Regulators call for collaboration by energy and water firms to help vulnerable customers

Water and energy regulators Ofwat and Ofgem are calling for their respective sectors to pool their efforts to ensure that vulnerable customers are better able to access the extra help which is available.

A new report produced by Ofwat and Ofgem through the UK Regulators Network (UKRN), reveals that while there are already some examples of cross-sectoral collaboration between water and energy companies to help vulnerable customers, there is scope for much more.

People who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances, such as those with a long-term illness or a disability, could stand to benefit from greater sharing of non-financial data between their energy and water providers, according to the regulators.

Given the similar types of support offered, Ofwat and Ofgem want to see greater collaboration on the basis that where a customer needs additional help from their energy company, they will likely need the same from their water company and vice versa.

The report says that by identifying those customers which are vulnerable, companies could, for instance, offer priority support in emergencies, provide bills and other literature in accessible formats or move a customer’s meter where it is difficult to reach.

A joint water and energy working group established by the Energy Networks Association and Water UK will report quarterly on progress made on non-financial data sharing.

Regulators to ask water and energy firms to report on cross-sectoral collaboration

In spring 2018, the regulators will also ask water and energy companies to report on their cross-sectoral collaboration to help vulnerable customers. Later in the year will see the publication of a follow up report, outlining what further action – if any – may be required.

Two utility companies  – United Utilities and Electricity North-West – will also be launching a pilot vulnerability data-sharing programme in their region using live customer data in January 2018.

Cathryn Ross, Chief Executive of Ofwat said:

“Water companies have been doing more in recent years to identify and support the most vulnerable in our society and we are also starting to see some really positive examples of cross-sectoral collaboration with energy providers.

“But there is much more that can be done and given the similarities in the support they provide, and the fact that they serve the same customers, it makes sense that water and energy companies should work together where they can. Today’s report highlights some really good and practical examples of how the water and energy sectors can pull together to help those who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances.”

Dermot Nolan, Chief Executive of Ofgem and UKRN Chair added:

“Protecting and empowering consumers in vulnerable situations is a priority for Ofgem. By working together and innovating, energy and water companies can identify and support their customers in vulnerable circumstances more effectively.”

Click here to download the report Making better use of data: identifying customers in vulnerable situations: a report for water and energy companies

The M20 is set for two years of disruptions while a £92m ‘smart’ motorway is created

Road bosses say it will cut journey times in the long run

A £92m project to increase the capacity of the M20 is set to kick off in March.

The plan will involve converting the hard shoulder into a fourth lane for the 6.5 mile stretch between junctions 3 at West Malling and 5 at Aylesford.

It will also include the introduction of new “smart” gantries like those installed on the M25 between junctions 5 and 7 three years ago.

Roads bosses say it will improve journey times, safety and congestion. Work is scheduled to end in January 2020.

A Highways England spokesman said the scheme, for which funding was agreed in 2015, was of “local and national economic and political importance”.

He added: “The M20 is a crucial part of the UK strategic road network connecting Dover, Folkestone and the Channel Tunnel to the M25 and M26 motorways, and routes into London.

“This stretch of the M20 is heavily used by cars and freight to and from the Port of Dover and the popular Kent coastal areas, especially during holiday seasons when traffic increases and congestion on the motorway occurs.

“Our key issues that need to be improved on the scheme include: safety, congestion and journey times. A large number of cars and freight travel between London and the Port of Dover, this often leads to significant congestion.”

What work is being done?

Highways England has said it will:

  • Convert the hard shoulders to create four lanes in each direction.
  • Change junctions to accommodate this
  • Install new – and refurbish existing – gantries with variable message signs and 10 refurbished message signs
  • Create five new “emergency refuge areas”, new SOS telephones and the installation of CCTV to improve emergency response times
  • Build a hardened central reservation with a new rigid concrete barrier
  • Replaceme the Teapot Lane Footbridge deck at Aylesford to accommodate the hardshoulder conversion
  • Replace existing noise barriers in built-up areas and install new barriers “where necessary”

What they’ve said about the road works…

Due to the scale of the project there will be closures, diversions, speed restrictions and temporarily narrowed lanes.

Details of these are yet to be finalised but Highways England has pledged to make all information “clearly available” in due course.

Closures are likely to take place at night rather than during the day.

Do ‘smart’ motorways actually work?

While Government policy has firmly backed the introduction of smart motorways – ploughing about £6 billion into projects across the country – they are not without their critics.

Some research by Highways England has even shown journey times on parts of the M25 have increased following their introuction.

Among their critics is AA president Edmund King who said: “The big issue that leads to lack of vastly improved journey times is many drivers are reluctant to use lane one as they think it is dangerous, for example there could be broken down cars or trucks ahead.

“In a way this defeats the objective of the whole scheme. The other major issue is that any breakdown not in an emergency refuge area leads to lane closures and further congestion.

“In many ways these ‘smart motorways’ are not very smart.”

Where will the construction centre be based?

A planning application to create a “temporary compound” is currently in the hands of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council.

If approved, land at Castle Way, Leybourne, would be used for offices, a canteen, toilet block, training rooms, CCTV control rooms, car parking and the storage of materials and plant.

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Blakedale | Heading north to unveil new “mini” IPV

Blakedale Limited is reinforcing its commitment to highway safety with the launch of a new 3.5 tonne Impact Protection Vehicle (IPV), designed to provide additional workforce protection on carriageways up to 40 mph. The new Light Truck Mounted Attenuator (LTMA) Crash Cushion is one of the first of its kind in the UK and will have its debut outing at the Road Expo Scotland on 1-2 November.

With a bespoke built traffic management body and 900-kilogram load capacity, Blakedale’s new vehicle can be used to support a wide range of tasks, from roadside litter picking to maintenance in rural and inner city environments.

The “mini” IPV is equipped with a Verdegro LTMA Crash Cushion, which has been crash tested to 70 km/h (43 mph) and is approved to NCHRP 350 standards. This Crash Cushion can also be used on larger vehicles including 5.0 tonne and 7.5 tonnes, with the new 3.5-tonne version being the smallest. In addition, a mini light arrow board or LP13 is used to direct road users to the left or right, therefore reducing the likelihood of a collision between a road user vehicle and a works vehicle.

“As with all our self-drive vehicles, we have designed our new lightweight IPV to be highly visible to oncoming traffic. However, if a collision does occur, our Crash Cushions will reduce injury severity to those involved and also protect people working around the vehicle by absorbing some of the impact energy,” explains Carmen Bowley, Joint Managing Director of Blakedale.

She adds: “Currently a bigger version of this vehicle is only legally required on motorway and high speed carriageways, but the potentially lifesaving protection they can provide elsewhere, to both road workers and road users, cannot be denied.”

Weighing in at 3.5 tonnes, Blakedale’s “mini” IPV is considerably lighter and more compact than its 18 tonne counterpart, making it easier for traffic management contractors and local authorities to adopt their use in other areas. The vehicle is also equipped with a number of other safety features including an LED light system, reverse camera and alarm, and a recordable multi-camera system.

Members of the Blakedale team will be on Stand D21 throughout the two-day Road Expo Scotland event where they will be inviting visitors to view their new LTMA Crash Cushion (“mini” IPV). The vehicle will be on proud display in Demo Area 8, along with Blakedale’s low-bodied Traffic Management Vehicle which was launched at Traffex earlier this year.

Coca-Cola applies for water self-supply licence

Coca-Cola European Partners Great Britain Ltd (CCEP) has applied to Ofwat for a Water Supply Licence and Sewerage Licence with a self-supply authorisation.

The synopsis of the business plan accompanying the application says CCEP believe that having a selfsupply licence will give it a chance to take more control over its own water use, deal directly with the suppliers and build on the success of its water programme.

“CCEP says that a self-supply licence will provide the organisation with an opportunity to build on efficiency works already undertaken whilst driving cost and consumption control in the next phase of their sustainability strategy. In addition, CCEP hope that being an active participant in the market will drive further innovation and provide a direct customer voice in MOSL discussions”, the consultation document says.

In order to facilitate the application, CCEP has entered a partnership agreement with Waterscan to take on the role and responsibilities for the retail functions including market transactions, data validation, bi-lateral communications, and the management of planned and unplanned events.

Ofwat has set out its proposal to modify the standard licence conditions that will apply to CCEP if it is granted a WSSL in a new consultation on the application. If granted, this will enable CCEP to provide retail services to itself and associated persons.

Bypass option chosen to beat jams on M55 link road

National roads bosses have revealed their preferred plan to tackle traffic jams on the A585 is the more expensive dual carriageway option. Highways England has said that following the public consultation last year it has chosen to build a completely new bypass road to end jams on the road between the M55 and Fleetwood.

National roads bosses have revealed their preferred plan to tackle traffic jams on the A585 is the more expensive dual carriageway option. Highways England has said that following the public consultation last year it has chosen to build a completely new bypass road to end jams on the road between the M55 and Fleetwood. A map showing the easstern part of the southern bypass dual carriageway option which has been chosen by Highways England The road would involve upgrading a section of road from Windy Harbour junction to a dual-carriageway, then moving on to a new stretch of road with a junction at Garstang New Road, bypassing Little Singleton and creating a new junction with the A586 Garstang Road East, before tying back into the existing road at a new junction east of Skippool. It rejected the option of upgrading the existing system by dualling the Garstang New road east of Little Singleton creating a one-way gyratory there and junction improvements at the existing Shard Road junction. The scheme could cost up to £100m and aims to cut jams, improve road safety and help the local economy grow.

The agency will now carry out surveys to see if the addition of a link to Shard Road and the potential inclusion of the Grange junction and the Lodge Lane land bridge would help make the southern bypass more effective. The Agency said it had received 574 questionnaires and 37 letters from the public with 78 per cent preferring Option One the southern bypass. During the consultation, the project team received feedback stating that people would like to see a link to Shard Road and they will look into this.

A spokesman said : “We intend to hold a statutory public consultation on the design for the scheme in early 2018. “We will be consulting widely before we submit our application for a Development Consent Order. “We currently expect work to start on site by March 2020.” Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard welcomed the news and said: “I am pleased to see Highways England pressing on with these proposals.

“Road network improvements are vital to bringing jobs and investment into my constituency. Alongside more modest improvements to Amounderness Way this project will help speed up journeys and make it easier for firms based here to do business. “I know many people have raised concerns about our transport infrastructure. This demonstrates the Government’s continued commitment to delivering for the Fylde coast. “I hope this scheme can by a catalyst for growth and will end the misery that many have endured on our roads.” The news was also welcomed by Fylde MP Mark Menzies. He said: “This investment will help significantly reduce the level of congestion on the A585, something which residents have been crying out for.

“It will also make this incredibly busy road network safer for all users. “This scheme represents a huge investment for the area and addresses decades of neglect in the road infrastructure on the Fylde coast. It comes on the back of a £5m funding package for the M55 to St Annes link road just last week. “These roads will help reduce congestion and support the further economic growth of both Fylde and Wyre. “Some 93 per cent of those who answered the consultation agreed that action had to be taken to get traffic moving along this road. And nearly eight in 10 preferred the bypass option. “This announcement from the Highways Agency will now give residents some certainty over the proposed route. “We must ensure we take into account this route will affect some people and ensure they are consulted throughout the remaining steps of the process.”

Severn Trent aims to provide 20MW of flexible capacity to National Grid by 2020

Severn Trent, which provides water to 4.5 million households and businesses across the Midlands and Wales, is aiming to provide over 20MW of flexible capacity to National Grid from across its network by 2020.

The company has partnered with Open Energi to unlock demand flexibility from its equipment and help build a smarter energy system in the UK.

Open Energi’s innovative Dynamic Demand technology means equipment like pumps, motors and blowers can automatically adjust their electricity use second-by-second without affecting processes.

By tapping fast-acting flexibility in existing assets, businesses like Severn Trent are providing an efficient, low carbon means of balancing electricity supply and demand, paving the way for greater use of renewable energy across the UK.

Open Energi’s technology is already operating at two of Severn Trent’s sewage treatment works in Redditch and Leicester. Together the two sites are providing National Grid with around 1.2MW of real-time flexibility.

A further six sites have been identified as part of the first phase rollout, which is expected to be complete by Q1 2018. Longer term, Severn Trent plans to expand its use of Dynamic Demand to smaller sites and estate buildings.

Rob Wild, Demand Side Response Manager at Severn Trent said the move supported the business’ commitment to operational excellence and innovation as it responded to the challenges of the 21st Century:

“Ultimately we want to minimise the amount of energy we use whilst providing our customers with the best level of service at the least cost. Open Energi’s tech delivers an income, but it also gives us far greater visibility of how our assets are performing, second-by-second.

“This insight can help us to optimise our sites for the future – pre-empting maintenance issues, improving resiliency, and thinking more smartly about how we integrate other technologies, such as renewable energy and battery storage.”

Open Energi was awarded the contract with Severn Trent following an open tender. An important factor was Open Energi’s understanding of the operational challenges associated with delivering a dynamic frequency response service from “always on” assets, within a highly regulated, customer facing industry.

Paul O’Brien, Director of Operations at Open Energi explained:

“We apply extensive diligence to the integration of our technology with our customers’ assets, working closely with their operations and process scientist teams to ensure that the control protocols are always respected and that our integration has zero impact on the process operating parameters.”

Open Energi is preparing to roll-out its next generation tech platform, Dynamic Demand 2.0, next month, which will optimise distributed energy assets, including industrial equipment, battery storage, EVs and on-site generation, to help businesses “stack” demand flexibility value streams from multiple markets and services.

David Hill, Commercial Director at Open Energi commented:

“Renewable energy achieved a massive milestone last month, as new offshore wind projects undercut the cost of nuclear. This is great news for UK decarbonisation efforts but highlights the urgent need for greater flexibility in our energy system. Our partnership with Severn Trent can help to deliver this, and we see huge opportunities to drive further long-term savings for the business as we continue to develop our Dynamic Demand platform.”

Bids called for £500m highways framework

The Midlands Highway Alliance has opened the bidding for places on a £500m framework contract.

The Midlands Highway Alliance is a consortium of 21 local highway authorities ranging from Barnsley to Buckinghamshire, with Leicestershire County Council taking the lead. It has published the contract notice for its Medium Schemes Framework 3 (MSF3), which – based on the two previous terms – has an anticipated value of between £160m and £500m over the four-year term.

Four contractors capable of taking on a range of highway and municipal engineering contracts with a value of up to £25m are to be appointed to the framework.

Last time around, MSF2 was divided into two lots: schemes up to £5m and schemes valued at between £5m and £25m.

Contractors picked for MSF2 for schemes up to £5m were Aggregate Industries, Balfour Beatty, Eurovia, Galliford Try, and LaFarge Tarmac/Carillion. For the larger schemes, Balfour Beatty, Galliford Try/Aggregate Industries and Lafarge Tarmac/Carillion were selected.

Tenders or requests to participate are to be submitted via: