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Scottish businesses save £100m on their water bills

Posted: 21st July 2014

More than £100 million has been cut from the water bills of business and public sector organisations by Business Stream in Scotland since retail competition was introduced in the country in April 2008.

A combination of water efficiency measures (£43m) and price discounts (£51.7m) have been the primary sources of savings.

Scotland’s public sector is on track to save more than £36m as a result of a four-year deal with Business Stream, which is the largest supplier of non-household water and waste water services in Scotland.

Competition was introduced to Scotland in April 2008, creating the first market of its kind in the world. Business Stream was established as the incumbent provider with several other competitors coming to the market in the last six years.

England’s non-household market is targeted to open to competition in 2017, after the Water Act passed into law in May of this year.

Mark Powles, chief executive of Business Stream, said: “Competition has been the driving force behind these savings. We responded to this challenge by listening to our customers and working with them to reduce their costs and improve their environmental impact.

“We’re proud of what we’ve been able to achieve in partnership with our customers, who have been very keen to see where they can benefit not just financially but make their organisations more efficient.
“Before the non-domestic water market in Scotland was opened, energy efficiency was a well-established concept but water was very much the forgotten utility. A lot of our customers are now very sophisticated in their approach to water management, and treat water as an important business asset. That’s a significant achievement and together with the savings and efficiencies achieved demonstrate the success of the competitive market in Scotland.”

The financial savings achieved also represent 20 billion litres of water which have been removed from use across Scottish organisations, equating to 34,000 tonnes of carbon.

In addition, customer satisfaction has increased due to the introduction of more than 60 innovative new services, a greater focus on customer service and keener pricing.

Nearly three-quarter of customers are now getting a better deal through a competitive market than if competition hadn’t been introduced.

Water efficiency measures range from those suitable for small customers with light water use, such as tap aerators and water saving devices in toilet cisterns; to larger-scale interventions like boreholes, water recycling facilities and underground network mapping to identify leaks.

Technology has also played a key role in the savings, with automated water readers able to spot spikes in water consumption and alerting customers to leaks.

In waste water, Business Stream has invested in a range of plant hire equipment to help customers with significant trade effluent or waste water requirements. These can be hired for short- or long-term projects, and Business Stream can also design, build and operate tailored waste water treatment works on customer sites.

Mark Powles added: “Competition has made water a much more mainstream business issue, which has had clear financial and operational benefits for many customers. The money customers save on water bills can be reinvested, making it a very sustainable way to reduce cost.
“The achievements in Scotland have been watched closely by policymakers in England, influencing the introduction of legislation which will provide the same opportunities for businesses and public sector organisations south of the border. That’s a very exciting development and we’re actively contributing to the development of the competitive market in England to help create an approach which follows the best of the Scottish model by placing the interests of customers at the heart of the market.”

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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