Changing the paradigm for optimising infrastructureIn a bold new approach for Japan, Veolia and its partners have been selected by the city of Hamamatsu to manage its wastewater and sewage. A conversation with Yannick Ratte (Executive Vice President, Municipal Water Veolia Japan) and Kazuhiro Uchino (Vice President), who worked together to prepare the bid for this long-term contract and win the trust of the local government for a partnered initiative that breaks new ground in the country.
What makes this project innovative?
It’s the first of its kind in Japan. This contract is unique in its duration – 20 years – the first-ever long-term concession here to a foreign private operator for both operations and renewal.
It’s a break from the way things have traditionally been done in this country, so it has the potential to be a game changer. We are convinced that long-term, comprehensive concession contracts are the best solution – the more scope we are given, the more creative we can be in the services we offer.
What was your role in making it happen?
I was involved from the beginning in the tendering process. A very diverse team collaborated on the bid – technical, business development, legal, finance – from Japan, Hong Kong and Paris. So it was a multicultural, multilingual, multidisciplinary, international effort.
I joined Veolia just after the tender had been selected as Preferred Leader. Yannick-san and the team did the groundwork, then I took over as project manager, leading the negotiations on the remaining issues to finalise the contract.
What is it like working together?
Kazuhiro came on board after the tender had been submitted. I was impressed by his ability to quickly gain a very detailed understanding of the offer as well as the strategies of the stakeholders. He is also a good tactician in tricky negotiations, as well as patient!
This type of contract has no precedent in Japan, so without Yannick-san’s experience, I don’t think it would have been possible to put together a winning proposal. I have valued his guidance, and also the freedom he’s given me to use my own judgement.
What has most motivated you?
This was a new kind of contract, so we really had to learn as a team, making sure everyone had the skills to play their role.
Seeing the team develop has been very motivating.
It’s pretty simple. Japan has a declining population and tax base, and a change in how we deal with infrastructure is a necessity.
I think this approach is really what the country needs to make things better than yesterday.
What was the highlight of the project?
The oral presentation to the client was a memorable experience – we had worked so much on it and rehearsed it so many times. On the day, when I could really tell that the client was convinced, it was a very good moment.
I think it’s still to come!
What positive impact will it have?
We spent time to include things important to the community, from energy efficiency to governance and transparency, offering tools that allow the city to access information in real time. We also discussed future options such as sludge-to-energy schemes, showing that we want to improve the service throughout its life. We even met with local eel farmers to discuss ways to reuse the heat from the wastewater treatment plant for their eel farms.
It could be a catalyst for opening up new opportunities in Japan. This is the first time the market will be clearly aware of our presence as Veolia, and observe how we can bring value. Everyone is really paying attention to see how it works, as other cities are dealing with the same issues.
How do you see the future?
In Japan, actions speak louder than words, so delivering is critical. This is the first concrete example of a project of this type that will be tangible for people, and that’s very important.
I hope the success of the service will allow us to leverage this type of contract throughout the industry in Japan.