Industry grandees mull intractable sector quandaries

30 June 2023

Industry grandees mull intractable sector quandaries

A landmark report from Utility Week examines if utilities can reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable: sustainability, unprecedented levels of investment in infrastructure, and protection of consumers at a time when many are struggling. Read it to learn what many of the industry’s leading minds think about company ownership, energy markets, affordability and societal responsibility, future investment, and energy markets.

A who’s who of utilities sector experts including current and former CEOs, founding regulators and policy leaders rallied to support the publication of Utility Week’s new report, Crunch Time for Utilities, created in association with Charles River Associates.

Prominent contributors include former Eon CEO Michael Lewis, Jonson Cox, former chair, Ofwat, Rachel Fletcher, director of regulation and economics, Octopus, James Richardson, chief economist, National Infrastructure Commission, and Peter Simpson, chief executive, Anglian Water, plus many more.

The report addresses several conflicting demands facing the industry: attracting huge levels of investment while being financially prudent; building new infrastructure while keeping bills down; and fulfilling regulatory requirements while taking the risks required to innovate.

You can download it (right) but in the meantime, here are just a few of the views from our contributors:

On competition

“The lesson of the energy crisis is that unfettered competition comes at a price and is not the answer for everything in the supply market.” – Maxine Frerk, former Ofgem senior partner of networks

On trust

“Most retail energy companies now are profoundly mistrusted by their customers. They don’t think they’re doing them a good deal; they don’t think they’re really working in their interests. And the customer cannot see how that trust could be easily re-established.” – Anonymous

On the regulatory landscape

“The regulator’s got to be a lot tougher on people who are not maintaining their network assets to the right standard, and for there to be genuine consequences for those that are not, which hasn’t been the case.” – John Penrose, Conservative MP for Weston-super-Mare

On innovation

“We’re already building zero-bill homes, where we are managing heat pumps, solar panels, and batteries in a customer’s home, in return for guaranteeing no electricity bills for five years.” – Rachel Fletcher, director of regulation and economics, Octopus

On investment

“The truth is that not many of the privately owned water companies actually pay that much in dividends now.” – Richard Emmott, former public affairs director, Yorkshire Water

On fuel poverty

“Whatever is decided on, it’s important that low-income and vulnerable households don’t end up being parked on a tariff which means they can’t benefit from innovation coming in the energy market.” – Gillian Cooper, head of energy policy, Citizens Advice

On infrastructure

“The marketplace will only develop solutions to meet net zero and deploy them at scale if infrastructure capacity is in place and available. We see this a little bit now with EVs. People are getting a bit lukewarm on them because the infrastructure’s not there.” – Peter Emery, former chief executive officer, Electricity North West Limited

Download the report for more now.

Contributing experts include:

  • Tony Cocker, non-executive director, SSE and former CEO of Eon
  • Jonson Cox, former chair, Ofwat
  • Peter Emery, former CEO, ENWL
  • Richard Emmott, former director of public affairs, Yorkshire Water
  • Rachel Fletcher, director of regulation and economics, Octopus, and former CEO of Ofwat
  • Maxine Frerk, founder of Grid Edge Policy, associate with Sustainability First, and former senior partner networks, Ofgem
  • Michael Lewis, Former CEO, Eon UK
  • Professor Stephen Littlechild, former regulator
  • James Richardson, chief economist, National Infrastructure Commission
  • Peter Simpson, CEO, Anglian Water
  • Sara Vaughan, chair, Elexon, and former director for political and regulatory affairs at Eon
  • And many more