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As the nation enters the first phase of returning to work, two landmark projects - Hinkley Point C and Thames Tideway - have brought staff back to sites with guidance on how to operate under social distancing rules.
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The Covid-19 outbreak offers a unique opportunity for the sector to reappraise supply chain robustness, address the resilience of excessively leveraged balance sheets and prompt a discussion around the true value of essential workers, says Arenko’s James Mills
Opinion
We introduce a new series celebrating the tireless work carried out across the utilities sector to ensure the lights stay on and the water and gas keeps flowing during lockdown. As well as highlighting individuals and teams going above and beyond their day-to-day roles we will be examining how companies are adapting to new responsibilities and taking the initiative to extend support – both operational and financial - where it is needed most.
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Even before the coronavirus, understanding which of their customers would come under the broad umbrella of “vulnerable” was a key challenge for utilities companies. Here data specialist Mike Fox looks at ways companies can use their own data to search out difficult-to-identify vulnerabilities.
Opinion

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After six years of underinvestment, Northern Ireland Water has been granted £2.1 billion to spend on capital investment programmes to improve infrastructure as well as to meet climate and environmental goals. The increase in capital investment will enable the company to provide wastewater treatment services that have lagged behind the rate of housing growth.
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A national communications drive is needed to help bring the public on board with the UK’s net zero ambitions, Citizens Advice has suggested. Zoe Guijarro, policy manager at the consumer body, said: "We need to meet people where they are and communicate the vision in a way that means something to them.”
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A quarter of 18-24-year-olds struggle to understand their energy bills, new research from Octopus Energy and the National Literacy Trust has revealed. A OnePoll survey of more than 2,500 bill payers looked to explore how well people understood their energy bills and identify ways in which they could be made easier to read.
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Thames has rolled out a new IT system for monitoring its clean water processes, supplies and treatment works across the capital. The technology replaces a 25-year old system that remained online throughout the switchover to minimise disruptions
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Subsidiaries of Invinity Energy Systems and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy have signed an agreement to jointly develop a “next generation” grid-scale vanadium flow battery. Upon the completion of the design, which will incorporate Gamesa Electric’s power conversion systems, they will also work together to manufacture the battery systems.
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UK Power Networks has had its carbon reduction plan and targets endorsed by the Science-Based Target Initiative. The distribution network operator said it is on course to reach net zero for all directly-controllable carbon emissions by 2028. This comprises a 42 per cent reduction in these emissions based on the 2018/19 level, with the rest offset.
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Octopus Energy chief executive Greg Jackson has said his company’s net loss for 2019/20 was driven by the supplier’s “relentless investment” in new technologies, international expansion and customer growth. The retailer, which is this year celebrating its 5th anniversary, saw its revenue grow 160 per cent from £477 million to £1.24 billion and estimates a revenue of £2 billion as of year end April 2021.
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This month saw the Debt Respite Scheme, also known as “breathing space", come into force. The legislation is designed to give customers with problem debt temporary legal protections from creditor action. Jayne Gardner, head of debt recovery at Corclaim, examines how it is likely to affect the utilities sector.
Opinion
Macquarie has sold its more than 600,000-strong industrial and commercial smart meter portfolio Cortex Metering Solutions. Cortex, which rents out the devices to more than 80 energy suppliers, has been acquired by multi-utility metering and data services business Energy Assets Group.
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Centrica says it is continuing to face tough trading conditions as a result of the pandemic but added that its restructure remains "on track". In a trading update issued ahead of its AGM the company said the factors impacting its 2021 outlook remain “broadly unchanged” since its preliminary results in February in which it announced a £360 million loss.
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The utilities sectors lag behind the national averages for representation of staff with disabilities, those from ethnic minority backgrounds, women and young people according to data analysis by Energy & Utility Skills.
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