WaterScot An independent publication from www.canongate.org
Data modelling flood risk
Distributed with The Times Scotland 27 October 2016
Promoting ‘good stewardship’ of our water resources
Cleaning up the world’s waterways The Scottish firm mimicking nature to rid the globe of pollution
Small businesses’ fears on switching
From Land Rovers to laptops
27 October 2016
WaterScot is an independent publication by Canongate Communications. Contents
2 climate change. 3 planning. 4 business. 5 regulation. 6 competition. 7 market. 8-9 innovation. 10 business. 11 renewables.
‘Hard thinking’ required to tackle climate change The impact of flooding is testing Scotland’s resilience By Kevin O’Sullivan EDITOR Will Peakin
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The impact of climate change on Scotland’s water and sewerage networks poses the need for some “hard thinking” by public sector agencies, according to a Scottish Government minister. Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, said storms such as those in early 2016 are putting pressure on national critical infrastructure. Calling for a joint approach between Scottish Water, local authorities, SEPA, and communities to find solutions to the risks associated with flooding, she said: “As highlighted by the Committee on Climate Change, there’s no doubt that our climate is changing. “That brings huge impacts for our environment and as a consequence of that how water, sewerage and drainage services are provided.” “The storms at the start of 2016 are a perfect illustration and I was
impressed by the way in which Scottish Water did maintain services despite the flood damage that was incurred at numerous water and wastewater installations.” But she said such risks means service failure is ‘never far away’ and that Scottish Water’s resilience to such freak weather events is being tested, as never before. “Climate change is increasing the pressure for some hard thinking in a number of areas - how we reduce the risk of floods by better management of surface water; how we accommodate the needs of new housing and businesses, and how we engage communities in this debate,” she said. She added: “Scottish Water can’t plan or deliver improvement on its own. In the case of flooding it is imperative that Scottish Water, local authorities, SEPA and communities do work together to find solutions.”
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham (above) has called for increased joint working to tackle the effects of climate change
Ms Cunningham praised the work of local authority catchment studies - alongside Scottish Water - to better understand how rainwater flows through communities. She told a Glasgow audience that some completed studies she is aware of are already helping agencies understand why and how floods occur and
in future should help them to predict the risks in certain areas. However, referencing her childhood growing up in Australia, she also made clear that even in Scotland climate change may also bring with it dry conditions. “There is a tendency in Scotland to hugely take it for granted, I guess for understandable reasons,” she said. “But we need to try and change the psychology around water; it is an absolutely precious resource and it will become even more precious in the future.” She said dry conditions bring challenges for drinking water supply, in particular private water supplies of which there are still over 20,000 in Scotland. She said publicly-owned Scottish Water is investing heavily in its networks, but that the “vulnerability” of private supplies needs to be thought about. She said the reduction of leakages in the last 10 years had been “commendable” but that more work should be done, especially on customer engagement about water use. “Using ever increasing amounts of water without taking account of the environmental impact mustn’t continue,” she said.
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‘Balance’ needed on publishing switching data As water retail providers prepare for deregulation in England in April next year, the head of competition in the Scottish market has indicated that more transparency over switching data north of the border might be a good thing for customers. At the moment information about supplier activities is held by CMA Scotland (Central Market Agency) a private limited company owned by its members, the 22 water retailers who serve the business market, but there is no current regime to publish much of the information it holds. Data retained by the body is used to work out the wholesale charges that suppliers
must pay to Scottish Water. “I think there’s a need to strike a balance between informing the public about what’s going on in the market place on the one hand, and on the other hand commercial confidentiality”, said Charles Yates, Head of Competition at WICS (Water Industry Commission for Scotland). He added: “I think some aggregate numbers could be released periodically; perhaps once a year data around switching for the previous 12 months could be released, at an aggregate level along with market share information.” Yates said snapshots around switching and
market share are occasionally published. He said also that some important milestones have been put on record such as when Business Stream’s market share below 50%. He said he expects there to be some changes to the way the cross-border market operates as a result of English deregulation. The Scottish water retail market has been deregulated since 2008. “It will be very competitive in England when the business market is fully opened, particularly among the big customers such as Tesco who will want to have one supplier from Land’s End to John O’Groats,” he said.
27 October 2016
New flood warning tool in the pipeline By Kevin O’Sullivan A software development firm is working on a new technology platform that aims to better inform people about flood risk. Edinburgh-based company RiverTrack responded to a government-backed challenge to make flood forecasting information more widely available to the public. It is one of eight companies which won a competition to take part in a national ‘CivTech Accelerator’ programme, which will help bring innovative new public services to market. The company will spend the next three months alongside the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), refining and testing its solution in an ‘intensive’ workshop environment at the tech hub CodeBase, in Edinburgh. Finance secretary Derek Mackay recently said he wanted to see more collaborative working between the public and private sectors, putting an emphasis on the ‘co-design’ of services. “I think we have to do much more around co-design,” he said. “All my years of experience in government, in local government and parliament has taught me that. I think there is much more room for co-design and collaboration at the outset to enable us to get the best possible solution from the start; it’s not the awarding of the contract that’s the most important, it’s the design of it in the first place. “That’s why I was particularly enthused by CivTech in terms of that approach, with the private sector, individuals and micro businesses coming together with the public sector facing a challenge.” SEPA has flood forecasting information but due to its more technical nature it is currently shared only with professional flooding responders, such as police, fire and rescue and local authorities. In many areas it is unable to provide formal flood warning schemes, so smaller at-risk communities cannot receive more localised and timely alerting to potential flooding. Through CivTech, the agency
is hoping to create the best possible and most accessible flood forecasting and warning information service, using all available data. RiverTrack specialises in Apple, Linux, and embedded microelectronics platforms, with a focus on user interface design, machine learning, robotics, data mining, and data visualisation. The goal for the flooding project is to make up-to-date, actionable flood information easily accessible to individuals and communities, using a simple design. Non-technical and elderly people, as well as those with limited or no access to smartphones, computers or mobile coverage, will all benefit.
Aberdeen City Council is working with multiple partners on an integrated catchment study to better understand the impacts of flooding
How data modelling is helping Aberdeen stay one step ahead of the weather Council planners are tapping into sophisticated new flooding information sources By Kevin O’Sullivan Predictive data modelling which indicates the areas at greatest risk of flooding is allowing one Scottish council to determine the level of house building in new developments. Aberdeen City Council is undertaking pioneering work with a number of partners including Scottish Water and SEPA to analyse how rainfall affects the city’s urban drainage system. Sophisticated data techniques are beginning to emerge which have given planners a much better understanding of the very localised impacts of flooding - and how to mitigate them. In one development for affordable homes, the modelling technique was able to indicate that a plot of land could sustain up to 90 units, rather than the 60 that had been planned. “We’ve been able to use the model to say you don’t need to do any SUDS [sustainable drainage system] storage on that site,” said Will Burnish, Team Leader, Flooding and Coastal. “We can build a flood alleviation scheme and the SUDS scheme in the same park, which means we can get
more properties on that plot of land, and on top of that we’ve now created an environment that is going to be green, which has vegetation, wetland habitats, has footpaths and walkways. “All because from the model we knew what the flood risk was, we knew what we needed to prevent [it] and we could quickly build a model. So in four months we built that model, tested it and it’s working – and we have a solution. We’ve gone from a development that might have only had 60 or 70 houses, to one that could have 90, with a green space the community sorely needs and a brand new flood alleviation scheme and SUDS solution.” Burnish was speaking at the Water Scotland Conference earlier this month in Glasgow. In a joint presentation with Dawn Lochhead of Scottish Water, he outlined some of the key flood flashpoints which have caused gridlock in the city centre in recent years, especially in 2012. Since then the data modelling work has been carried out as part of an ‘integrated catchment study’ with Scottish Water and other partner agencies to better determine flood risk. Scottish Water is in the process
of carrying out 15 integrated catchment studies with local authorities across the country in the next two years, as part of plans to better understand the impact of rainfall on sewer networks, open water courses and the influence of the tide. Histori-
cally, Scottish Water only modelled the behaviour of sewers in isolation but the integrated catchment study work is drawing together information from the whole urban drainage system. In Aberdeen, existing models did not show any concern around the Merchant Quarter area of the city, which experienced significant flooding in 2012. According to Burnish the ICS subsequently was able to show a “massively” complex interaction of factors in the area, which included the fact
that 70% of the city’s combined sewerage went through that zone. The data has allowed the council, working with Scottish Water, to provide localised solutions to help alleviate the burden on some of the properties affected, including the use of return valves in basements and installing flood doors. “Suddenly, all we have to do is a small bit of modelling to find a solution and very quickly we can get to an answer and deliver that solution,” Burnish added. “What may have taken two or three years to deliver, we did it within a year. It’s been really effective, the model, because we have that core information.”
“Suddenly, all we have to do is a small bit of modelling to find a solution and very quickly we can get to an answer and deliver that solution”
The data model is now enabling the council to inform the development of its local plan for new developments. With greater insight into flood risks, the integrated catchment study although yet to be fully implemented - also looks set to be able to produce detailed flood maps of the city, with data allowing first responders to target the areas of immediate concern. “The integrated catchment study isn’t just about flooding and dealing with the problem that we’ve got what’s it done is allowed me to have clarity about our risk in the urban environment,” adds Burnish. “It’s allowed me to inform our local development plan. I’ve been able to go out there and say you can’t build there because we’ve got predictive flooding.”
Will Burnish, Team Leader, Flooding and Coastal
27 October 2016
How deregulation of the business water market is helping customers make the right choices The bottom line still matters but service and reducing consumption are key In the eight years since Scotland became the world’s first competitive non-domestic water market, customers of the largest provider, Business Stream, have saved more than £133m. However, the changes go much deeper than that, with competition driving a new complementary market of watersaving products and services, as well as an unprecedented focus on customer service. As part of Scottish Water, Business Stream was operating on day one of the Scottish market opening in 2008. That gives it a unique perspective on
“What we say to businesses is that they need to look at what else their supplier can do for them”
competition in England, which is due to begin in April 2017. Commercial Director James Cardwell-Moore says the industry has come a long way since those early days. He said: “It’s been an incredible evolution in Scotland for what has generally been a traditional and fairly conventional utility sector. The market used to be all about unit cost but competition has changed that completely. Yes, the bottom line still matters, but our customers are placing a lot more emphasis on service and help to reduce consumption and be more efficient. We’re increasingly being approached for bespoke solutions to tackle business problems or support growth ambitions and our model has evolved to fulfil that demand.” Since 2008, Business Stream’s offering has grown to around 60 services, covering estate-wide usage audits to borehole drilling. It is also trying to educate customers that water management should be taken as seriously as energy efficiency, from sole traders looking to reduce their overheads to heavily-regulated industrial plants producing potentially harmful effluent. As well as actual financial savings, Business Stream’s customers in Scotland have reduced water consumption by 24 billion litres and cut out 42,000 tonnes of carbon – the equivalent to taking 11,700 cars off the roads. Cardwell-Moore adds: “What we say to businesses is that they need
James Cardwell-Moore, Commercial Director of Business Stream, says water usage should be taken as seriously as energy consumption to look at what else their supplier can do for them. Competition has driven down cost in Scotland, and the margins in England for next year have been set quite low by Ofwat, so there’s not as much scope for discounts. To really benefit from the option to switch, customers need to find a supplier that can help them reduce and manage their water and wastewater more efficiently. Thankfully for us, that’s something we’ve had eight
years’ experience of excelling at and we’re fortunate that our track record means we’re now a trusted partner to many of our clients, not just another utility provider.” Having been one of the main advo-
cates for greater competition based on its experience, Business Stream is well placed for next year. It already counts House of Fraser among its UK customers and has recently secured a
major foothold in the English market with the purchase of 105,000 nondomestic customers from Southern Water which will make it the third largest provider. Cardwell-Moore concludes: “This is a really exciting time now that we’re counting down to competition in England in April. Our new scale in the market will help us to invest and innovate even further, benefiting our customers north and south of the border.”
27 October 2016
Promoting ‘good stewardship’ of our water resources Good governance, clarity and economic development are driving improvements in the Scottish water industry By Alan Sutherland The water industry in Scotland has improved markedly in the last decade and a half. Service levels are amongst the best in the United Kingdom, and average charge levels are the second lowest in the United Kingdom1 . Huge progress has been made in improving our environment and the quality of the water that we drink, with pollution incidents dropping by over two thirds, network leakage more than halved and overall drinking water quality at its highest ever level. Not surprisingly, therefore, Scottish Water’s efficiency is a match for anyone’s. Scotland’s businesses, charities and public sector have, since 2008, been able to choose their supplier and receive services that are tailored to their needs – something which will only become available to businesses in England in April next year. Scottish Water has just recently taken steps to ensure that economic growth will be facilitated through better support for connections to the water system. In short, the Scottish Water industry is a public sector success story. This begs two questions: why has this happened? And how do we build on this initial success? There is, I think, little question that the Board and management of Scottish Water have responded well to the performance challenges from their economic regulator and have worked effectively with their water quality and environmental regulators, DWQR and SEPA. Doubtless, the approach to monitoring and reviewing performance through the Outputs Monitoring Group, chaired by the Scottish Government, has played a role. However, the key factor is the clarity in the governance framework for the water industry in Scotland. Crucially, there is no confusion between Government policy and the role of regulators. The Scottish Government has successfully managed its separate roles as policy maker, banker and owner of Scottish Water. This has created an environment where Scottish Water can plan for the long term. It can progressively improve the efficiency of its operations and respond to the changing expectations of the customers and communities it serves. This is perhaps best characterized by Scottish Water’s success in agreeing its forward business plan with a Customer Forum, which drew both on the results of customer research and the Water Industry Commission’s decisions on what Scottish Water could reasonably be expected to achieve. By the end of the discussions between Scottish Water and the Customer Forum, the agreed business plan offered a higher
Scottish Water has taken steps to ensure that economic growth will be facilitated through better support for connections to the water system capital efficiency target than we, as the economic regulator, could have justified analytically. Also, Scottish Water, for the first time in the UK water industry, offered its customer price certainty (irrespective of what happened to inflation) for four years. Previously, customers had borne the inflation risk. Such clarity in the governance framework is rare. The OECD has recently published thoughtful analysis and recommendations on both the governance of the water industry and the independence of regulators. While there are always improvements that can be made, Scotland’s water industry operates in a manner broadly consistent with the advice of the OECD. Our challenge is to build on the progress that has been made and ensure that there is no temptation to rest on our collective laurels. The Scottish Government’s com-
mitment to making Scotland a ‘HydroNation’ will be critical in this regard. The aim is to maximize the benefits to the Scottish economy through the economic development and good stewardship of Scotland’s abundant water resources. In particular, the Scottish Government wants to build on our experience in water management and governance and to engage with, and learn from, other countries: it is this outward focus that has led us to work with the OECD. There are a growing list of international opportunities arising through
“The aim is to maximize the benefits to the Scottish economy through the economic development and good stewardship of Scotland’s abundant water resources”
the Hydro Nation focus. Scottish Water has worked with organisations as far away as Canada and Australia. The Scottish water industry has also worked with the European Union as it seeks to strengthen the economy of Greece after the financial crisis. Hydro Nation work with Malawi and India has seen encouraging steps in bringing the efforts of the Scottish Government, the public and private sectors and Scotland’s academic community together to contribute to solving problems and open new markets. More recently, the Water Industry Commission has provided some initial training support to the economic regulators in Romania and Albania. These international contacts broaden the horizons of the Scottish water industry. They bring new ideas and challenge our thinking. Such a challenge is important if we are to be open to the innovative ideas that will ensure Scotland’s water industry builds on its recent successes. The learning from thinking dif-
ferently about the management and governance of water is already beginning to bear fruit in Scotland. There are a small but significant number of communities in Scotland that do not have access to the public water and sewerage system. This has come about because the cost of providing connections in these rural areas has been prohibitively expensive. By thinking differently about water management and governance, we can look to find
different and innovative solutions that have the potential to bring more reliable and higher quality water supplies to these communities. This is not an issue that will be solved quickly, but we can and should make progress. There is much that can be learnt from the engagement of communities in other countries in managing their water that can usefully be applied in Scotland. The Scottish water industry has come a long way since the establishment of Scottish Water in 2002. There is much to be proud of: a governance framework that has brought enviable clarity to the roles of stakeholders and created an operating and planning environment that has allowed Scottish Water, a public sector organisation, to match and better the efficiency levels of its private sector peers. The Hydro Nation initiative will allow us to build on this success by providing a focus for Government, the academic community and public and private sectors to come together to maximise the benefits to the Scottish economy through the economic development and good stewardship of Scotland’s abundant water resources. Behind only Severn Trent Water, which, because of its geography and lack of an extended coastline, has had to spend much less to meet the standards required by EU Directives.
Alan Sutherland is chief executive of the Water Industry Commission for Scotland
27 October 2016
Countdown to competition across the UK A deregulated water market across the entire country is likely to drive interest in switching, says Water Plus In 2008, Scotland became a global pioneer in utilities by being the first country to introduce competition in its non-domestic water market. One of the biggest shake-ups of a UK market in recent history. While competition was slow to take off, many businesses have now taken up the opportunity to switch water supplier. Just 2% of companies changed their provider in the first few years; however, the current switch rate is likely to be more than 25 times that. Increased interest in switching, particularly as we get closer to market opening in England next year, has attracted new entrants to the Scottish market – Scotland on Tap now lists 19 on its website. Among them are some new names, but one of them – Water Plus – is by no means a newbie to the water market. The company, a joint venture be-
“With slimmer margins it’s not all about price. When looking for a supplier, test that they have the experience and in-depth understanding of the market to match your needs.”
tween two of the biggest FTSE-listed utilities companies in the UK, United Utilities and Severn Trent, is specifically designed to support customers in the non-domestic water market. Best of both worlds
“The idea behind Water Plus is bringing together the best of both companies, so we’re a new company with years of experience”, said Tony McHardy, Corporate Director at Water Plus. “We listened to what customers wanted and we’ve created a business that is ideally placed to deliver on that feedback. We’re prioritising customer service, offering great value, and providing new services with a personal touch. We’re among the lowest cost-to-serve suppliers in the market, which means we’ll be able to invest, innovate and compete at all ends of the market.” Water Plus has hit the ground running, combining its physical premises and experienced staff in Scotland, Warrington and Birmingham, whilst also setting up a new base in Stokeon-Trent. It announced its first major contract win at September’s Water Event in Birmingham, signing up David Lloyd Leisure.
Tony McHardy, Corporate Director at Water Plus Biggest switch in England
The deal is the biggest switch in England to date, consolidating the water services of over 70 sites that can currently change supplier with Water Plus. A further 14 David Lloyd sites will follow when the English non-domestic water market opens to competition in April 2017. Tony added: “It’s no surprise that we’re seeing more companies looking to switch in Scotland and England as we get closer to market opening in April 2017. Now is the time for organisations to start planning in order to maximise the potential benefits of competition. The cost, service and
resource savings of David Lloyd’s deal demonstrate what many other companies can get out of switching. But with slimmer margins on offer it’s not all about price. It could be ease of doing business, keeping you in control, helping you with your water management strategy or helping to rationalise your resources that is the main business driver.” Making sure businesses are ‘switch ready’
He said: “However, businesses need to take some initial steps to ensure they’re ‘switch-ready’. Firstly, give due consideration to what you
actually want from your water supplier: it won’t be the same for everyone. Secondly, get data-ready, check your data is correct and that all of your contract sign-off processes are in place. Finally, when looking for a supplier, test that they have the experience, in-depth understanding of the market and products and services to match against your needs” He added: “With so many possible suppliers, the prospect of switching can seem overwhelming. But, with the right preparation, the process should be seamless, with little to no impact on your business.”
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27 October 2016
Small businesses are ‘less likely’ to get the best water deals
Code of conduct must have “teeth”
‘Complex market’ can put business owners off switching supplier
A Scottish water retailer which has bought significantly into the shadow water retail market in England has said its eventual success will depend on effective regulation. Castle Water - which has acquired both the non-household customer bases of Thames Water and Portsmouth Water - has said the code of conduct in England must have “teeth”. John Reynolds, CEO of the company, which is based in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, said the biggest challenge to the English market, which is due to go fully live in April, is mis-selling. “A Code of Conduct is required which has teeth, to restrain short term mis-selling and unethical behaviours, but it must not restrain innovation, customer-focused or simply loss-making strategies,” he said in a company blog. “The biggest challenge faced in most sectors is mis-selling, and the code of conduct must clearly set the rules and provide scope for enforcement.”
households and this low volume use can make them unattractive customers to new suppliers. Indeed, a few large customers – a retail chain or large office block – will use far more water, and cost far less administratively to service, than many smaller firms.
By Susan Love Close to a decade after Scotland’s business water market opened up to competition, many smaller firms are yet to tap into the benefits. On the plus side, there are more operators competing for small firms’ custom. And, as a consequence, more businesses are choosing to switch to an alternative supplier. However, in common with other markets like telecommunications and energy, FSB research suggests that smaller firms are less likely to get a good deal in comparison to big business and the public sector. The problems in this area have been evident from the outset. A year after the market opened, only a quarter of smaller firms were aware they could switch. Fast forward another three years to 2012 and only three per cent had taken the plunge and actually changed provider. Asked why they hadn’t switched, firms’ top reason for not switching was their unfamiliarity with alternative suppliers. As most licensed providers aren’t exactly household names, this is a long-term problem for the Scottish market. Further, anecdotal evidence suggests that suppliers often spend much of their marketing and sales resources
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that suppliers often spend much of their marketing and sales resources focusing on bigger businesses and the public sector” focusing on bigger businesses and the public sector. Most smaller firms, especially the micro businesses who make up 94 per cent of all businesses in Scotland, are using water in a similar way to
Even smaller firms that know they can switch struggle to find the time to source the best deal. Like time-pressed households who could save cash by switching energy supplier, business owners with many competing priorities can struggle with this complex market. This ignorance also leaves smaller firms vulnerable to sharp practice, such as getting locked into poor value long-term contracts after being enticed by a short-term offer. All of this suggests that there’s work to do to ensure that this market works for smaller enterprises. We need to see providers improve their offers and customer service for smaller firms. We want to see more players going out of their way to target high street Scotland and not just Scotland plc. Lastly, we must all ensure that the right regulatory protections are in place for Scotland’s micro businesses. Too many smaller firms think the market only works for Scotland’s biggest organisations.
Susan Love is policy manager for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland
Castle Water says misselling will be biggest challenge for regulator By Kevin O’Sullivan
Castle Water was founded to participate in the deregulated Scottish and English water markets. It made a significant entry into the English market market earlier this year, acquiring 250,000 customers from Thames Water, aided by legal firm HBJ Gateley, and 16,500 from Portsmouth Water. The company will take on billing, cash collection and associated services for its newest business customer base. As
a result the firm, based at Craighall Castle, announced that it would add around 100 jobs to its existing 50 posts to handle customer services. The company already serves 5,000 business customers in Scotland, including the likes of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) and the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland (NFUS). Mr Reynolds also predicts that pricing in the market - which is estimated to be worth £2bn - will become much more dynamic following deregulation. “Price changes will happen with much more frequency, driven by comparison sites and technology established in other areas,” Mr Reynolds added. “We will have intraday automated pricing changes – it happens on Amazon, it happens with electricity and gas, it will in the end work in water if the market is functioning properly, given the technology platforms available.” In 2008, Scotland became the first country in the world to introduce customer choice to the non-domestic retail market, and now has 24 licensed retailers competing for Scottish customers. Mr Reynolds argues that regime has enabled ‘pure retailers’ to be much more successful than incumbents. “The most successful suppliers in Scotland, the ones customers choose, are not part of existing utilities, but are pure retailers,” he said. “They outsell incumbent water companies 10 to 1. And the strategies vary: the two most successful retailers are using completely different routes to market, contracts and pricing strategies, although sales literature is surprisingly similar in terms of the headlines that customers see.”
Tapping advice you can trust Water retailers must demonstrate the value of switching, says new market entrant Brightwater By Kevin O’Sullivan The non-domestic water industry in Scotland is about to enter a challenging new phase, according to Roger Green, CEO of new market entrants, Brightwater. Green’s view is that the water industry is now entering into phase two; phase one was encouraging customers in the non-domestic market to switch - and Brightwater estimates that three quarters of them have now entered into contracts - with the remainder still to play for. These may be SMEs overwhelmed by other business considerations and the pressures of day-to-day opera-
tions, where switching water suppliers has perhaps not been front of mind. “We’re starting to see companies with three-year contracts ending, now looking at renewals for the first time,” said Green. “They’re expecting much more than a competitive tariff; that’s a given. “They are looking for genuine advice from trusted advisors, first-rate customer service - that means benchmarking and analysis of how they can save water. The conversation has moved on beyond just price. “All of us in the industry are being challenged to raise our game to new levels,” he says. Green also suggests that the water industry has a lot to learn from the gas and electricity suppliers. “We’re well behind where gas and electricity suppliers are with metering,” he explains. “The next innovation in the water market will be an affordable smart
metering service as standard, with half-hourly reads, allowing companies to analyse and drive down their usage and also detect problems such as leaks.” “There are new technologies emerging that promise opportunities to take metering to the next level.” Green also warns that the non-domestic water industry can ill afford to be complacent over customer service. While all the licensed providers are aiming to be ‘best of breed’, those that win most business will be those that genuinely show a commitment to their customers, evidenced through customer retention and the ability to offer benchmarking, analysis and implementation of water saving initiatives. Brightwater Services Limited is a new licensed provider of water and wastewater services, based in Scotland, and launched in May 2016. Get in touch with Brightwater by phoning 0330 022 05 70 or visit www.brightwater.com
Customers will expect much more than a competitive tariff if they are to be persuaded to change, says Roger Green, CEO of Brightwater, pictured left
27 October 2016
A dirty stream transformed into a verdant waterway. It could be a model to transform rivers around the world Highlands & Islands Enterprise is supporting some of Scotland’s most innovative water companies By Kevin O’Sullivan Technology is king and ‘disruption’ equates to ambition and, ultimately, success. It is a refrain all too often heard, and is certainly being keenly felt across any industry you may care to mention in a post-digital world. From finance to transport and retail, there is an understanding that if you stand still for too long, some tech pioneer will come in and steal your clothes. So when I speak to Diane Duncan, Head of Low Carbon and Clean Tech at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, I am somewhat surprised and slightly taken aback when she dares to suggest that we shouldn’t lose sight of ‘lowtech’ options, which might actually be a way forward in certain markets. She is talking about the water industry, both in Scotland and overseas and how it is harnessing the knowledge and power of nature to ensure the ways we source, treat and dispose of water use minimal energy and chemicals, ensuring the least impact on the environment and minimising and re-using resources as much as possible. In fact, the conversation quickly moves on to how the water industry itself in Scotland is developing new techniques in actually improving the environment and clearing up the effects of chemical pollution. What’s emerging is that many of the chemicals that we use every day to clean our homes and ourselves, aren’t always good for us on their own, but potentially even worse when combined. The impacts of these commonlyused chemicals is a relatively new field of study but HIE is already helping to connect the work of internationallyrecognised academics to the wider business community, supporting innovation and putting their research to beneficial use for the economy. “One of the strengths we have is we’re a relatively small organisation but as a result we get exposed to a wide range of different ideas, companies, and an oversight of emerging academic research needs,” says Duncan. “HIE’s role is as facilitator, bringing them together to create the platforms and business environments which provide opportunities for growth. We want to support our university researchers to be leading lights and collaborate with businesses both in Scotland and the rest of the world, delivering products and services of value. Put a pin in a map and you will find a water issue or an opportunity for our companies and researchers.” Duncan herself is firmly embed-
Biomatrix Water is helping clear up polluted waterways around the world, including this one in Zhenjiang, China. ded in the sector; to pardon a pun, she doesn’t mind getting her feet wet, clearly loves and takes her work seriously. She has developed not just an invaluable network, but also a knowledge of the tradecraft of a very technical industry which involves cutting edge bio-sciences, mechanical and civil engineering. She also has a wider remit than the geography of her job title might suggest, with a base at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation as well as in Inverness, which she sees as vital to developing the networks required to grow the sector. “I have superb colleagues right across the public sector, and I sometimes find businesses and academics working in relative isolation,” she says. “Organisations like HIE can help stitch them together. As you work
“What’s happening in Scotland is already having an international reach and will help our own sector to export and grow”
with people, you find out what they’re doing, help them network and start talking and collaborating with each other. It often ends up that they have the different bits of what can be a ‘portfolio’ solution for a client – they wouldn’t win a contract on their own, but when they collaborate, we often end up with a better solution. “I come across clever engineers who understand engineering, but don’t always understand biology. Getting multi-disciplinary teams working together to innovate and deliver genuinely sustainable solutions can help the public purse save money and our companies be more competitive.” Duncan’s position also gives her a useful, non-territorial oversight into how the whole of the sector in Scotland is working. At this point she reels off examples too numerous to mention, but a few look set to become exemplars
of how the ‘low-tech’ approach can, perhaps counter-intuitively, drive innovation in the sector. Little did I know that the treatment of sludge created by the leftovers from the textiles industry could potentially be improved by letting worms chomp through the toxic matter, or “gunk”, as Duncan likes to call it, disposing of the huge piles of acidic residue that clog water channels around the world, endangering habitats for people and animals alike. Waste Water Wizard is a Fortrose-based company, whose ‘vermiculture’ techniques see worms merrily eating through wastewater from breweries, distilleries, farms, food processors, dairies, housing, tourist developments and golf resorts, to name a few. Just that morning, Duncan has received an email from someone in the Scottish Government’s international
27 October 2016 development team to say that a £350m project funded by the Indian Government to clean up the notoriously polluted Ganges river (think all manner of unmentionable things floating by) may be aided by ‘bio-mimicry’ technology developed by Forres-based Biomatrix Water. Duncan then describes how “beautiful” arrays of floating platforms of vegetation, powered by small solar panel reactors, can feed off of the passing waste. The approach evolved from how pollution from fish feed was treated on the west coast of Scotland, and has already been exported to places like the Philippines. And it’s not just cleaning up for
the sake of water quality alone. There are hitherto unknown risks starting to emerge from the effects of new cocktails of chemicals and even human antibiotics, which are flushed through the sewerage system and eventually into the water environment. Some parts of the River Thames contain no male fish of certain species, because of a rise in oestrogen levels. Vital work being carried out at the Environmental Research Institute in Caithness is helping to understand what’s happening in our rivers and
“These were redundant sites, but rather than mothball them they are starting to be put to really good use.”
streams and exploring the most sustainable solutions to address such threats. One solution might be for healthcare providers to give patients a special ‘activated carbon teabag’ to flush down their loos, preventing antibiotics escaping into the environment. “There is an international importance to this work,” adds Duncan. “We’ve got scientists working on how pharma is affecting fresh water, which is so important in countries around the world still using stuff that has long been banned here. So what’s happening in Scotland is already having an international reach and will help our own sector to export and grow.” It’s important to mention at this point that this field of sustainable, clean and green, low energy consumption water industry management has not just evolved of its own will. The work being carried out by HIE - as a government agency - is inevitably policy driven and legislation in recent years covering climate change, water resources and procurement have all changed the regulatory landscape. ‘Benign by design’ is a fitting phrase I pick up from HIE, and it helps explain the agenda well. “If something can be designed at the outset so that we know when we take it apart, it won’t cause harm to people, biodiversity and the environment today or tomorrow, that meets the test. Otherwise it’s not sustainable,” says Duncan. On the domestic front HIE is working with the Scottish Government’s Water Team, Scottish Water, SEPA and SNH and is looking at the sustainable solutions for rural water provision and treatment. Scotland has some 22,000 private water supplies and there is a need to look at novel solutions to improve on current perfor-
Keeping it in the family You might say Galen Fulford was destined for great environmental things. With an organic farming scientist for a father, and a father-in-law with a background in engineering and ecological water management, it is perhaps no surprise that the American forged his own career path in sustainable ecological development. As Managing Director of Biomatrix Water, he also understands entrepreneurship and what it means to take simple ecological concepts, and then scale them up massively. Fulford, who was born in Vermont but grew up in Maine (with a wife from Paisley), he now runs his company from the unlikely but quiet, clean and idyllic location of Forres in the Highlands, says: “We’re ready for mass production now. We’re looking for serious investment to take it to the next level.” The company specialises in using an array of natural, plant-based ecologies, for the better management of water environments, and has already exported its products to the US, Canada, China, India and the Philippines. mance. Duncan’s work to identify the opportunities of the water sector for the Scottish economy highlighted that it could take up to 15 years for a new technology to come to market. With this knowledge, HIE together with its partners, established a new Hydro Nation Water Innovation Service and two new live technology testing environments, one at Gorthleck in the Highlands (for drinking water), and
Galen Fulford, pictured right, on one of his floating islands It’s some way for an idea that was spawned on a sailing trip with his father-in-law. “We were sailing on the Moray Firth; the Findhorn empties out and you can only get back in on the right side. So we were stuck out there having a chat; we had all this knowledge about water ecology management the other in Bo’ness (for wastewater), are now helping to bring technologies to use. “These were redundant sites, but rather than mothball them they are starting to be put to really good use,” says Duncan. “The one at Gorthleck really puts technologies through their paces because the water there is full of peaty organics, manganese, bugs and parasites. So we know if something
but it was still too big of a jump to do any projects. So we went back to the drawing board and designed lots of little projects, but then needed to scale them massively. And what we’ve created is modular ecosystems - we’re now working all over the world with three patents and have another one on the go.” works there, it’ll pretty much work anywhere. These are closed-loop environments, so the public is never put at any risk.” In that regard HIE is not only helping the water industry in Scotland to innovate with more sustainable technologies but by helping other sectors to adopt clean, green technologies early in the value chain, it can boost opportunities for Scotland’s ‘Hydro Nation’ in emerging markets, too.
Skilling up the water industry More than 70% of graduates from Glasgow Clyde College go on to secure promotion By Kevin O’Sullivan If the reason to take a training course ever needed highlighting, there surely can be no greater incentive than to tell candidates that their chances of promotion would be greatly increased. More than 70% of graduates who enrol on water industry training courses at Glasgow Clyde College go on to secure that vital next step in their careers - with many moving into management and the chance of an enriching international experience. College staff work closely with water industry partners to develop qualifications which are designed specifically as a result of observing the industry, and help meet the business needs of the sector. Glasgow Clyde College has over 35 years’ experience, providing training to improve the skills and knowledge of hundreds of water operations staff across the UK. Understanding that the face of the UK water industry is changing, combined with this experience, means that the college is well placed to help the sector meet these challenges
and look forward to a successful future. “We offer three qualification routes - Higher National Certificate (HNC) Water Operations and two Professional Development Awards (PDA), in Wastewater Processes and in Water Processes and a National Progression Award (NPA) which is aimed at new starts within the Water Industry,” says David Innes, Assistant Principal Engineering and Built Environment (pictured right). “Offering these routes enables staff in a range of roles to undertake a relevant qualification, enabling businesses to stay competitive. “The HNC is a two-year part-time course which offers a broad mix of skills which can benefit a range of more established staff in roles from Laboratory Technicians to Administrative Support Staff, Managers to Customer Services Staff.” Studying the PDA courses enables
a flexible but focused approach to be taken, and is suitable for those who are new staff or who are already working in fields such as civil engineering, microbiology, waste water operative or as control engineers. Innes adds: “One of the great benefits of these courses is that we have recently developed online versions, which opens up opportunities
“One of the great benefits of these courses is that we have recently developed online versions”
for study to people who can’t attend a classroom-based course, both nationally and internationally.” The course itself is a mixture of both online and centre-supervised assessments. The NPA meets the aspirations of the water industry, in terms of the subjects being offered and the flexibility of delivery where candidates attend college two days a month to support their underpinning knowledge whilst undertaking their Modern Apprenticeship. These qualifications provide a strong foundation for anyone wishing to pursue a career in the water industry as they offer an insight into the different industry job roles and allow a degree of practical application. One previous graduate said: “I started the course as a Distribution Technician and now have finished the course as a Product Manager, where I am now experiencing the water industry on an international level. I highly recommend this course to anyone at any stage in the water industry, whether it’s learning the basics or filling gaps in your own knowledge. You are guaranteed to learn something new. Especially as the class is made up from pupils with different backgrounds within the water industry, so it gives rise to a fascinating exchange of experiences and ideas.”
10 WATERSCOT BUSINESS
27 October 2016
Small businesses should take advantage of cost savings by switching suppliers Typical SMEs can save between 10 and 30% on water bills, says SES Business Water Since the business water market opened up in 2008, around half of Scotland’s businesses have made the savvy decision to switch their water supplier. As the competitive marketplace slowly matures, not only has it unlocked new cost-saving opportunities for these businesses, but it has also provided them with benefits such as improved service levels and added value packages. Suppliers are working hard to attract new customers and this is great news for customers, who
50% of Scottish businesses have already chosen to switch water supplier and benefit from lower prices and improved service levels.
are being offered tailored support and better ways to manage their water bills and usage. Businesses of all sizes can benefit from the open water market, and smaller businesses shouldn’t dismiss the changes as less relevant to them: a typical SME can expect to save between 10 and 30% on their water bills. It’s also important to note that this figure has risen significantly since Scotland’s water market first opened eight years ago, so the message to businesses who have already switched is: could you save by switching again? Here at SES Business Water, we recently saved a distribution company with five small depots across Scotland over 27% on their charges for their first switch and saved a high street retailer an additional 10% on their bill when they switched for the second time.
Businesses of all sizes can benefit from the open water market
PEACE OF MIND THROUGH BUDGET CERTAINTY
Switching has the potential to unlock savings and added value benefits you might never have expected from your water supplier. In addition, changing supplier could help you simplify the way you manage your utility budget, by allowing you to consolidate your invoices from multiple sites or choose from a range of more flexible payment options. Availability of a fixed price contract as standard on your
water means you won’t have to choose between lower prices and budget certainty – you can benefit from both. So, whether you are a small single site business who simply wants to be sure they’re getting the best price, or a multi-site business looking for tailored water efficiency advice, switching supplier could be the answer you need.
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A LITTLE BIT ABOUT US:
SES Business Water are awardwinning experts in water supply and billing. We are licensed providers of water and wastewater services in Scotland, England and Wales, and part of a group of companies that have over 150 years’ experience in the water industry. Our experience means we’re well
equipped to advise you on everything from cost reduction through to water efficiency measures, wastewater handling and recycling. Alongside this, our innovative technology and big-data capabilities mean we have the tools in place to support you as you drive change for your business, and maximise on the opportunities of a deregulated marketplace.
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Switch today, simply call 01737 785842 or visit www.sesbusinesswater.co.uk
27 October 2016
Sophisticated sensors are helping hydro power operators spot faults in real-time. Photograph: Green Highland Renewables
From a Land Rover and wellies to a laptop: how big data is turning the tide on hydro power Even heat recovered from sewage is driving technological change in water-based renewables BY STEPHANIE CLARK Renewables like wind, solar, hydro and biomass now supply the equivalent of 57% of the electricity used in Scotland. And we’re getting better and better at using new technology to turn our weather into energy for our homes and businesses. The hydro industry is one with a long history in Scotland, but it’s also one which has embraced technological innovation in recent years. By definition, hydro-electric power needs a combination of rainfall and vertical drop, making the glens of Scotland particularly conducive.
While such locations lend themselves to hydro in terms of topography and precipitation, they commonly present challenges from a construction and operational perspective. Hundreds of new schemes have been constructed and commissioned since 2010, many of which are a long way off the beaten track. Operating such schemes successfully requires a combination of remote management and on-the-ground intervention. Hydro schemes are built to last, and generate electricity on a steady basis for decades. As a rule, the underlying capital components – intakes, pipeline, turbine and generator – keep working with a relatively small amount of servicing and repair. AND THAT’S where the technology comes in. Satellite broadband connects
sensors at dams and turbines to the internet, letting operators see what’s happening in real time and, crucially, allowing any faults to be spotted as soon as they happen. This high-tech comms kit means that for companies like Renfrewshirebased MEG Renewables, keeping in touch with their turbines is an office job rather than a Land Rover and wellies operation. Business Development Manager Kenny Hunter said: “Some faults can be resolved remotely, but others require a visit, in the first place by one of the local caretakers, often an estate keeper. “The real benefit of the remote connection is the immediate notification of a problem and the opportunity to respond quickly. Running at full power, a 500 kW hydro scheme can generate income of up to £2,500 per day, so time really is money.” Farr Hydro is a 500 kW run of river scheme 10 miles south of Inverness, and is owned and operated by MEG Renewables and landowner Philip Mackenzie. In an average year, Farr Hydro will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of around 350 homes. THE SCHEME has a satellite broad-
band connection, which allows MEG Renewables to monitor the performance of the scheme, and others which they monitor for third-party clients, from their base in the offices of parent company M & Co – the high street fashion chain – near Glasgow Airport. The control panel, which is essentially the heartbeat of any hydro scheme, has been configured to issue email alerts when there are any issues with the scheme. In the case of Farr, that control panel has been manufactured and configured by North Lanarkshire business Kestral Controls. The control panel sits in the power house at Farr, alongside the turbine
and generator. Through a communication cable stretching nearly two kilometres to the scheme’s water intake, the control panel receives real-time data on water levels, and is programmed with algorithms which dictate how wide the spear valves on the turbine should open, and therefore how much power is generated. Being a run-of-river scheme, there are no decisions as to when to generate at Farr. If the water is sufficient, the scheme will operate. Those schemes which have a storage element – where a dam collects rainwater for later use – add another layer into their control systems, to factor in changing wholesale prices for electricity. In such circumstances, having remote access to the control panel is vital to optimising revenues. While optimising the amount of electricity generated by hydro schemes, wind turbines and solar farms is a growing business, there’s one sector which has been neglected in Scotland to date: heat. Keeping warm is responsible for 55% of the energy we use in Scotland, as well as the lion’s share of our carbon emissions. Biomass boilers and anaerobic
“Running at full power, a 500 kW hydro scheme can generate income of up to £2,500 per day, so time really is money”
digestion are becoming more common in rural businesses, but harvesting the heat below our feet is another way to harness the energy we don’t even realise we’re wasting. With the 11 billion litres of waste water created in the UK every day collected by 390,000 miles of sewers, our drains are a constant, inexhaustible energy source. AT BORDERS COLLEGE in Galashiels,
SHARC Energy Systems are using heat pumps to remove heat from sewage, then piping it around radiators to provide warmth for students and staff. COO Russ Burton said: “The process is simple. Sewage heat recovery systems use a building’s waste water, which consists of what gets flushed away and is mixed with millions of gallons of hot water from showers, dishwashers and washing machines. “That water maintains a fairly constant temperature as it travels through sewers to the treatment plant. “Our system uses a filtration system to separate the solid and wet content of the sewage flow to allow extraction of sufficient energy to heat most buildings.” The SHARC system at Borders College uses remote monitoring technology to keep operators in touch with equipment, meaning any faults can be fixed before they become an issue. With huge changes made last year to the way renewable energy developers are paid for the energy they produce, and a growing need to reduce the amount of carbon emitted by our power sector, technology like this has a role to play. And with new solutions for optimising the amount of energy produced by renewable technology appearing all the time, the future for green energy in Scotland remains bright. Stephanie Clark is Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables
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