Azerbaijan to expand natural gas to Europe
Top Azerbaijani, EU and U.S. officials and members of the Shah Deniz consortium gathered in Baku earlier this month to commemorate a major milestone in the development of a new energy corridor that will connect Caspian natural gas to Europe and provide much-needed energy diversity to the region.
Officials marked the signing of the Final Investment Decision (FID) agreements of the Shah Deniz phase II development project. Anticipated to cost $40 billion dollars, the project will enhance Azerbaijan's integration with its European partners and, once again, underscore Azerbaijan's leadership in promoting prosperity and development in the region.
Participants in the ceremony included President Aliyev, members of the Shah Deniz consortium, heads of governments and foreign ministers from Europe. A delegation from the U.S. Department of Energy also participated. Shah Deniz consortium members include BP, SOCAR, Statoil, Total SA, Lukoil, NICO and TPAO.
Check out more stories on natural gas:
"The agreement to be signed today will change the energy map of Europe," said Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev. "I believe that Shah Deniz will reach many more destinations in Europe than those we are signing for today."
The FID agreements are significant: Shah Deniz represents the first new major gas volumes into Europe in decades and significant investment for southern Europe. The consortium announced in June 2013 its selection of Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) as the pipeline route connecting Shah Deniz energy to Europe through Greece, Albania, and Italy.
"This is a truly historic day for Azerbaijan,” said Rovnag Abdullayev, president of SOCAR. “This is the first time that our country and this region has embarked upon such an ambitious gas project. This project paves the way for Azerbaijan's future and the region's future."
Azerbaijani energy into Europe will enable diverse and competitive markets to ensure energy security inEurope and the region. With this important investment decision, the Southern Corridor and its related market development, additional gas supplies and infrastructure construction come closer to realization. The consortium aims for the first gas deliveries from the project to reach Turkey in 2018 and Europe in 2019.
"Shah Deniz will open up a new chapter in Azerbaijan's energy leadership," said BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley. "As it did at the end of the 19th century, Azerbaijan is poised once again to provide energy security to Europe."
Technology revolution for water retailers
In April 2017, the UK’s water retail market in the world opened for business – the single biggest change to the water sector since privatisation. This development allowed businesses, charities and public sector organisations to shop around for the best deal.
However, like any industry, this change hasn’t been without its sticking points; here, Paul Williams, CTO at Everflow Tech (pictured far right), discusses how retailers can harness technology to their advantage
Quotations could take up to a week to produce, billing software had to be manually updated and brokers were unable to manage the complete customer journey in one place – all of which took time, cost money and allowed for human error.
The more complexity that was involved in billing or quoting, the more contact end customers needed to have with their retailers, pushing up the cost to serve for every SPID. This meant retailers – ourselves included – found themselves in a situation where profits were simply eaten up by service costs.
We also note that it can traditionally be hard for retailers to stay on top of balancing what they are charging their customers with what they are being charged by the market. To further exacerbate this, the longer a change goes unnoticed, the more trouble it can be to balance the issue.
It was these issues that Josh and his (at the time) small team wanted to ameliorate, creating their own technology in the absence of anything else.
This technology evolved into our award-winning retail sales, billing and customer management platform for the water retail market, and Everflow Tech was launched as a standalone venture in 2018, selling the software externally for other water retailers and their customers to benefit from.
What retailers want
As a relatively new entrant to the world of utilities competition, the water market could be seen to be lagging behind, particularly when it comes to innovation.
In fact, as recently as 2019, Ofwat said it expected the industry to be making technological advances and to be working with a culture of innovation, collaborating with companies both within and outside of the sector.
And with cost-savings for consumers traditionally lower than for other utilities, retailers need to be offering something more – whether that’s better support, energy-efficiency advice or more accurate data.
What’s more, consumers have had a taste of the power of technology, and they’ve come to expect nothing less from retailers across the board.
Another key issue – thrown into sharp relief during the past 12 months (and counting) of a pandemic – is rising levels of arrears, which are likely to increase bad debt beyond margins that retailers originally allowed for when the market was created.
In such a low-margin industry, there is a limit to the amount of debt retailers can take on, especially as recovering costs can be a very slow process. Ofwat has signalled that this issue could be addressed as early as this year, with a mechanism for recovering bad debt to be established during 2021/22.
The market needs simple solutions to better serve the end user, and we were perfectly placed to develop those solutions. At Everflow, our software is designed for the water retail market, by the water retail market.
As well as simple billing, clear-to-understand workflows, and a revenue assurance system to allow retailers to quickly compare market charges, Everflow has also introduced a complete debt solution, allowing missed payment dates to drive late payment charges and escalations automatically.
Retailers are able to design and put out their own bill and quotes, tailoring customer journey and overall experience – whatever the circumstances.
What does the future hold?
Automation is key to any industry; we’re heading into an age of driverless cars and smart homes, and this drive for tech will filter through to our industry, and we need to catch up.
The Internet of Things – a network of physical objects connected to each other – means human error (and effort) can effectively be removed from many everyday tasks, which goes for meter readings too. However, in the 21st century, the water market is still not leveraging previously emerged technology in the form of smart meters to provide accurate billing.
Consumers are also becoming more empowered, both to ask for information and change their preferences if they don’t like what they learn. Retailers need to be armed with this information, not next week, not tomorrow, but now – and, at Everflow Tech, we’re putting that information at their fingertips.
But the retailers themselves need to speak up too, and we will always work with them to get the best ideas on what needs to be developed and when.
Our strong bond with Everflow Water, along with other key customers, means we have a direct interest in making sure our systems serve the water market in the best way they can.
For us, the goal is to make sure retailers on our platform can grow as much as possible, leaving behind laborious daily processes to focus on their own strategic growth and, most importantly, helping their customers.