Supporting our communities

Posted on: 07/06/2021

At the end of May we submitted our Stakeholder Engagement Incentive Submission to Ofgem for 2020-21. It highlights how our Stakeholder Engagement strategy supports the outcomes and benefits we’ve delivered for our customers and communities – during an incredibly challenging year.

Never before has safety and wellbeing been so important. It’s been a top priority for our customers, stakeholders, and colleagues alike. So, in the last year we completely refocussed our engagement and work activity as customer expectations and attitudes changed and evolved.

I’m so proud of how our team responded in such exceptional circumstances. From the start of the pandemic, we focussed on keeping the gas flowing safely and responding to gas emergencies. With more of us at home for longer, communities across Wales and south west England relied on our services more than ever.  

Despite the stress and strain of the pandemic, we have still delivered for our communities:

  • Signing up almost 6,000 of the most vulnerable people in our communities to the Priority Service Register (PSR), making sure their utility providers can support them when they need it most
  • Leading the development of a new text and email tool so we can contact customers directly – we’ve already used this on the rare occasions local gas supplies are interrupted, and to communicate with people affected by flooding in Skewen, Neath Port Talbot 
  • Launching a carbon monoxide (CO) safety campaign targeted at 16-25 year olds who are leaving home for the first time, giving them the information they need to stay gas safe – this was seen by almost 650,000 people
  • Continuing our Healthy Homes, Healthy People programme, which brings wider benefits to customers in fuel poverty. We supported 718 households, helping them save almost £900,000 

And we’ve continued to deliver outstanding levels of service, with our customers rating us at 9.17 out of 10 across the 12 month period of April 2020 to March 2021. I’m particularly proud that we have retained the challenging British Standard 18477 for inclusive service provision. With at least 25% of our customers living in vulnerable situations, this tests and benchmarks our approach and services against a trusted standard – so our customers can have confidence that we are performing as well as we can.

During the pandemic we involved our stakeholders in how and when we deliver our work. In March 2020, we paused all but essential work to consider how we could approach gas pipe upgrade work and connection work safely. Customer research and feedback drove how we restarted work – and the precautions our team continues to take to protect everyone from the Coronavirus. This is something our customers have appreciated, and they’ve told us that our engineers wearing masks and social distancing while working at their homes  gave them confidence we were doing everything we could to keep everyone safe.

Feedback has also led to us changing our delivery plans and strategies for the future, responding to changing attitudes and priorities like the increased significance of protecting the environments where people live and work, given we now spend so much time in or near our homes.

April 2021 saw the start of RIIO GD2, the price control which sets out how we’ll deliver the services you rely on between 2021 and 2026. Our plan was informed by over 25,000 customers and other stakeholders, and focuses on delivering against their key priorities. It comes at a critical time for the energy sector: outlining how we are going deliver affordable, reliable and sustainable energy today and tomorrow, while delivering the same high quality of service for all our customers – particularly those living in vulnerable situations.

We have ambitious plans for the next five years, which will see us continuing todeliver the industry leading levels of safety and service that we are known for, while increasing our focus on supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities. We will invest over £1m a year in support measures, while working with trusted partners to make this support go further.

And we’ll continue to prepare for a green future – something our younger customers told us is particularly important to them. This will see us making sure our gas network is Net Zero ready by 2035 - able to transport green gases like hydrogen and biomethane, while taking account of the UN Sustainable Business Goals in how we run our business. 

The next few years are going to be challenging as the UK and the world recovers from Coronavirus. Across Wales and south west England, we are committed to playing our part in supporting the communities we serve.

If you want to have your say on our business, or just stay up to date on the work we’re doing to make sure we deliver what our customers want and need, please sign up here.

Author profile

Sarah Hopkins

Wales & West Utilities People & Engagement Director