Laura Sandys has called for the creation of a multi-utility regulator and network regime to improve collaboration across sectors, lower costs and simplify the industry for consumers.

The former Tory MP and now chief executive of Challenging Ideas said the current regulatory arrangements must be radically overhauled to accommodate the emergence of bundled utilities.

Speaking at Utility Week Live during a discussion on the next round of RIIO price controls, Sandys explained that her “great desire” is to end up with “one consumer regulator for all essential services” and well as “one multi-utility network regime”.

This would  encourage the cross-vector optimisation of existing infrastructure – “the brain” – and lower the cost of procuring new assets – “the brawn”.

She gave as an example a pilot project in Ireland: “ESB is in a joint venture with Vodafone and they’re taking broadband to all the villages along their wires. They’re making some good money out of it.

“But the consumer is getting broadband faster and at a third of the cost because the infrastructure is being shared.”

“When you start to look at the consumer side you’re going to get quite a lot more bundled products anyway”, she added.

“They’ll be very complex products… Firstly, they’ll be bundled, but secondly, they might be underpinned by financial services.

“They might also be invisible because I think we’re going to see more and more energy becoming a B2B product rather than consumer product.

Sandys continued: “I don’t want as a consumer to have go to the financial services authority, to Ofgem, to Ofcom, to Ofwat, to Of-whoever. I want to be able to go to one regulator who understands that complexity and will do the unpicking.

“I also want one ombudsman as well because, to be frank, I think we’ve got a proliferation of redress bodies and none of them are totally fit for purpose.”

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