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Tackling the challenges of AMP8 and beyond

Published: 10 August 2023

There is one constant in the water industry – change! And it is coming faster and bringing more intense pressure than ever before.

In this article, Mark Pye, Director for Strategic Advisory, Aqua Consultants, discusses the considerations for procuring, delivering, and making a step change as we head into the unprecedented waters of AMP8 and beyond.

New operating environment - what do stakeholders want and need?

The environment our industry is operating in is getting more complex. The old ways, even ones that are agreed and currently legal, are no longer accepted by the public and politicians and expectations are higher than ever. The list of what customers, regulators and companies want to achieve and what the environment needs is not that different, but the complexity arises because the definitions and scope of these things are changing.

Why won’t the current/recent approaches cut it?

Just buying more of the same won’t change the outcome because it’s not changing the approach. We need to think and act as a system. Asset by asset thinking has to stop. They are not islands and treating them as such will always cost more than we have and need. Can we do this differently by thinking of systems as whole entities not just individual components?

We do the same with programmes. We still treat them as component projects that add up to a programme, which is backwards, bottom up and needs to be driven top down and risk managed across, not down. Taking an aggregated approach to risk, across, not down, is proven to be more effective, save money, focus attention, and thus free up essential funds. But it requires a break away from the old norm to implement.

Embracing the change

Outside investment and operation of our assets puts service at risk. SRO’s are challenging us to work across boundaries and geographies, which we’ve never really done before, so our contract models aren’t set up for this.

Industry positives

United Utilities innovation labs invite the whole supply chain to tackle problems giving smaller and different companies and groups the opportunity to break into the relatively closed industry.

Northumbrian Water’s Innovation Festival shows the power of the collective. Coming together in sprint style events, widening thinking, and asking ‘how can we’ or ‘what if’ has again driven some amazing results.

How can we apply this success and ways of achieving together to what we do. Planning longer term and thinking across not just down?

Embracing the whole supply chain

The whole supply chain has a part to play. But what does that mean? There is a place for the incumbent contractors and designers. But we also need a wider cohort of SMEs not encumbered by PI. Give them a seat at the table, let their thinking, fleet of foot nature and innovative approaches shine and be heard.

The industry also needs funding. How can we develop a different approach to funding, making it attractive to investment and make sensible return?

Could we attract experience from other sectors like oil, gas, or manufacturing to operate our assets?

Operating renewable energy is a different beast we’re not yet geared up for and as we lift ourselves out in programme and systematic thinking do we need help about how to do that?

We’re in a new world, it needs new thinking but that doesn’t mean we always need to bring those skills and the capacity in-house.

What are the right models?

I think we can all agree that our thinking needs to move left. I’m hearing more about ECI (early contractor involvement) in AMP8 planning and I commend this but I think we can go further.

Thinking back to using the whole supply chain, moving left means using the right partners, be they SME’s, contractors, strategic planners, modellers, legal support and engineers, in our long term planning, getting their support in how we intervene in our asset base to deliver and enhance service for the long term and then working together to create the programmes that can deliver this need for our customers and the environment. And then, creating the projects or interventions, we need to make those programmes work.

There is a model out there that can enable all of this. One size will not fit all. Projects, programmes, and lots of what we do is timebound. Therefore, models can be created, built, and disbanded.

Choose change

Models aren’t sentient, they don’t make decisions or choose – we do – we the water industry. So, let’s choose change. Let’s choose to disrupt now before we are disrupted. Let’s choose putting our industry back at the forefront of all industries and let’s choose to do it right and do it carefully. And let’s choose to give our customers, our environment, and our regulators something to be proud of again.

Read more in our white paper, Tackling the challenges of AMP8 and beyond, here.

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