Last week I interviewed former Chief Executive of Ofwat, Regina Finn. This was my last filming for our upcoming Part 2 ‘massive open online course’ (MOOC) on the Coursera platform, launching later this year. (Part 2 currently has the not-altogether-snappy full holding title of Water Supply and Sanitation Policies in Developing Countries: Developing Effective Interventions.)

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Photo: Interviewing Regina Finn in London, May 2015. Source: Picture by the University of Manchester media team (and kudos for how quickly they turned a university meeting room into a fully-fledged film studio too!).

I asked Regina 20+ questions about her time from 2006 to 2013, leading the England and Wales economic regulator for the privatized water sector, including:

  • What got her interested in regulating utilities in the first place;
  • What her main challenges were when she became the first Chief Executive of Ofwat, the surprises, her most difficult decision, and what she enjoyed the most;
  • The background to the reforms she led at Ofwat to implement a new regulatory framework with more emphasis on water customers, and to strip out unnecessary bureaucracy in the regulatory process;
  • Ofwat’s possible role in helping water customers to understand betterthe regulatory process, including more technical details like RPI-X price cap economic regulation, and how it differs from rate-of-return regulation;
  • Ofwat’s CAPEX and OPEX modelling procedures and how they changed over time;
  • Water company challenges to price determinations over the years;
  • What it was like being a woman leader in a male-dominated water sector;
  • What other countries and sectors might learn from her and Ofwat’s experiences in regulatory capacity building; and
  • Regina’s tips for people who’d like to pursue a future career in water regulation.

You’ll have to wait and take the actual MOOC to find out the answers… but suffice to say I was very impressed with Regina’s frank, informative and thought-provoking responses.

Interviewing Regina followed on from my final studio filming which, aptly enough, was also about the UK water sector’s regulation experience.

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Photo: My last in-studio shooting for the water MOOC, on the UK’s water regulation experience. Source: Picture by the University of Manchester media team.

This involved talking about three things:

  • Professor Stephen Littlechild’s original ideas around RPI-X price cap economic regulation and why they were perhaps impossible to implement in a ‘pure’ form in the England and Wales privatized water sector;
  • The reality of economic regulation following the England and Wales water privatization in 1989, and how Ofwat and its approach changed over time; and
  • The interplay between regulation and possibilities for technical and other innovation in the water sector to address future challenges, like a changing climate.

These were some of the most challenging water-related materials I’ve ever written. My colleague for the MOOC, Prof. Dale Whittington, helped a great deal. We must have bounced draft auto cues for some of these videos back and forth more than a dozen times! We also made sure to include a worked example of RPI-X price cap regulation, as we were unable to find one we could refer people to, online (we may have missed one, but didn’t even find a worked example at PURC’s excellent Regulation Body of Knowledge on Infrastructure Regulation resource site).

There is now one last shoot, not with me in front of the camera thankfully (!), and the MOOC recording is all done. I’ll say more about this shoot once it has actually happened, fingers crossed, as it’s rather exciting!

After that there’s a whole load of copyright clearance, formatting of visual aids, quality control of the video materials, and building of the actual course pages still to do… The finishing line of more than two years of work, on-and-off, for our two water MOOC parts now is at least in sight though… and it’s been quite an experience overall, there’s no doubt!

Duncan Thomas

4 comments

    1. Apologies – production has taken longer than we originally hoped for various reasons. As soon as there’s a concrete launch date we’ll post it up. Thanks again

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