Anglian boss says carbon offsetting should be local

Water companies should explore offsetting their carbon emissions locally to benefit their region instead of overseas where it may be harder to verify its benefit, the chief executive of Anglian Water has said.

Speaking at Utility Week Live Summit, sponsored by Capita, Peter Simpson said Anglian was having conversations with customers and stakeholders about offsetting within its region such as working with farmers to sequester carbon in soil

He said going down this route rather than offsetting carbon emission internationally will have many benefits within Anglian’s region.

“We are not going for the easy option first,” Simpson said. “We are doing the things we should be doing and getting more bang for the bucks on customers’ bills.

Simpson addressed the issue shared by all industries of how credible net zero commitments can be when they are heavily reliant on offsetting.

The sector’s routemap to deliver net zero carbon emissions by 2030, which includes offsetting 40 per cent of operational emissions, will see the water industry in the UK cut around 10 million tonnes of carbon emissions in the coming decade.

Simpson said offsetting was “at the bottom of the hierarchy” when it came to ways to address an organisation’s carbon output and admitted it could be seen as “a bit of a cop out”.

He said generating and using renewable energy, reducing water consumption to reduce the amount of power required to pump and treat water and exploring biogas to grid were all preferred methods for Anglian to meet its targets.

However, some essential processes will still require offsetting until technological or innovative advances can bring improvements in process emissions. Simpson acknowledged the “big gap in net zero goals without some degree of offsetting” but suggested this could at least be done with a verifiable local approach.

Anglian has strong consumer support for its environmental objectives, with customer groups giving positive feedback on the organisation’s plans for PR19.

“Customers are really important and we can’t achieve what we need to do as a company or industry without customers,” said Simpson.

More topics from Utility Week Live Summit, as well as deep dives into innovation and technology, will feature in our new Utility Week Innovate hub, to be launched later this month