Thames Water has begun a partnership with Kingston Council to heat 2,000 homes using energy recovered from the sewage treatment process.
The low carbon model has potential to scale-up and heat homes throughout the UK using waste.
Excess heat will be captured from effluent in the sewage treatment process at Hogsmill before the water is returned to the river. It will then be concentrated and supplied to homes via an on-site energy centre.
Feasibility studies funded by the government and Greater London Authority will be published in March and an application for capital funding is pending.
The site could generate up to up to seven gigawatt hours of low carbon heat per year supplied via a sealed network of pipes to the district heating system at a new housing estate. The next step is to expand the network to include public and commercial buildings in the town centre.
“Renewable heat from our sewer network is a fantastic resource, so it’s vital we are a leading player in energy transition and unlock the full potential of poo power,” Sarah Bentley, Thames’ chief executive, said of the partnership. “Protecting and enhancing the environment is extremely important to us, and we have committed to doing all we can to find new and innovative ways to achieve our net zero ambitions over the next ten years.”
The company self-generates renewable energy across its estate, meeting around a quarter of its total electricity needs. The Hogsmill project is estimated to save the equivalent of 105 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over the next three decades.
Leader of Kingston Council Caroline Kerr described the project as “ground-breaking”.
“It’s a first for England and shows we are serious about reducing carbon in the borough. This is a real opportunity to be bold and ambitious for future generations. It’s great to be working alongside Thames Water to make waste into clean energy.”
Thames said it produced enough renewable energy in December across its 24 sewage works to power the equivalent of more than 110,000 homes. The company is due to announce its roadmap to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030 later this year as part of the sector-wide commitment coordinated by Water UK.