published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the strategy is mainly aimed at water and sewerage companies in England, and focuses on attacks based around computers, computer- ised systems or networks. Clearwater Court: but polluted water led to court Political Agenda David Blackman "PM doesn't want to be seen as only capable of Brexit" It was surprising how normal things felt in Parliament this week, considering the horrific events just before. At about the time when the Public Accounts Committee was due to start grilling environment department civil servants about carbon capture and storage, Khalid Masood embarked on his brief but murderous rampage. The first terrorist attack on Parliament in a generation understandably hijacked the news agenda in the subsequent political initiative following her government's humiliating volte face over National Insurance contribution increases. Her speech sparked specula- tion that the government may rush out plans to crack down on SVTs. But this seems unlikely, given how May has disavowed her predecessor David Cameron's habit of making up policy on the hoof. Let's wait for the upcoming consumer green paper for some- thing properly thought through. days. However, just like at West- minster itself, normal service has resumed fast with Wednes- day's tabling of the Article 50 notice to withdraw from the EU. However, Theresa May doesn't want her government to be seen as only capable of per- forming Brexit – which is where energy prices come in. In her speech at the Tory spring conference a fortnight ago, the prime minister revealed she is planning to "go further" than relying on customers switch- ing suppliers to sidestep costly standard variable tariffs (SVTs). May's bid to channel the spirit of Ed Miliband circa 2013 looked like an attempt to recapture the

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