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Rising to the Challenge – and Succeeding

MOSL has published its Annual Market Performance Report for the period 2020-21, four years since the water market became deregulated.

The unexpected challengesMOSL Water Market Report 2020 2021 that arose as a result of Covid-19 are clear throughout. Task volumes against the Market Performance Standards and Operational Performance Standards dropped significantly in some areas, not least due to apparent issues around gathering accurate meter readings. Disappointingly, the number of long unread water meters has doubled, and this is reflected in customer settlements: in some cases, consumption was underestimated by 8%. It is likely to take some time for retailers to rectify this and deliver customers with certainty around their water bills.

This has not been the experience for the companies that self-supply their water and waste-water services. Across the board, the self-supply community has again outperformed the market. 9 of the top 10 performing self-supply companies work with Waterscan and have achieved market performance scores of between 95.7% and 99.6%. This compares to an average market-wide performance of 92% for traditional water retailers responsible for less than 5000 supply points. Larger water retailers posted a market wide performance of just 87.7%.

MOSL’s current report highlights the positive experience of Marston’s, one of the first companies to embrace self-supply. In a featured case study, Chris White, the company’s Energy Manager writes:

“Following the Government lockdown announcement on 23 March 2020, all our pub sites were forced to close. The immediate challenges were, firstly to reduce water consumption in line with site closures, and secondly ensure our water invoices reflected the reduced usage on site, at a time when meter reading activity had almost fully ceased.

Whilst market discussions were ongoing on the best course of action, we amended the Yearly Volume Estimates (YVE) of all our closed sites to reflect the usage. We utilised the vacancy flag when this measure was put in place and ensured we kept YVEs up to date. This became more important when we removed the vacancy flag after the first national lockdown but had to manage a national portfolio over multiple regional tiers. We continued to estimate YVEs based on the trade levels of open sites whilst the success rate of meter reading in the market was relatively low, or where we were unable to access meters.

We have been able to flexibly amend our meter reading strategy to gather data on site usage to identify inefficiencies and leakage, as well as gathering more accurate data on business usage for financial reporting. Data accuracy and frequency is especially important in working though the variances between settlement reports and our allocated costs at site level. As a self-supply retailer, we were able to amend market data directly at a time of a constantly moving estate without experiencing delays or inaccuracies in our billing.”

Reflecting on the market operator’s findings, Waterscan Managing Director, Neil Pendle, noted: “Across the market as a whole, it’s disappointing to read that issues around data quality continue to inhibit market progression because this didn’t need to be the case.

Although widespread operational disruption has made year-on-year analysis of consumption savings at customer level less meaningful than their efforts might otherwise reflect, their unrelenting approach to first class water stewardship is clear for all to see.

As a community striving to advance the water market and reduce water-related risk for UK businesses, we have all worked incredibly hard to ensure that our customers continued to receive accurate meter readings and bills, thus avoiding any post-lockdown shocks. Chris White’s outline of Marston’s experience is a great example of how this has been achieved and I’m proud that we have been able to support this effort in such a challenging year.”

He continued: “MOSL’s report highlights the four new self-supply market entrants during the 20-21 period: Arla Foods, David Lloyd Leisure, J Sainsbury and Sefton Council. We are delighted to be working in partnership with all of these companies to help them realise their ambitions when it comes to water as part of their overall sustainability drive. I know we all look forward to seeing evidence of their progress in next year’s Market Performance report.”