One way we’re managing the unavoidable impacts of climate change on our business is to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
We have set ourselves a challenging goal to become zero net carbon by 2030 for our operational activities. We’re currently around 60 per cent of the way towards this goal. Whilst we haven’t yet identified how to get to net zero, we’re investigating how we will achieve this over the next few years. There are emissions associated with the delivery of water and wastewater services and the use of electricity from the national grid. We’re acting to reduce our operational emissions by enhancing our understanding of them, becoming more energy efficient, and generating our own renewable electricity. When we’re not able to generate our own renewable electricity, we source renewable grid electricity. Therefore, combined with our renewable self-generation, this means 100 per cent of the net electricity we consume is from renewable sources.
In 2018/19, we generated 22 per cent of our own electricity needs from renewable sources including sludge, wind and solar power.
We have two wind turbines at sites in east London and Solar Panels at 43 sites, including Europe’s largest floating solar panel array which was installed in 2016 at our Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir. The low carbon and renewable energy produced by the solar array is used to help power nearby Hampton water treatment works.
Most of the renewable electricity we self-generate comes from the treatment of sludge. This reduces our greenhouse gas emissions and is the equivalent of over £32 million a year in energy savings. Sewage sludge is an energy rich resource, with a high calorific content which we extract as biogas and use to generate renewable electricity. We’ve been producing renewable energy at our larger sewage works since the 1930s, mainly with Anaerobic Digestion (AD). By investing in our infrastructure and using a combination of methods and new technologies such as Thermal Hydrolysis Process (THP) and Pyrolysis, we’re able to increase the amount of renewable energy produced from sludge. As well as helping to reduce our carbon emissions, it also improves resilience by reducing our reliance on grid electricity and makes even better use of a valuable resource.
We are continuing to find ways to use less energy by being more efficient, making more of our own renewable energy, and continuing to invest in low carbon operational processes and assets to achieve our challenging goal to become zero net carbon by 2030 and help mitigate the impacts of climate change.