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Special Report - Cover Story

Watershed moment approaches for the public sector The 1st of April 2017 marks a significant change in the world of water. From this date, organisations of all shapes and sizes, including many in the public sector, will be able to switch water supplier in England for the first time – one of the biggest reforms of a UK market in recent years. It’s undoubtedly a watershed moment for energy managers, procurement teams and facilities professionals across the country. For many, it will be a completely new experience. Currently, the vast majority of organisations have to procure their water services from the incumbent provider for each region where they have operations; potentially as many as 21 different suppliers.

“T

he existing system has created a great deal of duplication and inefficiency for customers.” Explains Tony McHardy, Corporate Director at Water Plus, the largest non-domestic water supplier in the UK – see ‘About Water Plus’. “Any businesses with sites spread across the country could be dealing with anything up to 21 different water suppliers. That means dozens of sets of paperwork and dozens of different points of contact, just for starters – there are plenty of other examples. “The good news is the introduction of competition will give companies, public sector organisations, and charities the ability to do something about that. From April, they’ll be able to consolidate all of their sites with one water supplier, along with a host of other benefits including water efficiency solutions, contingency planning, smart metering, consumption data feeding into energy management systems, water audits, benchmarking and alerts, which will

Tony McHardy, Corporate Director, Water Plus

bring about, cost, time and consumption savings for customers. Customers will finally have a choice and will be able to select a supplier that best matches their desired company values or business needs.”

The Role of Wholesalers and Retailers As part of the new market structure one of the biggest changes will be the separation of wholesale and retail functions into separate entities, operating on an ‘arm’s length’ basis. The wholesalers, will continue to be responsible for the ongoing maintenance and investment into the main water and waste water networks and fiscal metering. The availability and provision of the water supplied to a customer’s boundary along with compliance to the strict water quality standard will also continue to be within their remit. It will be to a large degree, a continuation of many of their previous tasks. They will continue to be operate on a regional basis.

About Water Plus Water Plus is a joint venture between two of the largest water suppliers in the UK: Severn Trent and United Utilities. The company brings together the best of both organisations to offer the value and a personal, modern, and enhanced service that business customers expect. The business is based in Stoke-on-Trent, in Staffordshire.

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Energy Manager Magazine • january/february 2017

Retailers, on the other hand, will take over the customer service elements of the service. They will issue customers with bills for their water and wastewater services and some will provide a range of additional support, predominantly around helping organisations cut water costs and enhance efficiency. In many cases, a retailer may also act as a representative for the customer in negotiations with the wholesaler. However, the crucial bit is that customers will be able to choose their retailer, driving competition and a range of additional benefits.

The Benefits of Competition With retailers forced to compete, customers should benefit from keener pricing, product innovation, and customer service improvements as suppliers aim to carve out their own segments in the market and retain and win more business. For the most part, that will mean offering something new or improved in billing, data reporting, account management, and value added services around water efficiency and water management.

Switching Considerations So, with such a big change on the horizon and a range of new suppliers and services to choose from, what should public sector organisations be doing now? Is there anything they need to bear in mind ahead of April’s big launch?

Energy Manager Magazine Jan/Feb 2017