Utilities unite to extend support for customers in vulnerable circumstances

It’s well known that water and electricity don’t usually mix – but three utilities companies across water and electricity have joined up in a unique partnership to help the communities they serve.

The cross-utility partnership with Thames Water, Essex and Suffolk Water, and UK Power Networks sees the latter become the first electricity Distribution Network Operator to integrate its Priority Services Register (PSR) with records held by water utilities that operate in the same regions (London, the East and South East).

The register enables UK Power Networks to identify then provide extra support, to customers in vulnerable circumstances if they ever have a power cut. PSR registrations and updates will automatically be shared between the organisations, enabling extra support for customers who may be more vulnerable if their electricity or water supply are affected.

Over 1.97 million people are already signed up to UK Power Networks’ PSR and the partnership can unlock additional help for up to a third of the company’s 7.8 million households who are eligible but haven’t yet applied to be on the register.

The partnership is demonstrating for the first time that it’s possible to safely share information automatically between energy and water companies in the interests of their common customers. It moves the industry a step closer to the potential of a nationwide register, where customers would only have to register once to receive support from their gas, electricity and water suppliers.

UK Power Networks and the water companies operating in their regions share the same vision of ensuring that everyone who needs support – from the elderly and those with young children to those reliant on medical equipment – can register in the easiest way possible. Those on the PSR have access to tailored communication such as a 24-hour priority support line. The electricity network operator also offers tailored support such as home visits, hot meals and even free hotel stays if it’s an unusually long incident whilst the water utilities deliver bottled water to customers.

This collaboration builds upon last year’s community foundations project, which saw eight utility networks team up to give a £500,000 boost to communities during the pandemic. Working together, they ensured the funding reached the frontline as fast as possible, helping initiatives such as local foodbanks, volunteer centres, and food delivery services as part of the ongoing work to help people living in vulnerable circumstances.

Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks, says: “In the interests of our customers, we are working towards the aim of a single, shared Priority Services Register and breaking down complex barriers which have traditionally made it difficult to consolidate information from different sources. This partnership will demonstrate the value in collaborating with water companies and prove that we can join together to overcome the challenges and do the right thing for our shared customers.”

Pete Cotton, Thames Water priority services manager, comments: “This partnership is a step in the right direction for our customers and towards creating a shared Priority Services Register. Breaking down barriers to data sharing means we’re able to help more people should they experience an issue with their water supply or require billing information to be communicated in a format tailored to their needs. This collaboration is a great example of essential services working together to make it easier for people to receive help when they need it most and we are want more organisations to join this sharing network to ensure we reach every customer who needs support.”

Lisa Connell, customer services manager for Inclusivity at Essex & Suffolk Water, says: “We are excited to be working in collaboration to introduce the shared Priority Services Register to make it simple to register for both utilities in one easy transaction, reducing customer effort.

“Sharing this information, safely and securely, helps us to understand our customers’ needs and deliver the right support, when they need it most.”

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