Oct 14, 2020

SSE strikes £995m deal with First Sentier Investors

SSE
Utilities
greeneconomy
Dominic Ellis
2 min
Agreement sees 50% stake sold in energy-from-waste ventures MEL1 and MEL2 to European Diversified Infrastructure Fund III
Agreement sees 50% stake sold in energy-from-waste ventures MEL1 and MEL2 to European Diversified Infrastructure Fund III...

SSE plc is on track to dispose of £2bn in assets by next autumn and embark on a low-carbon future after entering into an agreement to sell its 50 percent share in energy-from-waste ventures Multifuel Energy Limited (MEL1) and Multifuel Energy 2 Limited (MEL2) to European Diversified Infrastructure Fund III, an infrastructure fund managed by First Sentier Investors. The £995m deal is expected to complete by late 2020 subject to antitrust approval by the European Commission.

MEL1 and MEL2 are 50-50 joint ventures between SSE and Wheelabrator Technologies Inc., consisting of the operational Ferrybridge Multifuel 1 and Ferrybridge Multifuel 2 facilities (MEL1), as well as the Skelton Grange Multifuel development project (MEL2), all in West Yorkshire.

Ferrybridge Multifuel 1 (which entered commercial operation in 2015) and Ferrybridge Multifuel 2 (which entered commercial operation in 2019) each have an installed capacity of 75MW and are capable of processing around 725,000 tonnes and 675,000 tonnes of waste every year respectively. The proposed Skelton Grange Multifuel facility (SSE share: 50%), which is due to reach financial close around April 2021 and commence commercial operations in 2025, will have an installed capacity of 45MW and will be capable of processing around 400,000 tonnes of waste annually.

In June 2020, SSE identified its interests in MEL1 and MEL2 as an early priority for sale as part of a strategy to secure at least £2bn from disposals of non-core assets by autumn 2021. Today’s announcement follows the sale of SSE’s 25.1% non-operating stake in Walney Offshore Wind Farm to Greencoat UK Wind for £350m and the agreement to sell its 33% equity interest in meter asset provider MapleCo to Equitix, under which SSE will receive net proceeds of around £90m on closing.

The proceeds of these disposals will support the company’s plans to invest £7.5bn in low-carbon energy infrastructure over the next five years, helping the UK to reach net-zero carbon emissions, as well as reduce SSE’s net debt.

Finance Director Gregor Alexander said: “This sale marks a major step in our plans to secure at least £2bn from disposals by autumn 2021, with just over £1.4bn now delivered. While these multifuel assets have been successful ventures for SSE, they are non-core investments and we are pleased to have agreed a sale that delivers significant value for shareholders while sharpening our strategic focus on our core low-carbon businesses.  

“Our disposal programme demonstrates how the company can create value from our assets and supports our plans to invest £7.5bn over the next five years in the low-carbon infrastructure needed to stimulate a green economic recovery and help the UK transition to a net-zero future.”

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Jul 13, 2021

Technology revolution for water retailers

Utilities
technology
IoT
digitaltransformation
Paul Williams
4 min
Paul Williams, Chief Technology Officer at Everflow Tech, reflects on privatisation, industry complexities and future for utilities in a digital world

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

Our CEO, Josh Gill, set up independent retailer Everflow Water in 2015, and Everflow Tech is his response to the difficulties it faced.

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.

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