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Performance and Resilience

A Report on the Spring 2019 Self-Supply User Forum

Convened by Waterscan on behalf of the water self-supply community, the Spring Self-Supply User Forum took place in London on 13th June 2019.Self Supply report bar chart

Licence holders Greene King, Whitbread, Marston’s, Coca Cola European Partners, Blackpool Council, Heineken, Elis, Stonegate Pub Company and BT were in attendance along with recent applicants Kellogg’s. Representatives from Ofwat and MOSL, Water UK, Southern Water and Bristol Water were also present for the day, during which performance and resilience emerged as key themes.

Performance Matters

Following the second anniversary milestone of the opening of the water market across England and Wales, Ofwat is very public in clearly expressing its disappointment at the slow pace of change in the context of major challenges around water availability, water quality, legitimacy and trust.

Recent news reports that the regulator has ‘major concerns about water companies’ business plans’, is ‘rapping water firms on the knuckles’, ‘baring its teeth’ and demanding that they (wholesalers/retailers) ‘get a grip on spending’ have been underpinned by announcements of unprecedented penalty fines for major players in the sector. There can be no doubt that Ofwat’s patience is wearing thin with those market participants who continue to fail to deal with rising customer complaints, poor service delivery, slow progress on sustainability and a lack of innovation.

In the face of this, Ofwat told self-supply user forum delegates that it is firmly in favour of the power of competition to drive performance and that it remains committed to removing the frictions that still exist within the marketplace. Further, it will support boundary-pushing innovation whenever it is in the interest of customers.

Visibility of the issues has never been more in focus as a result of the real improvement in detailed public reporting by MOSL. Its Annual Market Performance report identifies significant reductions in performance which have in turn fed into its Market Performance Operating Plan for the year ahead. Shockingly, it reports that around 25% of participants are on Initial Performance Rectification Plans.

Wholesaler performance, in particular, was a hot topic among attendees with the self-supply community calling for a level playing field around credit and payment terms, the standardisation of processes and tariffs and better escalation processes when problems occur.

In contrast, the performance of the self-supply community relative to its peers is extremely positive. MOSL reported a participant average of self-suppliers of over 90% for the last quarter and also a continuing downward trend when it comes to the critical topic of long unread meters. In this, self-supply remains well ahead of the market with long unread meters sitting at 2.8%: almost half of pre-market levels and over five times lower than the current market average. This data presentation by MOSL was warmly welcomed by the self-supply community, which is clearly leading the way in terms of driving change fast.

Working to support its self-supply clients in driving continual improvement, Waterscan demonstrated new technology platforms that it is developing to enhance data collection and general task management to ensure that its self-supply community has access to the most accurate information in the market.

Targeting Resilience

Through briefings and workshops, the forum’s afternoon session focused on various aspects of business continuity and resilience.

With climate change and population pressure continually challenging the availability and the quality of the water supply, attendees turned their attention to how commercial water users could approach resilience as part of their wider business continuity plans.

Topics included water risk and security, drought management, coping with extreme weather impacts and – specific to the hospitality sector – the effective control of fats, oils and greases; a common cause of wastewater blockages.

Collaboration and communication were seen as key requirements in building resilience, recognising businesses’ need for local awareness about where their water comes from and accurate, timely information around scarcity.

Summing up, Claire Yeates from Waterscan commented that, as high performing businesses themselves, self-suppliers see the problems but also the benefits of an efficiently functioning market. She commented: “They view the market with a fresh pair of eyes and are well used to being fully accountable for performance improvement and this is why the pace of change and improvement rates are so impressive. Through collaboration and innovation, there’s real appetite for problem solving and, as a result, we’re starting to see some real differentials in self-supply performance versus the rest of the market.”