About Price Control
Price Control (PC) is the regulatory process which determines the levels of customer bills, capital investment and company performance during the control period. The Utility Regulator makes a Determination based on a Business Plan submitted by NI Water and the funding allocations indicated by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI). A price control covers a fixed period agreed by NI Water and our stakeholders.
The PC21 price control period will cover the 6-year period from April 2021 to March 2027.
As a pre-cursor to our PC21 Business Plan, we prepared ‘Our Strategy 2021 - 2046’ which sets out our long term strategy for providing water and wastewater services to our customers in Northern Ireland. The strategy supports our purpose – to provide the water for life we all rely on to thrive and our vision - to grow value and trust by being world class. Our Strategy is designed to support Northern Ireland being a more healthy, sustainable and prosperous place in which to live.
NI Water submitted its latest Business Plan and associated funding proposal to the Utility Regulator in January 2020. Known as PC21 (Price Control 2021-2027), the six year Plan outlines how the company can tackle the potential crisis looming for wastewater services and infrastructure in Northern Ireland.
Our Business Plan covers both our clean water and our wastewater services. However, it is no secret that our wastewater infrastructure has already resulted in over 100 areas where wastewater treatment works are at, or rapidly approaching, full capacity and where NI Water is unlikely to be able to accept additional sewer connections
The Business Plan provides us with a clear blueprint which, if properly funded, affords Northern Ireland with the opportunity to halt and reverse some of the impact of underinvestment. The Plan highlights in detail how £2.2bn of capital funding can be allocated over a period of six years. It also identifies ways to prioritise the investment needed in the Living With Water Programme for the Greater Belfast area and spread it across two Price Control Periods i.e. PC21 and PC27. This will support the work underway in the Belfast City Deal, the benefits of which reach far beyond Belfast itself.
Funding at the level identified in the PC21 business plan will not solve all of the issues, but it will allow us to address 30-40% of our wastewater capacity problems whilst protecting drinking water and enhancing environmental protection. If the step change in funding is not available and funding is maintained at current levels, we will not be able to release economic development at 49 towns across the province by the end of PC21.
NI Water appreciates the considerable budgetary pressures the NI Executive is facing and this has been further compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic. We are encouraged by the profile given to water and wastewater infrastructure in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement. Our PC21 Business Plan sets out how investment in wastewater infrastructure will protect and enhance the natural environment as well as boosting the local economy. NI Water is ready to play its part in the country’s green economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and deliver a new and more resilient future.
The reality is, never before has Northern Ireland faced a situation where a lack of fundamental infrastructure will restrict the opportunities for economic growth and tourism as well as putting our natural environment and the health of our population at risk. The time to act is now.
NI Water’s PC21 submission will be considered by the Utility Regulator, who will publish a draft determination in September 2020. NI Water will have a period of eleven weeks to prepare a response. Following that, the Utility Regulator will issue a final determination on the Business Plan in March 2021.
We are in the last year of the PC15 price control period which covers the 6-year period from April 2015 to March 2021.
Despite a shortfall in public expenditure funding available for capital investment (Capital DEL) compared to the PC15 Business Plan and the PC15 Final Determination, we are aiming to deliver as much as we can as efficiently as possible for the benefit of our customers.