Ecotricity rekindles interest in UK water market

EXCLUSIVE: Ecotricity has rekindled its interest in the UK water market, saying it would look to bring “an eco-approach to water”.

Asked about the company’s plans for the market, chief executive Dale Vince told Utility Week: “We do have some ideas around how we could make that work. We think we could bring a sort of eco-approach to the water market. I would say it is possible.”

Although Vince declined to comment specifically on the company’s plans, he said they would include “great customer service”, as well as “some kind of eco outcome”.

“We think there’s a way we can apply this to water which would be very interesting,” he said.

From 1 April 2017 around 1.2 million businesses and public bodies in England will be able to choose their water supplier, an option only currently available to the largest users. It will link to the existing market in Scotland, which was created in 2008 as the world’s first non-domestic water market.

Vince said entering the water market was “something that we’ve thought about from time to time for many years”.

In 2014, a spokesperson for the company said it had shelved plans to enter the water market in order to focus on its existing energy business.

The full interview with Dale Vince will be available to read in the issue of Friday 30 September

The water market has experienced a surge of activity ahead of the onset of competition.

So far, Portsmouth WaterSouthern Water and Thames Water have announced plans to exit the market. Scottish retailer Castle Water will take on the business customers of Portsmouth and Thames, while Southern’s customers will be handed to Scottish incumbent supplier Business Stream.

The total number of companies to have applied for licences since Ofwat opened the process now stands at 17. The regulator has predicted as many as 40 new applications in the coming year. 

Scottish players Castle WaterBusiness StreamCobalt Water and Clear Business Water have all submitted applications to participate in the English market. As has water management firm Waterscan and commercial gas supplier subsidiary, Regent Water.

English incumbents which have applied for licences are: Northumbrian Water Business – which has rebranded as Wave – Pennon Water Services, Anglian Water Business, Sutton and East Surrey Water Services, South Staffordshire Water Business, Water 2 Business, Kelda Retail – which has been incorporated into Kelda Group’s new retail arm Three Sixty, and newly rebranded Affinity for Business.

South East Water Choice has applied for a sewerage licence only, in order to provide its existing customers with a combined water and sewerage bill.

Severn Trent and United Utilities have also applied for their joint venture Water Plus, which was announced at the beginning of March. Chief executive Sue Amies-King told Utility Week that Water Plus would be “agile and innovative”, and bring in “fresh new ideas” from the new people being recruited.

Small Scottish supplier Everflow told Utility Week it is considering buying into the English market when it opens and will be applying for a licence soon. Veolia UK has also said it wants to grow its retail activities in the market, but has not yet applied for a licence.

New entrant Blue Business Water also told Utility Week it will apply for a licence before Ofwat’s deadline. Director Chris Clark stressed that it is keen to acquire the customer bases of companies looking to exit.