The utilities industry is not one without its complexities - especially in the UK. Power and gas suppliers like nPower, British Gas and e.on have more than just their customers to consider.
Above them sit transmission network operators that differ by region. In gas, so do gas distribution networks, while electricity suppliers must consider distribution network owners and operators.
Things differ slightly in water, where suppliers are responsible for everything from the extraction of water to its distribution. That said, this process is as (if not even more) complicated than delivering energy, thanks to added complications such as having to meet DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) policy or meeting Drinking Water Inspectorate standards. Whatever the utility supplied, it's clear that nobody gets too smooth a ride.
As if that wasn't enough, there are also a couple of organisations who exist to ensure our utility suppliers don't get things their own way. Far from being evil overlords though, Ofgem and Ofwat encourage fairness, responsibility and ultimately improvement from our utilities sector.
Ofwat protects consumer interest wherever appropriate by promoting competition, efficiency and sustainability. Ofgem meanwhile uses price controls to limit charges to suppliers, set targets for reliability, customer service and environmental performance, as well as encouraging innovation that benefits customers via reduced cost and improved ability to meet demand.