Water sector commits to net-zero carbon plan by 2030

UK water companies have unveiled a plan to deliver a net-zero carbon water supply for customers by 2030.

 Water UK, which represents all the major water firms, has published its Net Zero 2030 Routemap, which sets out they will tackle climate change by reaching net-zero two decades ahead of the UK government’s legally binding target of 2050.

The plan should help the sector reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 10 million tonnes and includes recommendations designed to protect customer bills and keep investment costs down.

The Routemap identifies a variety of technologies and initiatives that will be needed including:

The production of biomethane from sewage waste, allowing green gas to be injected into the grid to heat up to 150,000 homes and/or for use as an alternative fuel for transport.

The development of up to 3GW of new solar- and wind-generation capacity – enough power to meet 80 per cent of the sector’s electricity demands.

The restoration of 20,000 hectares of owned peatland and grassland, and planting of 11 million trees.

The electrification of 100 per cent of passenger vehicles and transition of 80 per cent of commercial vehicles (LGVs and HGVs) to alternative fuels.

Water UK said the sector has already nearly halved operational emissions since 2011 through a combination of energy-efficiency measures, renewable-energy generation, and the production of biomethane from sewage treatment processes.

Christine McGourty, Water UK chief executive, said: “This Routemap is a crucial step forward in setting out the industry’s vision for tackling climate change as we work towards a green and resilient recovery for society, the economy and the environment.

“We don’t have all the answers, and we can’t do it alone. But with the support of government, regulators and the supply chain, we believe we can deliver a net-zero water supply for customers that also helps build the green skills and solutions needed to protect the environment for generations to come.”

Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, said: “The ambitious plans set out by water companies are in the vanguard of climate action. The pursuit of low-carbon outcomes, combined with the recovery of the natural environment, set a powerful example of the kind of integrated solutions we need to adopt in rising to the twin challenges of global heating and nature decline”.

In July, scientists began developing a standardised system to detect coronavirus in wastewater as a way to monitor future outbreaks in the UK.