Mark Powles, the Chief Executive of Business Stream, made a particularly important contribution in the panel debate on the implementation of retail competition at yesterday's Water Reform 2012 event. He pointed out that the elephant did not need to be swallowed in one bite. In many ways this is simply a different way of expressing the "best is the enemy of the good" warning that our ex-Chairman Sir Ian Byatt used frequently to give to me.
The market will develop as suppliers and customers want it to develop. The key challenge is to get a workable framework in place that will allow customers to begin to benefit from tailored services that will really meet their needs. As we have explained at the recent workshops hosted by Water UK, much needs to be done in order to get to the point where customers in England can begin to access the sort of benefits that customers are now able to enjoy in Scotland.
It was striking at the conference that many of the messages that we have been seeking to communicate over the past few months have clearly been heard. Perhaps the biggest uncertainty still surrounds the difference between the price cap at wholesale that will, no doubt, be set at a price review and the conversion of that cap into wholesale tariffs that retailers will pay for services.
But back to the elephant.... The context was where meters should sit in the new market (ie with the retail or wholesale business). It has taken us at least two bites to find an answer with which the market feels more or less comfortable. At the risk of repeating myself, there should be no shame in letting the market develop and none of us have 20-20 vision when we look at how things might work in the future.Just as none of us - even me - has a mouth big enough to swallow the elephant in a single bite!!