Keith is a water industry expert, and spent 21 years at Wessex Water. He was also a member of the Water UK Council and Steering Committee and chaired Water UK’s influential work on the investor survey. He is Vice Chairman of Norton Radstock Regeneration and a past member of the governing council of the Royal Agricultural College.
He is currently working as an independent adviser, providing advice to the Water Industry Commission for Scotland, the board of Water UK, Ofwat, a number of water companies and private investors, and others.
Keith Harris joined Wessex Water in 1989 as an economist to help with the privatisation process, and left after 21 years as deputy CEO, Director of Finance and Regulation.
He led four successful price controls and, arguably, was instrumental in making Wessex Water one of the most highly regarded and innovative companies in the sector, consistently delivering some of the highest levels of customer and environmental performance. In his 12 years as CFO, Wessex Water was at the forefront of efficiency and profitability, and successfully and cheaply funded itself during both the good and bad times in the financial markets. Today, the business has an enterprise value of £2.2bn.
During Wessex Water’s ownership by ENRON, Keith was the global Head of Regulation for its water subsidiary, Azurix, working in M&A and on regulatory policy in a number of countries in Europe and the Americas. More important was the role he played in maintaining Wessex Water’s integrity during the collapse of ENRON.
After unsuccessfully seeking to buy Wessex Water from the ENRON creditor committee, Keith continued to work with Wessex Water’s new parent, YTL, not only as a member of the board, but also in M&A activity in the electricity and gas sectors. During 2004 Keith was invited to become a member of the Ofgem panel looking to separate the regional gas distribution networks from NGT. More recently, he was responsible for successfully growing the Group’s unregulated business, with particular emphasis on renewable energy. Growth only followed a period of radical restructuring in which a number of businesses were turned around or disposed. In the last year Keith led a team that separated out the running of the Group’s largest waste water treatment works into an unregulated business, delivering a saving of 15%. The unregulated business is now working in the newly liberalised retail market in Scotland.
Keith believes strongly in corporate social responsibility and putting the customer first. He was responsible for developing and implementing Wessex Water’s award winning ‘Assist’ tariff, which reduced bills to the most vulnerable within society while generating additional cash for the business. Keith also implemented Wessex’s innovative approach to catchment management, developed new tariffs using smart technology, and proposed and gained approval for the Wessex Water grid, which will improve security of supply and allow the company to participate in upstream trading.
Over the years, Keith has consistently challenged the status quo and advocated change where it would deliver more sustainable outcomes for customers and better returns for investors. He has given evidence to parliament, politicians, civil servants and regulators.