England set to learn from Scotland’s competitive water market

Businesses in Scotland are spending £65m less on water consumption since the introduction of market competition five years ago, and England looks likely to follow suit.

According to non-domestic water and waste water services provider, Business Stream, the deregulation of the non-domestic water market in Scotland has also led to more than 28,000 tonnes of carbon savings.

Scotland was the world’s first country to introduce competition to the non-domestic water market in April 2008, clearing the way for Scottish businesses and public sector bodies to choose their water and waste water service providers.

Business Stream chief executive Mark Powles said: “Competition was set up to benefit customers and it’s our view that this has been successful in what is still an immature market. Customers across the market are benefiting from keener pricing, better service and greater innovation.

“Competition is effective motivation for water retailers to work with customers to achieve efficiencies, through driving down costs and water use. The first five years of the market has been a learning experience for everyone, and we’re looking forward to working with customers to continually refine and improve the service we provide.”

Business Stream also claims that deregulation reduced water consumption in Scotland by 16 billion litres and it anticipates that introducing competition in England could create much larger benefits.

Powles added: “Scotland has shown England the benefits and choice that the competitive market model opens up to businesses, and there is a genuine demand for this to be introduced in England. With more than £35m in consumption savings already realised in Scotland, the possibilities in a market as large as England’s are huge.”

In England, currently only the largest water users are free to switch suppliers, but full competition is expected to be introduced as early as 2017.

Following a Draft Water Bill in July 2012, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has organised a high-level steering group to evaluate how the market should be structured and governed.

The full Water Bill is now expected to be announced in the Queen’s Speech on May 8, which could set the wheels in motion for full market opening in England.

Conor McGlone

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