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November has seen a focus from the water sector on the future, with a range of major set piece speeches being delivered by the industry’s most senior decision makers, with an overall theme of the need to adapt to new rapidly emerging realities.

In this month’s Perspective piece, we scrutinise the work of the industry in identifying and supporting vulnerable customers. Cross-sectoral collaboration between water and energy has been ongoing for several years now and valuable lessons have been learnt, with emphasis moving from trialling solutions to implementation. We also later in the Industry section consider the Consumer Council for Water’s assessment of how water companies are performing in supporting vulnerable households over the last year.

In the policy sphere, MPs were critical in their assessment of the government’s preparedness for UK heatwave adaptation in the context of climate change. Some recommendations have been adopted, but overall the Environmental Audit Committee claimed that ministers had “not properly acknowledged” many of its conclusions in its response. Climate change and its impacts was also the focus of a speech by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, with the need to adapt to average summer rainfall falling by up to 47% by 2070.

The ownership model of the water sector itself was the subject of a speech on 6 November by Ofwat CEO Rachel Fletcher. Fletcher expanded on the concept of a “social contract” in the water sector, for which there is a legitimacy case, a business case, and an environmental case.  

Regulatory updates include Ofwat planning to standardise the regulatory financial ring-fencing framework present in each water company’s licence, as well as its draft determination on underperformance penalties and outperformance payments for the four water companies that have in-period Outcome Delivery Incentives.

Our regular switching update on the non-domestic market in England shows that 8,397 supply point identifiers switched during October, according to MOSL. This is similar to the monthly average for the year so far, but somewhat below the average since June. The trend for self-supply also continues, with BT applying for a Water Supply Licence and Sewerage Licence limited to self-supply water.

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