Utility Week Innovate’s latest round-up features water sector updates from M2M, South East and Northumbrian, as well as news of a domestic flexibility trial involving 1.4 million customers from National Grid and Octopus.

National Grid and Octopus open flexibility trial to 1.4m customers

National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) and Octopus Energy have launched a new domestic flexibility trial to assess the role that households can play in reducing demand during winter peaks.

According to Utility Week, the trial, which will run from 11 February to 31 March, will be open to all 1.4 million of Octopus Energy’s smart meter customers.

Customers will be asked to reduce their consumption during a series of pre-defined two-hour windows, which are expected to cover the hours 12pm to 2am, 9am to 11am and 4.30pm to 6.30pm.

Participants will be set targets for each window based on their usual level of consumption. Each time they meet a target, they will receive all of the electricity they consume during that window for free.

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M2M unveils ‘world first’ water monitoring device

Dundee-based firm M2M Cloud is aiming to develop what it claims is a world-first water monitoring device in tandem with CENSIS – Scotland’s innovation centre for sensing, imaging, and internet of things (IoT) technologies – after receiving an award grant from Scottish Enterprise.

The £140,000 project will help the firm enhance its existing Neptune water monitoring device – which is used to identify potential harmful bacteria outbreaks – by incorporating machine learning and allowing it to operate on narrowband IoT and LoRaWAN networks.

It’s claimed that, once delivered, the device will be the first of its kind capable of operating on both networks.

Machine learning techniques will also be used to calculate risk scores for sites and predict potential issues before they occur.

South East unveils £25m treatment plant expansion

South East Water has invested £25 million in growing the capacity of its Berkshire treatment site by 50% to meet the demand of the growing population.

As reported by Utility Week, the expansion of the plant in Bray, which opened this week, can now pump up to 68 million litres of water daily. It will serve households in Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire.

Work began on the extension in 2018 with a series of large tanks installed, including a rapid gravity filter unit that uses sand to remove pesticides from raw water and a sludge treatment system. It also features a 500,000 litre granular activated carbon tank to remove unwanted odours from the water.

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WMCA-led consortium awarded £7.5m to retrofit social housing

A consortium led by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has been awarded £7.5 million to make hundreds of social housing properties more energy efficient.

This funding follows on from £2.86 million awarded last year under the Sustainable Warmth Competition for housing retrofit and is part of the WMCA’s SMART (Sustainable Market for Affordable Retrofit Technologies) Hub initiative – created as part of the authority’s investment to deliver its net zero targets.

The total cost of the retrofitting project is £14.7 million, with the balance funded from housing association and local authority budgets.

Led by the Energy Capital team at the WMCA, seven partners – Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, Solihull Community Housing, City of Wolverhampton Council, Community Housing Group, Midland Heart, Orbit Housing Group and Wrekin Housing Trust – made a successful bid for a share of the government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to retrofit social housing, with the aim of adapting 622 of the worst energy-performing properties across the region.

As well as helping the region to achieve net zero by 2041, the funds will provide warmer homes for tenants, tackle fuel poverty and reduce the threat from energy price hikes. It will also boost business confidence among retrofit companies and increase the number of green jobs.

Northumbrian rolls out phosphorus removal upgrades

As reported by Utility Week, Northumbrian Water has set out plans to upgrade its sewage treatment works at Crookhall near Consett in County Durham as part of a wider programme to remove phosphorus from wastewater.

The £1.7 million investment will enable water to be treated to a higher standard before it is released into the adjacent Smallhope Burn waterway.

Crookhall is one of 27 treatment works in Northumbrian’s region that will receive the upgrade under the Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP), of which phosphorus removal is a key part.

A chemical dosing plant will be installed at the site to ensure it meets the phosphorus discharge consent of 0.9mg/l that will apply from April 2025.

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Severn Trent starts work on river bathing areas in Shropshire

As reported by Utility Week, Severn Trent has begun work to improve water quality along 49km of the rivers Leam and Teme as part of its green recovery investment programme.

The company will create two bathing stretches on the rivers for a trial project in Ludlow, Shropshire, to make the waters safe for swimmers.

The £78 million investment will see Severn Trent make upgrades to its networks and treatment plants in the catchment to benefit the water environment.

Preliminary investigations to assess ground conditions will begin next week ahead of the work starting in September.

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‘Landmark results’ in practical nuclear fusion

Scientists and engineers at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Joint European Torus (JET) facility in Oxford claim to have made a major breakthrough in their work towards practical nuclear fusion.

In a recent record-breaking experiment, JET produced a total of 59 megajoules of heat energy from fusion over a five second spell – averaging around 11 megawatts (megajoules per second). The previous energy record from a fusion experiment, achieved by JET in 1997, was 22 megajoules of heat energy.

It’s claimed that the results announced on 9 February are a clear demonstration of the potential for fusion energy to deliver safe and sustainable low-carbon energy, affirm its powerplant potential and strengthen the case for ITER – a fusion research mega-project supported by China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the USA.

“These landmark results have taken us a huge step closer to conquering one of the biggest scientific and engineering challenges of them all,” Ian Chapman, UK Atomic Energy Authority CEO, said of the results.

“It’s clear we must make significant changes to address the effects of climate change, and fusion offers so much potential. We’re building the knowledge and developing the new technology required to deliver a low carbon, sustainable source of baseload energy that helps protect the planet for future generations. Our world needs fusion energy.”

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