There are concerns that the water retail market is on the road to a ‘big six’.
Northumbrian and Anglian have announced plans to merge their business retail arms to create Wave. This is the third high-profile merger seen in the sector. Following electricity deregulation, the supplier pool diminished as the regional companies merged into six large energy players: Eon, SSE, Scottish Power, British Gas, Npower and EDF Energy. It is only recently that new entrants have begun to swipe some of the market share of these companies.
Now, it seems, the non-household water retail market is following a similar pattern. Ahead of market opening the industry has seen its share of mergers, most notable of which was the Severn Trent-United Utilities joint venture Water Plus – currently the biggest player in the business market with 366,000 customers.
The second largest player is Scottish new entrant Castle Water, which boasts a book of around 310,000 customers, after snapping up the business-bases of exiting Portsmouth Water and Thames Water – effectively increasing in size nine-fold overnight.
The third largest player now looks set to be Anglian and Northumbrian’s Wave – which will have approximately 250,000 customers. This is subject to its regulatory approval of course.
Business Stream – the incumbent, and currently largest, retailer in Scotland – has made no bones about its focus on growth. It, too, looks likely to become a sizeable player in the English market. The retailer has already bought Southern Water’s business customer book, partnered market peer Veolia Water, and signed a multi-utility deal with broker Utilitywise – in which the former will provide water services and the latter will offer energy provision.
A recent survey conducted by the National Farmers Union (NFU) found that Less than half (46%) of farmers are aware of the forthcoming changes in the ‘Open water’ market for non-household premises.
Over one-third (37%) of farmers consider that reducing the cost of mains water is a high priority for their business. Only 6% of farmers said they would be prepared to switch retailer for a saving of 1-2% in charges, with over one-third (40%) of farmers indicating that they would expect a cost saving of at least 11% to encourage them to change their water services retailer. NFU national water resources specialist Paul Hammett said: “It comes as no surprise that our members are interested in driving down costs. But the survey does provide really interesting revelations in the type of services they will be interested in.”
More details of the NFU survey can be found here.
A UK-based team of researchers has created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater.
The sought-after development could aid the millions of people without ready access to clean drinking water. The promising graphene oxide sieve could be highly efficient at filtering salts, and will now be tested against existing desalination membranes. It has previously been difficult to manufacture graphene-based barriers on an industrial scale.
Whitbread Group PLC has applied for a Water Supply Licence and Sewerage Licence with a self-supply authorisation and proposal by Ofwat to modify the standard licence conditions that will apply to Whitbread, if it is granted a self- supply licence.
Whitbread Group PLC is a hotel, restaurant and coffee shop operator – its brands include Costa, Premier Inn, Brewers Fayre, Beefeater Grill and Table Table – the company has 1081 supplies in England. The company believes that having a self-supply licence will give it a chance to take more control over its own water use, deal directly with the suppliers and build on its water strategy programme.
Chief executive Sue Amies-King revealed Water Plus – a joint venture formed by United Utilities and Severn Trent Water – has secured a half-a-million-a-year contract to handle the water supply for Kwik Fit and Stapleton’s Tyre Services 831 branches. And the company has also agreed a deal with David Lloyd for its 84 health clubs and gyms across the country.
Anglian Water Business has partnered up with business energy supplier Corona Energy to offer business customers a tri-utility supply of water, gas and electricity to business customers.
The two companies have signed a “white label” contract. Anglian said the move will “build its existing reputation for energy efficiency audits, energy and water saving technologies, investment-free installation and shared payback schemes”. As part of the new proposition, customers will be able to fix their gas and electricity prices for up to five years, which will allow them to forecast costs accurately and budget more effectively. It will also remove the impact of price volatility in the market. Customers will also be able to renew at any time within their contract life to take advantage of any price reductions that may occur.
South West Water is to pay £89,000 in fines and costs after a sewer overflow which should only discharge during storms polluted a stream with sewage for up to two days.
The water company must report any fish kills that occur following a pollution incident. However, it failed to report this information to the Environment Agency.
South West Water was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay £19,023 costs after pleading guilty to breaching its environmental permit for Ham Lane Combined Sewer Overflow