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Transition Time

Self-Supply licensees convened for their quarterly Users Forum in London on 16th June. The first in-person forum since the lifting of pandemic restrictions, the meeting gave many of the UK’s largest companies an opportunity to discuss the water market with regulator Ofwat, operator MOSL and the new Strategic Panel, to hear from the Environment Agency, and to contribute to various roundtable discussions.

Market transformation, innovation, governance and collaboration were the central discussion themes arising from this session.

Five years since market deregulation, it is a transitional time for market governance as the new Strategic Panel reveals six priorities which aim to focus on pace of change, prioritise activities with greatest impacts and solve market frictions. Similarly, MOSL is planning to overhaul both the market performance framework and membership voting structure, while Ofwat is taking onboard learnings from its most recent State of the Market report. Self-Supply licensees were pleased to have the opportunity to feed a customer perspective into these discussions.

Amidst transition on all fronts, the Self-Supply community continues to be steadfast in leading market performance. With meter reading and auditing activity back to pre-pandemic levels, some 3500-4000 meter reads, and 150-200 audits are undertaken each month, resulting in bills that customers can rely on to be accurate. Long-unread meters across the Self-Supply estate stand at just 1.27%, significantly ahead of the rest of the water market.

This high-quality data is critical to companies looking to reduce their water consumption and, in so doing, their carbon impacts. It was with some frustration therefore, that customers remarked on the slow rollout of smart metering across water networks by regional wholesalers. Just two wholesalers are open to active dialogue with non-household customers on this issue so a long journey to full coverage is anticipated. In the meantime, customers should continue to use third-party loggers to validate consumption and billing. The imminent development of Waterscan’s proprietary Waterline data analytics will further enhance customer insight for effective water consumption management.

The Environment Agency’s Simon Dawes presented Emission 2030, revealing the net zero journey that the Agency has been on to date. He remarked on the ‘different flavours of net zero’ and greenwash that still exist but was encouraged by the increasing number of organisations that have now worked out the ‘why’ of their ambitions and are putting governance structures in place for accountability. He also spoke of the need for carbon literacy and ownership of the issues to achieve effective engagement with team members, and for collaboration with suppliers to derive the best outcomes.

Concluding the meeting, Chair Neil Pendle, agreed that many companies in the room had gone on similar journeys and that the key to progress is usually data – higher quality information and from a wider range of sources.

He said: “The water sector is not known for innovation. Yet, in this room today, there are many people who bring considerable experience of innovating to achieve environmental and commercial goals. This trailblazing Self-Supply community offers a rich seam of customer insight and a high level of willing engagement that is difficult for the water industry at large to find in any other setting.”

He continued: “Most customers here today have moved well beyond the mechanics of market transactions and have taken big strides in reducing their consumption, but they’re beginning to find it hard to unlock next level progress while the rest of the industry plays catch-up. It’s time to provide these, and all non-household water customers, with the consistent, accurate and timely data that will help us all get to where we want to be: confident in a sustainable future water supply and the able to make meaningful strategic forward plans.”

A full meeting report can be found here. The Autumn Self-Supply Users Forum will take place virtually on Thursday 8th September.